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Gust v. Wireless Vision, L.L.C

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 25, 2017

BRADLEY GUST, Plaintiff,
v.
WIRELESS VISION, L.L.C., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Kathryn H. Vratil United States District Judge

         Bradley Gust brings suit against Wireless Vision, L.L.C. for retaliatory discharge in violation of public policy under Kansas law.[1] This matter is before the Court on defendant's Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) filed February 22, 2017 and Plaintiff's Motion In Limine (Doc. #97) filed February 22, 2017. For reasons stated below, the Court sustains both motions in part.

         Legal Standards

          In ruling on the parties' motions in limine, the Court applies the following standard:

The movant has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible on any relevant ground. The court may deny a motion in limine when it lacks the necessary specificity with respect to the evidence to be excluded. At trial, the court may alter its limine ruling based on developments at trial or on its sound judicial discretion. Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Denial only means that the court cannot decide admissibility outside the context of trial. A ruling in limine does not relieve a party from the responsibility of making objections, raising motions to strike or making formal offers of proof during the course of trial. BHC Dev., LC v. Bally Gaming, Inc., No. 12-2393-JPO, 2014 WL 524665, at *7 (D. Kan. Feb. 10, 2014) (citations omitted).

         Analysis

         I. Defendant's Motion In Limine (Doc. #95)

         As set forth below, defendant seeks to exclude 14 categories of evidence.

         1. Liability Or Other Insurance

         Defendant seeks to exclude evidence regarding liability or other insurance relating to plaintiff's claims. See Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 2. Defendant asserts that such evidence is irrelevant and would unduly prejudice and confuse the jury. See id. Plaintiff responds that unless defendant opens the door by “poor mouthing” or pleading poverty, he does not intend to introduce such evidence. Plaintiff's Response To Defendant's Motion In Limine (“Plaintiff's Response”) (Doc. #107) filed March 1, 2017 at 1-2. In light of plaintiff's response, the Court overrules defendant's motion as moot, subject to revisiting the matter at trial, if necessary.

         2. Settlement Discussions Or Negotiations

         Defendant seeks to exclude evidence regarding settlement discussions. See Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 2-3. Plaintiff does not oppose the motion. See Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #107) at 2. The Court sustains defendant's motion on this ground.

         3. Corporate Status And Financial Condition Of Defendant And T-Mobile

         Defendant seeks to exclude any mention of the “corporate status” of it or T-Mobile or the “financial wherewithal” of either entity.[2] Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 3. Defendant asserts that plaintiff may try to inject this information to “create bias or persuade the jury” that it can or should pay damages because T-Mobile and it “are corporations with sizeable and considerable profit margins.” Id. Defendant asserts that evidence regarding the business structure or financial status of T-Mobile or it is irrelevant to plaintiff's claims and would unduly prejudice, confuse and mislead the jury. See id.

         Plaintiff asserts that the terms “corporate status” and “business structure” are too broad for the Court to interpret in the context of defendant's motion. See Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #107) at 2. Plaintiff asserts that the following evidence is relevant to his retaliatory discharge claim: (1) defendant's status as his employer; (2) defendant's organizational structure including the job responsibilities and organizational roles of plaintiff, his supervisors and other employees and (3) defendant's role as an authorized dealer for T-Mobile. See id. On this record, defendant has not shown that the Court should exclude all evidence regarding the “corporate status” or “business structure” of T-Mobile or it. The Court overrules defendant's motion on this ground.

         Regarding the financial condition of T-Mobile, plaintiff does not object to defendant's motion. Accordingly, the Court sustains the motion as to this evidence.

         Regarding the financial condition of defendant, plaintiff asserts that such evidence is relevant to his claim for punitive damages. See Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #107) at 3. Under Kansas law, defendant's financial condition is relevant to determining an award of punitive damages. See Gillespie v. Seymour, 255 Kan. 774, 778, 877 P.2d 409, 412 (1994). On this record, defendant has not shown that the Court should exclude all evidence regarding defendant's financial condition. The Court finds, however, that plaintiff may not introduce such evidence until after it has established a prima facie case for punitive damages. See, e.g., Sawyer v. Southwest Airlines Co., No. 01-2385-KHV, 2003 WL 1741417, at *1 (D. Kan. Mar. 31, 2003) (excluding evidence of financial condition until plaintiffs establish submissible case of punitive damages).

         4. Unnecessary References To T-Mobile And/Or Cellular Telephone Industry

         Defendant seeks to exclude “any unnecessary and gratuitous mention or reference to T-Mobile” and “[a]ny attempt by plaintiff to unnecessarily link [defendant] to T-Mobile.” Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 3. Defendant asserts that such evidence is irrelevant and would unduly prejudice and confuse the jury. See id. Defendant asserts that plaintiff would likely offer such evidence to “create bias and resentment among jurors based upon dislike, distrust, or general dissatisfaction of consumers about prices and business practices in the wireless telecommunications industry or to coax jurors into thinking that [defendant] is synonymous with T-Mobile and could bear the financial consequence of paying for an award of damages.” Id. at 3-4. Defendant admits that due to its status as an authorized independent retailer of T-Mobile products and services, some references to T-Mobile will be relevant. See id. at 4. Defendant asks the Court to “place specific instructions and limitations about the appropriate presentation and admission of this evidence, that the presentation or admission of such evidence be minimal, and that the [C]ourt prohibit counsel, plaintiff, or any witness from unnecessarily and gratuitously eliciting, presenting, offering, or admitting any evidence, statement, testimony, or inquiry about T-Mobile or [defendant's] association with T-Mobile.” Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff asserts that it does not intend to argue or imply that T-Mobile and defendant are the same entity. See Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #107) at 4. Plaintiff asserts that the following evidence is relevant to his claims: (1) defendant's role as a T-Mobile retailer; (2) defendant's organizational structure and interaction with T-Mobile and T-Mobile employees; (3) T-Mobile's role in forwarding customer complaints to defendant and (4) any instruction by T-Mobile for defendant to investigate those complaints. See id.

         On this record, defendant has not shown that the Court should exclude all references to T-Mobile. Defendant asks the Court to “place specific instructions and limitations” regarding the evidence, but it provides no suggestions in this regard. Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 4. The Court overrules defendant's motion subject to revisiting the matter at trial, if necessary.

         5. Objections To Discovery Requests

         Defendant seeks to exclude evidence regarding the fact that it objected to plaintiff's discovery requests. Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 4. Plaintiff does not oppose the motion. See Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #107) at 4. The Court sustains defendant's motion on this ground.

         6. Alleged Overtime Or Other Wage Violations

         Defendant seeks to exclude evidence that it allegedly failed to pay plaintiff or other employees overtime or other wages in violation of state or federal law or that it committed workplace violations unrelated to plaintiff's retaliatory discharge claim. Motion In Limine (Doc. #95) at 4-5. Plaintiff does not oppose the motion. See Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #107) at 4. The Court sustains defendant's motion on this ground.

         7. Treatment Related To Claim(s) For ...


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