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Guido v. Mount Lemmon Fire District

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 11, 2019

John Guido, et al., Plaintiffs,
Mount Lemmon Fire District, Defendant.


          Honorable James A. Soto, United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are several motions in limine filed by Plaintiffs and Defendant; the motions are addressed below.[1]


         Plaintiffs John Guido and Dennis Rankin began working for Defendant Mount Lemmon Fire District (“Fire District”)[2] in 2000. The position each held was Firefighter EMT. In 2005, both Guido and Rankin were promoted to the rank of Fire Captain. On June 15, 2009, Guido and Rankin were laid off; Rankin was 54 years old and Guido was 46 years old when they were laid off. The person who terminated them, Fire Chief Barnella, was in his thirties at the time of these terminations. At the time of the lay offs, Guido and Rankin were the oldest full-time employees of the Fire District.

         On July 28, 2009, Guido and Rankin each filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that Defendant discriminated against them on the basis of age. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this case alleging that they were terminated in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) which prohibits discrimination against employees 40 and older on the basis of their age.[3] See 29 U.S.C. § 631(a).[4]


         As pertinent to the motions in limine, Fed.R.Evid. 402 provides: "Relevant evidence is admissible unless any of the following provides otherwise: • the United States Constitution; • a federal statute; • these rules; or • other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court. Irrelevant evidence is not admissible." Fed.R.Evid. 401 defines relevant evidence as follows: "Evidence is relevant if: (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 403 provides that: “The court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” As to experts, Fed.R.Evid. 702 states that “[a]witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: (a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”


         Doc. 113: Mary Jo O'Neill's Testimony

         Defendant's motion in limine to preclude Mary Jo O'Neill from testifying as a fact and expert witness is unopposed by Plaintiffs (see Doc. 128); this unopposed motion (Doc. 113) is granted.

         Doc. 114: Charges of Discrimination, EEOC's Investigation/Findings

         Defendant seeks to preclude Plaintiff from presenting any evidence regarding their Charges of Discrimination submitted to the EEOC, the EEOC's investigation into their Charges, the EEOC's determination letters regarding its investigation, and its Notice of Right to Sue letters as it argues that the evidence is irrelevant and any probative value is substantially outweighed by the dangers of unfair prejudice and confusion. Defendant argues that such evidence is irrelevant inasmuch as the EEOC process used different standards, it was not a true confrontational process with witnesses subject to cross-examination under oath, and the jury would give undue weight to the EEOC's determinations.

         As a threshold matter, Plaintiff does not intend to use at trial, and does not oppose preclusion of: the EEOC's 1/29/13 letters to Plaintiff and the EEOC's right to sue letters. As such, these letters are precluded at trial.

         However, Plaintiffs argue that Ninth Circuit case law reflects that the other EEOC evidence at issue is relevant, the relevance outweighs Rule 403 considerations, and it could be error to preclude such evidence. See Plummer v. Western Intern. Hotels Co., Inc., 656 F.2d 502, 504-505 (9th Cir. 1981) (“[I]t is reversible error for a trial court to strike an EEOC determination from a Title VII complaint . . . [T]he Commission's Determination of Probable Cause was admissible evidence in a trial de novo on [plaintiff's] claim . . . [W]hile prior administrative determinations are not binding, they are admissible evidence . . . An EEOC determination, prepared by professional investigators on behalf of an impartial agency, has been held to be a highly probative evaluation of an individual's discrimination complaint.”). While the Court has the discretion to preclude the EEOC evidence at issue based on Rule 403 considerations, [5] the Court finds that its relevance outweighs Rule 403 concerns; the Court can give limiting ...

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