Janson et al v. LegalZoom.com, Inc.

Filing 153

MOTION in limine Regarding the Attorney/Client Relationship Between the Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs' Counsel filed by Timothy W. Van Ronzelen on behalf of All Plaintiffs. Suggestions in opposition/response due by 8/19/2011 unless otherwise directed by the court. (Van Ronzelen, Timothy)

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IN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI CENTRAL DIVISION TODD JANSON, et al., on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. LEGALZOOM.COM, INC. Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. 2:10-cv-04018-NKL PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION IN LIMINE REGARDING THE ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PLAINTIFFS AND PLAINTIFFS’ COUNSEL Come now, Plaintiffs, by and through counsel, and for their Motion in Limine to exclude any evidence of Regarding the Attorney Client Relationship Between the Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ Counsel, state as follows: I. Introduction Legalzoom.com (hereinafter “Legalzoom”) through their deposition designations have indicated that they wish to introduce evidence of the nature of the attorney client relationship between Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ counsel. In essence, Legalzoom wishes to contrast the fact that the Plaintiffs never signed a fee agreement between themselves and Legalzoom when they purchased legal documents from Legalzoom, while they did with Plaintiffs’ counsel in this matter. Since a fee agreement is not necessary to establish a violation of Missouri law related to the unauthorized practice of law, whether a fee agreement was signed or not between Plaintiffs and Legalzoom is not relevant. In addition, if there is any relevance to the fee agreement, the issue of the fee agreement between Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ counsel should be excluded under 1 Rule 403 since the prejudicial impact of such evidence greatly outweighs any probative value. II. Argument “Federal Rule of Evidence 402 provides that irrelevant evidence is inadmissible.” Wright v. Ark. & Mo. R.R. Co., 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 16719, *12 (8th Cir. July 29, 2009). “Evidence is relevant if it has ‘any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.’” Id. at *12-13 (quoting Fed. R. Evid. 401). “A district court is given broad discretion to determine the relevance of evidentiary matters.” Id. at 13. Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence provides “[a]lthough relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. “Confusion of the issues warrants exclusion of relevant evidence if admission of the evidence would lead to litigation of collateral issues.” Firemen's Fund Ins. Co. v. Thien, 63 F.3d 754 (8th Cir. 1995). Rule 403 is concerned with unfair prejudice that has a undue tendency to suggest decision on an improper basis. Probatter Sports, LLC v. Joyner Technologies, Inc., 2007 WL 3285799 (N.D.Iowa, October 18, 2007). Whether the Plaintiffs signed a fee agreement with Legalzoom as compared to what they signed with Plaintiffs’ counsel has no relevance in this case. Missouri statutes relating to the unauthorized practice of law do not require that the party who paid another consideration for legal services sign any agreement. There is similarly no requirement that the person paying the funds believes that they are even entering into an attorney client relationship with the other party. See, § 484.020 RSMo. The belief of the party paying the funds is simply not relevant to whether 2 someone has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Therefore, agreements Plaintiffs signed with Plaintiffs’ counsel is not relevant in any way to this dispute In addition, introducing the issue of a fee agreement or agreement of any kind between Plaintiffs and Legalzoom or between Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ counsel would introduce collateral issues into the case which could mislead the jury. The jury might be inclined to believe that an agreement is required in order to retain or get legal advice; including establishing a violation of §484.020 RSMo. Missouri law has no such requirement. Similarly, nothing about the relationship or agreement between Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ counsel is relevant in any way in this case. Since the agreements between the Plaintiffs and their counsel has no relevance to whether Legalzoom is violating Missouri law any evidence or argument related to their agreement with Plaintiffs’ counsel or anything about the relationship between Plaintiffs and their counsel should be excluded as evidence in this case. Respectfully submitted, ____/s/Timothy VanRonzelen ____ Timothy Van Ronzelen, #44382 Matthew A. Clement, #43833 Kari A. Schulte, #57739 COOK, VETTER, DOERHOFF & LANDWEHR 231 Madison Jefferson City, Missouri 65101 Telephone: 573-635-7977 Facsimile: 573-635-7414 tvanronzelen@cvdl.net mclement@cvdl.net kschulte@cvdl.net and 3 Edward D. Robertson, Jr., # 27183 Mary Doerhoff Winter, # 38328 BARTIMUS, FRICKLETON, ROBERTSON & GORNY 715 Swifts Highway Jefferson City, MO 65109 Telephone: 573-659-4454 Facsimile: 573 659-4460 chiprob@earthlink.net marywinter@earthlink.net David T. Butsch, # 37539 James J. Simeri, #52506 BUTSCH SIMERI FIELDS LLC 231 S. Bemiston Ave., Ste. 260 Clayton, MO 63105 Telephone: 314-863-5700 Facsimile: 314-863-5711 butsch@bsflawfirm.com simeri@bsflawfirm.com Randall O. Barnes, #39884 RANDALL O. BARNES & ASSOCIATES 219 East Dunklin Street, Suite A Jefferson City, Missouri 65101 Telephone: 573-634-8884 Facsimile: 573-635-6291 rbarnesjclaw@aol.com Steven E. Dyer, #45397 LAW OFFICES OF STEVEN DYER 10850 Sunset Office Drive, Ste. 300 St. Louis, MO 63127 Telephone: 314-898-6715 jdcpamba@gmail.com ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS 4 CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I certify that on August 2, 2011, I served this paper upon the following via this Court’s ECF system: Party Counsel Robert M. Thompson James T. Wicks Christopher C. Grenz BRYAN CAVE LLP One Kansas City Place 1200 Main Street, Ste. 3500 Kansas City, MO 64105 816.374.3200, 816.374.3300 (fax) Defendant LegalZoom.com, Inc. John Michael Clear Michael Biggers James Wyrsch BRYAN CAVE LLP One Metropolitan Square – Ste. 3600 211 N. Broadway St. Louis, MO 63102 314.250.2000, 314.259.2020 (fax) ___/s/ Timothy VanRonzelen 5 __

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