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motion in limine presents a pretrial issue of admissibility

Posted: Sun Nov 09, 2014 5:42 pm
by Administrator
Neither party filed a motion for summary judgment on or before the deadline imposed by the Case Management and Scheduling Order. On July 12, 2013, VALIC filed the instant Motion in Limine. (Doc. # 50). Laeng filed a response in opposition to the Motion on July 26, 2013. (Doc. # 51). The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, the response, and is otherwise fully advised in the premises.


II. Legal Standard

“A motion in limine presents a pretrial issue of admissibility of evidence that is likely to arise at trial, and as such, the order, like any other interlocutory order, remains subject to reconsideration by the court throughout the trial.” In re Seroquel Prods. Liability Litigation, Nos. 6:06–md–1769–Orl–22DAB, 6:07–cv–15733–Orl–22DAB, 2009 WL 260989, at *1 (M.D.Fla. Feb.4, 2009). “The real purpose of a motion in limine is to give the trial judge notice of the movant's position so as to avoid the introduction of damaging evidence which may irretrievably [a]ffect the fairness of the trial. A court has the power to exclude evidence in limine only when evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Id. (internal quotation omitted).


A motion in limine is not the proper vehicle to resolve substantive issues, to test issues of law, or to address or narrow the issues to be tried. See LSQ Funding Grp. v. EDS Field Servs., 879 F.Supp.2d 1320, 1337 (M.D.Fla.2012) (citing Royal Indem. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., No. 07–80172–CIV, 2008 WL 2323900, at *1 (S.D. Fla. June 5, 2008)).


*3 The district court has broad discretion to determine the admissibility of evidence, and the appellate court will not disturb this Court's judgment absent a clear abuse of discretion. United States v. McLean, 138 F.3d 1398, 1403 (11th Cir.1998); see also United States v. Jernigan, 341 F.3d 1273, 1285 (11th Cir.2003) (“Inherent in this standard is the firm recognition that there are difficult evidentiary rulings that turn on matters uniquely within the purview of the district court, which has first-hand access to documentary evidence and is physically proximate to testifying witnesses and the jury.”).


III. Analysis

A. Standing and Material Breach

VALIC argues that “the Court should preclude Defendant from presenting evidence or otherwise eliciting testimony that VALIC is not a third party beneficiary to the [Registered Representative Agreement] or that VALIC otherwise lacks standing to enforce the Agreement.” (Doc. # 50 at 3). Additionally, VALIC argues that “Laeng should be precluded from arguing that her allegations of sexual harassment constitute or potentially constitute a prior material breach of the [Agreement],” because “[n]o Florida court has held that allegations of sexual harassment constitute a material breach of the contract sufficient to negate a contract's restrictive covenants.” ( Id. at 4–5).


The Court finds VALIC's arguments regarding standing and breach to be nothing more than disguised bases for a summary judgment motion, which is improper at this juncture of the proceedings.FN1 The Case Management and Scheduling Order in this case imposed a dispositive motions deadline of June 14, 2013. (Doc. # 27). Neither party opted to file a motion for summary judgment on or before the deadline, and the Court is not inclined to entertain a motion in limine seeking resolution of arguments suitably raised in a summary judgment motion. Accordingly, the Motion in Limine is denied as to the issues of standing and material breach.


FN1. Notably, VALIC does not cite a single Federal Rule of Evidence to support its argument that evidence relating to the issues of standing and material breach should be excluded as inadmissible at trial, and, with the exception of the FINRA Rules discussed herein, VALIC neglects to describe any particular items of evidence VALIC seeks to exclude. It is thus apparent to the Court that the relief VALIC seeks in this Motion exceeds the proper scope of a motion in limine.




B. FINRA

VALIC “anticipates Defendant Laeng will seek to introduce evidence regarding [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.] rules and regulations, including without limitation (a) that the Registered Representative Agreement violates FINRA regulations and is therefore illegal; (b) that Defendant's conduct does not violate FINRA rules or regulations; or (c) that VALIC's conduct violates FINRA rules or regulations.” (Doc. # 50 at 2). VALIC argues that “evidence regarding FINRA rules or regulations should be precluded here because VALIC is not a FINRA member and its rules are not applicable to VALIC,” thus rendering such evidence “irrelevant to this case.” ( Id. at 2–3). In addition to being irrelevant, VALIC argues that this evidence would be “highly prejudicial to VALIC and will potentially confuse the jury by suggesting that VALIC is bound by rules or regulations” that are not controlling. ( Id. at 3).


In response to VALIC's contention that evidence of the FINRA rules should be excluded, Laeng argues that VALIC's Motion should be denied because:


*4 (1) VALIC claims third party beneficiary status pursuant to a contract where the named parties to the contract are subject to FINRA Rules; (2) at least one court previously held VALIC is subject to FINRA Rules when VALIC raised the same arguments; (3) VALIC fails to recognize and acknowledge certain clients for which VALIC seeks damages had accounts with both VALIC and VALIC Financial Advisors, Inc. (“VFA”) [;] (4) the Motion is premature because discovery remains open until August 30, 2013[;] and (5) VALIC's counsel failed to confer with Laeng's counsel prior to filing its Motion, as required by Local Rule 3.01(g) and the Case Management and Scheduling Order.


(Doc. # 51 at 1–2).


Because the relevance—and thus the admissibility—of the FINRA rules appears to be related to the issue of VALIC's standing as a purported third party beneficiary to the subject Agreement, the Court declines to determine the admissibility of those rules at this time. As explained above, a motion in limine is not the proper vehicle to resolve substantive issues, to test issues of law, or to address or narrow the issues to be tried.


IV. Local Rule 3.01(g) Certification

In addition to improperly presenting substantive issues, VALIC's Motion is defective in that it lacks the certification required by Local Rule 3.01(g). That rule requires a moving party to “confer with counsel for the opposing party in a good faith effort to resolve the issues raised by the motion,” and to “file with the motion a statement (1) certifying that the moving counsel has conferred with opposing counsel and (2) stating whether counsel agree on the resolution of the motion.” In light of this defect, combined with the problems noted above, the Court denies VALIC's Motion in Limine.


Accordingly, it is


ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:


VALIC's Motion in Limine (Doc. # 50) is DENIED.

Variable Annuity Life Ins. Co. v. Laeng
Slip Copy, 2013 WL 3992418
M.D.Fla.,2013.
August 02, 2013