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William F. Shea, LLC v. Bonutti Research, Inc.

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

May 30, 2013

WILLIAM F. SHEA, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BONUTTI RESEARCH, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

GREGORY L. FROST, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for consideration of the following Motion in Limine filed by Defendant Bonutti Research, Inc. ("BRI"):

(1) Motion in Limine to Preclude at Trial any References to the MarcTec Lawsuit (ECF No. 171); and
(2) Motion in Opposition to Defendant's Motion in Limine to Preclude at Trial any References to the MarcTec Lawsuit (ECF No. 193).

As set forth in more detail below, the Court GRANTS ECF No. 171.

I. Background

Plaintiff William F. Shea, LLC ("Shea") and Avon Equity Holdings, LLC (an affiliate of Shea) brought this action in the Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas alleging various causes of action, including breach of contract. (Opinion and Order, ECF No. 135, at PAGEID # 6269.) The case was removed to this Court based on diversity of citizenship. ( Id. ) All parties aside from BRI and Shea have been dismissed. ( Id. )

Shea entered into an agreement with BRI in August 2003 to memorialize an ongoing business relationship in which Shea promoted the inventions and products of BRI and Dr. Bonutti, owner of BRI. ( Id. at PAGEID # 6266.) As a part of this agreement, Shea was to receive certain fees, including commissions on completed transactions, even past the end of the working relationship. ( Id. ) BRI terminated the agreement on October 26, 2007. ( Id. at PAGEID # 6268.) BRI ceased payments to Shea in June 2009. ( Id. )

During this time, Dr. Bonutti's research company, MarcTec, was involved in a patent infringement lawsuit, MarcTec, LLC v. Johnson & Johnson et al., Case No. 07-cv-825, S.D. Ill. (" MarcTec lawsuit"). None of the named parties in that case are the same as the parties in this case. The court rejected MarcTec's claim interpretation. MarcTec, LLC v. Johnson & Johnson, 2009 WL 910200, at *8-12 (S.D. Ill. March 31, 2009). Subsequently, the court granted summary judgment against MarcTec. MarcTec, LLC v. Johnson & Johnson, 638 F.Supp.2d 987, 992-93 (S.D. Ill. 2009), judgment vacated on other grounds by 2009 WL 2913417 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2009). The court also deemed the case "exceptional" under 35 U.S.C. ยง 285 and ordered MarcTec to pay defendant Cordis' reasonable attorney's fees because MarcTec engaged in several forms of deception and misrepresentation and continued to represent claims that lacked merit. MarcTec, LLC v. Johnson & Johnson, 2010 WL 680490 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2010), aff'd, 664 F.3d 907 (Fed. Cir. 2012). Plaintiff Shea has attempted to use this prior litigation against BRI in these proceedings prior to this motion to establish a connection between the outcome of the MarcTec lawsuit and termination of fees to Plaintiff. (ECF No. 93, PAGEID # 2841.)

This Court granted summary judgment to Shea on the cause of action for breach of contract and the case is proceeding to trial only on damages on that claim. Defendant BRI now brings this motion in limine to exclude reference to the MarcTec lawsuit during the trial, which is scheduled to commence on June 24, 2013.

II. Standard

Although neither the Federal Rules of Evidence nor the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure explicitly authorize a court to rule on an evidentiary motion in limine, the United States Supreme Court has noted that the practice of ruling on such motions "has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow a court to rule on issues pertaining to evidence in advance of trial in order to avoid delay and ensure an even-handed and expeditious trial. See Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004) (citing Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997)). Courts, however, are generally reluctant to grant broad exclusions of evidence in limine, because "a court is almost always better situated during the actual trial to assess the value and utility of evidence." Koch v. Koch Indus., Inc., 2 F.Supp.2d 1385, 1388 (D. Kan.1998); accord Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975). To obtain the exclusion of evidence under such a motion, a party must prove that the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. See Ind. Ins. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d at 846; Koch, 2 F.Supp.2d at 1388; cf. Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. "Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context." Ind. Ins. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d at 846. Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded. Id. The court will entertain objections on individual proffers as they arise at trial, even though the proffer falls within the scope of a denied motion in limine. Id. (citing United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989)).

III. Discussion

BRI seeks an in limine order to prevent Shea from making any reference to the MarcTec lawsuit, specifically seeking exclusion under Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402, 403, and/or 404(b). It is undisputed that sanctions were imposed on Dr. Bonutti's company, MarcTec, in that lawsuit, but that MarcTec is not a party to this litigation ...


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