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Johnson v. Federal Express Corp.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 24, 2016

Paul Johnson, Plaintiff,
v.
Federal Express Corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell United States District Judge

         Defendant Federal Express Corporation has filed eight motions in limine. The Court and the parties discussed the motions at the final pretrial conference held on August 23, 2016. The Court enters the following rulings.

         A. Defendant's Motion in Limine 1.

         Relying on Rule 404(b), Defendant seeks to exclude Pat Helm's testimony that Defendant retaliated against him for complaining about improper employment practices. Defendant argues that Helm worked in Los Angeles - a separate district under a separate manager - and that his testimony therefore says nothing about Plaintiff's claim that his supervisor, Raffi Arzoumanian, retaliated against him. Plaintiff responds that Arzoumanian was supervised by Carlos Valdivia and Glen Corbin, the same regional managers who supervised Helm's manager, that both Plaintiff and Helm claim these regional managers were involved in their retaliation, and that Helm's testimony is therefore relevant to prove motive and intent - a legitimate purpose under Rule 404(b).

         In the Ninth Circuit, “‘other act' evidence is admissible under Rule 404(b) if the following test is satisfied: (1) there must be sufficient proof for the jury to find that the defendant committed the other act; (2) the other act must not be too remote in time; (3) the other act must be introduced to prove a material issue in the case; and (4) the other act must, in some cases, be similar to the offense charged.” Duran v. City of Maywood, 221 F.3d 1127, 1132-33 (9th Cir. 2000). In employment discrimination cases, courts also consider not only whether “the same actors are involved in each decision, ” but also the “temporal and geographical proximity, whether the various decisionmakers knew of the other decisions, whether the employees were similarly situated in relevant respects, [and] the nature of each employee's allegations of retaliation.” Griffin v. Finkbeiner, 689 F.3d 584, 598-99 (6th Cir. 2012). Courts must further consider whether the evidence is admissible under Rule 403. Duran, 221 F.3d at 1133.

         The Court concludes that these evaluations must, in this case, be made in the context of trial, when the Court will have a better understanding of the claims and defenses being presented to the jury. It is not clear to the Court at this time, for example, what role the regional managers played in the retaliation alleged by Plaintiff and Helm. Nor can the Court determine the degree of similarity between Helm's allegation of retaliation and Plaintiff's. During trial, the Court will be better equipped to consider relevant Rule 404(b) and 403 factors. For this reason, the motion in limine (Doc. 116) is denied. Because of the potentially prejudicial nature of Helm's evidence, Plaintiff should not mention it to the jury until after the Court has ruled on its admissibility.

         B. Defendant's Motion in Limine 2.

         Defendant seeks to exclude Sue Apostoli's testimony that Defendant retaliated against her for complaining about improper employment practices. Defendant argues that Apostoli worked in Palm Springs and Temecula - in a separate district under a separate manager - and that her testimony therefore says nothing about Plaintiff's claim that Arzoumanian retaliated against him. Plaintiff again responds that Arzoumanian was supervised by the same regional managers as Apostoli's manager, that both Plaintiff and Apostoli claim these regional managers were involved in their retaliation, and that Apostoli's testimony is therefore relevant to prove motive and intent. As with Defendant's first motion, this decision must be made in the context of trial, when the Court will have a better understanding of the claims and defenses being presented to the jury. The motion in limine (Doc. 117) is therefore denied. Because of the potentially prejudicial nature of this evidence, Plaintiff should not mention Apostoli's testimony to the jury until after the Court has ruled on its admissibility.

         C. Defendant's Motion in Limine 3.

         Defendant seeks to exclude Colene Garcia's testimony that Defendant retaliated against her for filing an internal complaint. Defendant argues that Garcia worked in Los Angeles - in a separate district under a separate manager - and that her testimony therefore says nothing about Plaintiff's claim that Arzoumanian retaliated against him. Plaintiff again responds that Arzoumanian was supervised by the same regional managers as Garcia's manager, that both Plaintiff and Garcia claim these regional managers were involved in their retaliation, and that Garcia's testimony is therefore relevant to prove motive and intent. As with Defendant's first and second motions, this decision must be made in the context of trial. The motion in limine (Doc. 118) is denied. Because of the potentially prejudicial nature of this evidence, Plaintiff should not mention it to the jury until after the Court has ruled on its admissibility.

         D. Defendant's Motion in Limine 4.

         Defendant seeks to exclude evidence regarding the hiring of Don Askew for a position in Las Vegas. Plaintiff asserts that Askew's hiring was contrary to Defendant's policy of hiring from within, was made at the suggestion of Corbin and Valdivia, and shows that Defendant applies its policies arbitrarily. Plaintiff confirmed during the final pretrial conference that the policy allegedly violated in the hiring of Askew is not at issue in this case.

         As noted above, a consideration of other acts evidence requires the Court to address Rule 403. Duran, 221 F.3d at 1133. The Court finds this evidence - an alleged violation of a policy not at issue in this case, in a different office and region - to be only marginally relevant to Plaintiff's claim. The Court finds that the marginal probative value of this evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of undue delay and wasting time. If this evidence is presented, Defendant will be required to present evidence regarding the process of hiring Askew that is entirely unrelated to this case and yet will consume valuable trial time. This motion in limine (Doc. 119) is granted.

         E. Defendant's ...


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