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Richardson International (US) Ltd. v. Buhler Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

March 31, 2017

RICHARDSON INTERNATIONAL (US) LIMITED, and NATIONWIDE AGRIBUSINESS INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiffs,
v.
BUHLER INC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Joseph F. Bataillon, Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on motions in limine filed by defendant Buhler Inc.'s (“Buhler”), Filing No. 92, and plaintiffs Richardson International (US) Limited and Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company's (collectively, “Plaintiff” or “Richardson”) Filing No. 96.

         I. Law

         Although the motion in limine is an important tool available to the trial judge to ensure the expeditious and evenhanded management of the trial proceedings, performing a gatekeeping function and sharpening the focus for later trial proceedings, some evidentiary submissions, cannot be evaluated accurately or sufficiently by the trial judge in such a procedural environment. Jonasson v. Lutheran Child and Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997). A motion in limine is appropriate for “evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not be presented to the jury because they clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose.” Id.In other instances, it is necessary to defer ruling until during trial, when the trial judge can better estimate the impact of the evidence on the jury. Id.To the extent that a party challenges the probative value of the evidence, an attack upon the probative sufficiency of evidence relates not to admissibility but to the weight of the evidence and is a matter for the trier of fact to resolve. United States v. Beasley, 102 F.3d 1440, 1451 (8th Cir. 1996).

         II. Buhler's Motion

         A. Real Party in Interest

         Buhler first asserts that because it has been fully compensated for its loss Richardson is not the real party in interest and should be removed from the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(a).

         Richardson resists the motion in part, contending that both Richardson and Nationwide are real parties in interest in this matter. Plaintiff suggests that it be named as “Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company, as subrogated party for the rights and interests of Richardson International.” Buhler accedes to the change. Accordingly, the motion will be denied as moot.

         B. Legal Requirement for Automatic Fire Suppression

         Buhler argues that Plaintiff should be precluded from presenting arguments or evidence at trial that there was a legal requirement in Nebraska for automatic fire suppression in the dryer at issue because it claims that there is no “admissible expert testimony on the subject of the proper interpretation of the 1999 version of NFPA 86.” In its reply brief, Buhler clarifies that it “does not seek to exclude testimony to the effect that NFPA 86 (1999) was the applicable code in Nebraska, which is an unremarkable and undisputed fact, ” rather, it seeks to exclude arguments about the proper interpretation and application of NFPA 86 (1999) to the dryer at issue. It contends the interpretation of the code provision requires expert testimony and argues that there is no admissible evidence to support the argument. Specifically, it requests preclusion of the argument in opening statements.

         The court finds the motion should be denied at this time. There is some evidence in the record concerning the requirements of the 1999 version of NFPA 86. The court cannot evaluate the evidence in the context of a motion in limine. Of course, any party, in opening statements, who refers to evidence later, found inadmissible or unsupported by evidence does so at its peril. To the extent any of the witnesses offer expert testimony on legal matters, a proper objection may be sustained at trial. See S. Pine Helicopters, Inc. v. Phoenix Aviation Managers, Inc., 320 F.3d 838, 841 (8th Cir. 2003)(noting that expert testimony on legal matters is not admissible, matters of law are for the trial judge, and it is the judge's job to instruct the jury on them). Accordingly, the defendant's motion will be denied, without prejudice to reassertion at trial.

         C. Alternative Warnings

         Buhler contends that Richardson should be precluded from presenting arguments or evidence at trial regarding “alternative warnings or instructions, ” arguing that Richardson has not offered related expert opinion on that subject. In response, Richardson contends it properly intends to offer the opinions of Dr. Richard Schnell as set forth in his report. This court's ruling on the defendant's Daubert motion is dispositive of this issue. Accordingly, the defendant's motion will be denied.

         D. Fire Marshal Report

         Buhler seeks a determination that the Fire Marshal Report is admissible at trial as a public record under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8). Rule 803(8) is the hearsay exception for the factual findings of a ...


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