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Jack v. Grose

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 28, 2019


          Jolson, Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter is before the Court on Defendant, John Jack's (“Jack”) Motion in Limine to Exclude South Park Ventures, LLC's (“SPV”) and Dean Grose's (“Grose”) Claimed Damages and Business Valuation expert, Rebekah A. Smith, CPA, CFF, CVA, MAFF (“Motion”). (ECF No. 184). For the following reasons, this Court DENIES Defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case have been set out, in detail, on numerous occasions, and only the following factual summary is necessary at this time.

         John Jack is the manager and a member of Tri-State Disposal, LLC (“Tri-State”). In addition to Mr. Jack, two other individuals and a separate LLC-Horizon Partners Investments, LLC (“Horizon”)-are members of Tri-State. (ECF No. 27-1). Jack is also a 50% member of Horizon. Through this direct and indirect membership interest in Tri-State, Jack owns approximately 45% of the membership interests in Tri-State. Dean Grose is a partial owner of South Park Ventures, LLC (“SPV”) and controls SPV's operations.

         In 2015, SPV and Tri-State agreed to form Water Energy Services, LLC (“WES”). Under this agreement, Tri-State and SPV each owned 50% of WES. Additionally, each LLC appointed one member to WES's two-person board. SPV appointed Dean Grose, and Tri-State appointed John Jack. Jack and Grose were responsible for different aspects of the management of WES. In addition to Jack's position on the Board, Jack was the CEO of WES. Grose did not have an additional formal title or role within WES other than his position on the Board.

         The business relationship quickly soured and various lawsuits were instituted in state and federal court. Jack and Tri-State now allege that Grose and SPV were trying to oust them from the company (among other things), and Grose and SPV allege the same about Jack and Tri-State. The case is set for trial on September 3, 2019. This motion in limine was filed with the court on August 12, 2019.


         As a general rule, “a court should exclude evidence on a motion in limine only when that evidence is determined to be clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Delay v. Rosenthal Collins Grp., LLC, No. 2:07-CV-568, 2012 WL 5878873, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 21, 2012). Thus, when the “court is unable to determine whether . . . certain evidence is clearly inadmissible, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice can be resolved in the proper context.” Id. Whether to grant a motion in limine falls within the sound discretion of the trial court. Delay, 2012 WL 5878873, at *2.

         The presumption of admissibility is particularly strong in a bench trial. Bank One, N.A. v. Echo Acceptance Corp., No. 04-CV-318, 2008 WL 1766891, at *1 (S.D.Ohio Apr.11, 2008). “Without the fear that prejudicial or improper evidence will taint the jury, courts are even more inclined to take a wait-and-see approach.” Id. Moreover, “motions in limine yield only interlocutory decisions, which are not binding on the Court at the bench trial where any and all issues that were raised or could have been raised in a motion in limine are subject to renewed consideration.” Cooey v. Strickland, Case Nos. 2:04-cv-1156, 2:09-cv-242, 2:09-cv-823, 2:10- cv-27, 2011 WL 320166, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Jan 28, 2011).

         Only relevant evidence is admissible. Fed.R.Evid. 402. Evidence is relevant if “it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable, ” and “the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. “The standard for relevancy is ‘extremely liberal' . . . .” Dortch v. Fowler, 588 F.3d 396, 400 (6th Cir. 2009) (internal citation omitted). “[A] piece of evidence does not need to carry a party's evidentiary burden in order to be relevant; it simply has to advance the ball.” Id. at 401. Additionally, evidence can be relevant even if it does not relate to a fact in dispute, provided the evidence supplies background information about a party or issue. See Advisory Committee Notes to 1972 Proposed Rules (“Evidence which is essentially background in nature can scarcely be said to involve disputed matter, yet it is universally offered and admitted as an aid to understanding.”). Relevant evidence is admissible unless excluded under a specific provision of the Constitution, a federal statute, Federal Rules of Evidence, or other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court. Fed.R.Evid. 402.

         Rule 403 can operate to bar otherwise relevant evidence. Rule 403 grants trial courts discretion to exclude evidence “if its probative value is substantially outweighed” by the risk of “unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         III. ...

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