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Hicks v. Association of Apartment Owners of Makaha Valley Plantation

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

July 7, 2016

Charles Hicks; Deneen Hicks; and Stacey Hicks, Plaintiffs,
v.
Association of Apartment Owners of Makaha Valley Plantation; and Hawaii First, Inc., Defendants.

          TRIAL PROCEDURE ORDER DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS IN LIMINE NOS. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, AND 9

          HELEN GILLMOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants Association of Apartment Owners of Makaha Valley Plantation and Hawaii First, Inc. (collectively, “Defendants”) have filed 11 motions in limine.

         On July 1, 2016, the Court held a Final Pre-Trial Conference, during which the Court rendered oral rulings on motions in limine nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9. (ECF No. 135). This written order sets forth the Court’s rulings issued at the Final Pre-Trial Conference on July 1, 2016.

         Motion in Limine No. 1 (ECF No. 105)

         Defendants seek to exclude any evidence that they may have liability insurance coverage.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 411 requires the exclusion of evidence that a defendant was insured against liability when that evidence is offered for the purposes of proving the defendant’s wrongful conduct. Fed.R.Evid. 411.

         Evidence of liability insurance is also excluded pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 401 and 403.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 401(a), evidence is relevant if it has a tendency to make a fact more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.

         Plaintiffs have not set forth any reason to introduce proof of liability insurance. (See Plas. Memo. in Opp. to Defs. Motion in Limine No. 1, ECF No. 125-1).

         Relevant evidence is inadmissible when its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         Evidence of a defendant’s financial status or ability to pay is generally not relevant to the issue of compensatory damages and is unfairly prejudicial because the purpose of compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff whole and is not dependent on the wealth of the defendant. Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977).

         Evidence of liability insurance is not relevant in this case, it confuses the issues, and it misleads the jury. Evidence of liability insurance tends to alter the jurors’ assessment of damages, which unfairly prejudices the parties. See Posttape Assocs. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 537 F.2d 751, 758 (3d Cir. 1976); Garnac Grain Co. v. Blackley, 932 F.2d 1563, 1570 (8th Cir. 1991).

         Defendants’ Motion in Limine No. 1 is GRANTED.

         Plaintiffs are precluded from introducing any testimony, evidence, argument, or other reference that Defendants may be insured against liability.

         Motion in Limine No. 2 (ECF No. 107)

         Defendants seek to exclude any evidence of settlement negotiations between the Parties.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 408 generally excludes evidence of matters pertaining to settlement negotiations. Fed.R.Evid. 408(a); Nguyen v. Dep't of Navy, 412 Fed.Appx. 926, 929 (9th Cir. 2011).

         Federal Rule of Evidence 408 is designed to ensure that parties may make offers during settlement negotiations without fear that those same offers will be used to establish liability should settlement efforts fail. Rhoades v. Avon Prods., Inc., 504 F.3d 1151, 1161 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Plaintiffs have not established that evidence concerning the Parties’ settlement discussions is admissible pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence. (See Plas. Memo. in Opp. to Defs. Motion in Limine No. 2, ECF No. 126-1). Information concerning the Parties’ settlement negotiations is irrelevant to Plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination.

         Defendants’ Motion in Limine No. 2 is GRANTED.

         Plaintiffs are precluded from introducing any testimony, evidence, argument, or other reference to settlement negotiations.

         Motion in Limine No. 4 (ECF No. 108)

         Defendants seek to exclude evidence regarding the stabbing death of a black veteran that occurred in 2011 at the condominium community consisting of 572 units where Plaintiffs resided. Plaintiffs claim that the evidence is relevant because it demonstrates that the Defendants were aware of hostility and discrimination against African-Americans in the housing complex. (Plas. Memo. In Opp. to Defs Motion in Limine No. 4, ECF No. 127-1).

         Relevant evidence is inadmissible when its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         Evidence is unfairly prejudicial when its probative value is outweighed because of its ability to appeal to the jury’s sympathies, arouse jurors’ sense of horror, provoke a jury’s instinct to punish, and trigger other intense human reactions. Weinstein’s Fed. Evid. § 403.04[1][c]; Beachy v. Boise Cascade ...


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