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Brown v. K&L Tank Truck Service, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 29, 2017

JOHN BROWN and BARBARA BROWN, Plaintiffs,
v.
K&L TANK TRUCK SERVICE, INC., ALFONSO MARTINEZ, and TOM HERRELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Thomas Marten, Judge.

         This matter is before the court on the parties' objections to the admission of certain exhibits at trial. Defendants object to plaintiffs' Exhibit 126, “Response to EEOC Charge.” (Dkt. 144). Plaintiffs object to defendants' Exhibits 35, 46, 48, 49, 57, and 59 (Dkt. 145).

         I. Exhibit 126

         Defendants argue that Exhibit 126 is relevant to claims that were terminated on summary judgment-discrimination, retaliation, and Kansas Wage Act payments-and are to be excluded pursuant to this court's in limine order (Dkt. 131). Plaintiffs plan to redact portions of Exhibit 126, but defendants argue that extensive redaction would remove all references to these claims and the context of the statements in this document.

         Plaintiffs respond that they plan to use the EEOC response for impeachment as an admission by defendants' authorized agent. The EEOC response may also be used to refresh a witness's recollection. Therefore, the court will wait to rule on defendants' objection until trial.

         II. Exhibit 35

         Exhibit 35 contains Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Stockholders and Directors of K&L Tank Truck Service, Inc. (“K&L”) from November 29, 2016. Plaintiffs argue that the 2016 Minutes are irrelevant to the remaining claims because the breaches in question occurred in 2013. The 2016 Minutes have no relationship to any of the issues in this lawsuit.

         Defendant counters that the 2016 Minutes are relevant to the issues of damages and whether there was a contract for lifetime employment. Defendants explain that K&L had a worse financial year in 2016 compared to 2013-2015, and therefore lowers plaintiffs' loss.

         The court agrees that K&L's 2016 stockholder bonuses are relevant to the issue of damages and will be admitted for that purpose. The court disagrees, however, that it is relevant to the issue of whether Martinez and Mr. Brown agreed to a contract for lifetime employment. Defendants have not demonstrated that K&L's 2016 financial stability was known to Martinez and Brown at the time the alleged contract was entered into, and the benefit of hindsight is irrelevant to this issue.

         III. Exhibit 46

         From time to time, the shareholders of K&L would loan their stockholder bonuses to K&L to ensure that the company would have sufficient funds to pay expenses. The shareholders would receive 7.5% interest on their loans. Exhibit 46 is a report of the shareholders' bonuses and notes to the company. Defendants state that the stockholder bonus in 2013 was lower than usual because K&L's future looked bleak. Defendants argue that it was less likely the shareholders would loan K&L money because repayment was questionable.

         The parties agree that K&L's loan structure is not an issue for the jury, however, they disagree on whether the shareholders' loan structure is relevant and whether it will be helpful to the jury. The court finds that background information regarding K&L's 2013 bonuses and future success could be relevant to the parties' dealings and potential damages. But defendants may also be able to present such evidence without use of Exhibit B (Dkt. 145-2)-which absent supporting testimony, Exhibit B appears somewhat confusing and irrelevant. Therefore, the court will wait on ruling on this issue until trial.

         IV. Exhibits 48 and 49

         Exhibits 48 and 49, relate to defendants' reasons for terminating plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs argue that defendants' exhibits are relevant to plaintiffs' claim of fraud, which is no longer part of this case. Defendants respond that these exhibits are relevant to understand what happened in 2013 that led to plaintiffs' termination as consultants and to the resolution of all issues that occurred on November 25, 2013- such as the buyout of Mr. Brown's K & L ...


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