BLB Aviation South Carolina, LLC v. Jet Linx Aviation Corporation et al
ORDER denying without prejudice the defendants' Motions in Limine 131 , 133 , 134 , 135 , and 136 ; granting the defendant's Motion in Limine 132 ; and overruling the plaintiff's Objections to Evidence 150 . Ordered by Magistrate Judge Thomas D. Thalken. (TRL)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
BLB AVIATION SOUTH CAROLINA, LLC, )
JET LINX AVIATION LLC, JET LINX
AVIATION CORPORATION, JET LINX
MANAGEMENT COMPANY, LLC,
and JAMIE WALKER,
This matter is before the court on the defendants’ six motions in limine. The
motions are fully briefed. The defendants seek to exclude evidence about (1) whether the
defendants’ employees were responsible for an oil loss incident (Filing No. 131);
(2) attempted insurance fraud (Filing No. 132); (3) repairs made without permission (Filing
No. 133); (4) failure to maintain records causing devaluation (Filing No. 134); (5) alleged
FAA regulation violations (Filing No. 135); and (6) alleged misrepresentations made by the
defendants prior to entry of written agreements (Filing No. 136). The defendants filed
separate briefs in support of each motion in limine. See Filing Nos. 137, 138, 139, 140,
141, and 142. The defendants filed an index of evidence related to all motions. See Filing
Nos. 143, 144, 145, 146, and 147. The plaintiff argues each of the motions are improper
attempts to obtain pre-trial resolutions on various matters of law on the parties’ claims and
defenses. See Filing No. 149 - Response. The plaintiff also filed an objection (Filing No.
150) to the court’s consideration of various documents contained in the defendants’ index
of evidence. The defendants argue each motion in limine should be granted based on the
failure of the plaintiff to provide legal support for admitting the subject evidence at trial.
See Filing No. 153 - Reply.
This case arises from a contractual business relationship between the parties. See
Filing No. 1 - Complaint. The parties entered into two distinct agreements for the
defendants to manage aircraft owned by the plaintiff. See Filing No. 51 - Amended
Disputes arose between the parties regarding lease payments and
maintenance charges. Ultimately the plaintiff took possession of the aircraft and this
The plaintiff alleges fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent
misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing,
and breach of fiduciary duty. See Filing No. 99 - Amended Complaint. The defendants
filed an answer and counterclaim seeking damages for termination of contracts,
maintenance costs owed the defendants, and costs associated with a Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) review. See Filing No. 100 - Answer and Counterclaim p. 13-14. The
court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment with regard to the plaintiff’s
claim for breach of fiduciary duty. See Filing No. 122. The court denied the defendants’
motion for summary judgment with regard to the breach of contract and misrepresentations
claims and the defendants’ argument based on accord and satisfaction related to an
August 6, 2008, letter. Id. The parties waived trial by jury and trial is scheduled to
commence on February 6, 2012. See Filing No. 148.
“A motion in limine is a request for the court’s guidance concerning an evidentiary
question.” Euroholdings Capital & Inv. Corp. v. Harris Trust & Sav. Bank, 602 F. Supp.
2d 928, 934 (N.D. Ill. 2009). In a preliminary ruling, a trial judge has inherent authority, as
part of managing the course of a trial, to rule on motions in limine, even though such
rulings are not explicitly authorized by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Luce v. United
States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). A trial judge has broad discretion when ruling on
motions in limine. See Black v. Shultz, 530 F.3d 702, 707 (8th Cir. 2008). “However,
evidence may be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is inadmissible
on all potential grounds.” Euroholdings Capital, 602 F. Supp. 2d at 934. The burden of
establishing the evidence is not admissible is on the party moving to exclude evidence.
Id. “Unless evidence meets this high standard, evidentiary rulings should be deferred until
trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in
proper context.” Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Tech., Inc., 831 F. Supp 1398, 1400 (N.D.
Ill. 1993). Furthermore, the Eighth Circuit has noted that “[e]videntiary rulings made by a
trial court during motions in limine are preliminary and may change depending on what
actually happens at trial.” Walzer v. St. Joseph State Hosp., 231 F.3d 1108, 1113 (8th
Cir. 2000) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41). Similarly, “[d]enial of a motion in limine does not
mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Rather, denial
means the court cannot determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded
outside of the trial context.” Euroholdings Capital, 602 F. Supp. 2d at 934.
Damages Due to Oil Loss
The defendants seek to exclude evidence that Jet Linx was responsible by any
negligence, mistake or error for the cause of loss of oil pressure on February 20, 2008, to
Aircraft N789DJ. See Filing No. 137 - Brief. The defendants argue such evidence is not
relevant to the real issue for trial, which is whether the defendants are financially
responsibile for the engine tear-down necessitated by the oil loss. Id. Additionally, the
defendants argue the relevant agreement (Ex. A - Filing No. 143) between the parties
allocates the responsibility for the oil loss to the plaintiff. In support of the defendants’
position, they contend the evidence will show the aircraft’s engine problems were caused
by a crack in the oil cap, which constitutes a mechanical failure rather than pilot error as
was initially suspected. See Filing No. 137 - Brief. The defendants argue any contrary
evidence or suggestion that they are responsible for the oil loss is unduly prejudicial in light
of the relevant agreement provisions and factual determinations made by the FAA and the
insurance carrier. Id. The plaintiff disputes the facts regarding the cause of damage to the
aircraft and the defendants’ interpretation of the service agreement on this issue. See
Filing No. 149 - Response p. 2-3. The defendants acknowledge that the pretrial order
contains disputed issues for which this evidence may be relevant, but argues the evidence
should be considered only on a limited basis. See Filing No. 153 - Reply p. 1.
The court finds the defendants have failed to show evidence of any alleged
damages caused by the defendants’ employees related to the oil loss is inadmissible on
all potential grounds. Evidence related to the defendants’ employees’ conduct may be
evidence relevant to the parties’ liabilities and defenses under the service agreement.
Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to exclude such evidence is denied.
Alleged Insurance Fraud
The defendants seek to exclude any evidence or argument that the defendants
engaged in or attempted to engage in insurance fraud when they reported events about
Aircraft N789DJ’s oil loss and engine maintenance to the defendants’ insurance carrier.
See Filing No. 138 - Brief p. 4. The defendants’ concern is based on comments made by
the plaintiff’s representative during a deposition about why the defendants updated the
insurance claim with additional facts related to the aircraft’s oil loss incident. Id. The
defendants argue the allegations are prejudicial and irrelevant to the claims and defenses
in this matter. Id. The plaintiff states it “has no intention of presenting evidence regarding
insurance fraud, and the motion should be denied as moot.” See Filing No. 149 Response p. 2-3. The defendants argue that the plaintiff’s statement does provide
adequate protection under the circumstances and they seek an order granting the
defendants’ motion. See Filing No. 153 - Reply p. 2. The court will grant the defendants’
Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony Regarding Jet Linx Submissions of Claims to AIG
that Jet Linx Attempted to Defraud AIG (Filing No. 132).
Repairs Without Permission
The defendants argue that the plaintiff misinterpreted the terms of the contract when
the plaintiff asserted the defendants needed preapproval before undertaking expensive
repairs. See Filing No. 139 - Brief. The plaintiff contends that the defendants are
attempting to obtain a ruling about the interpretation of the contract rather than the
admissibility of evidence. See Filing No. 149 - Response p. 3-4. The defendants
acknowledge they seek a determination about the meaning of relevant contract terms, but
contend the court has the authority to do so at this time. See Filing No. 153 - Reply p. 2-3.
Furthermore, the defendants argue that if their interpretation of the contract is correct, the
evidence about preapproval for repairs is irrelevant. Id.
The court finds the defendants have failed to show evidence of failures to obtain
preapproval for maintenance is inadmissible on all potential grounds. The court will not
make a determination about the disputed meaning of the contract in the context of a
motion in limine. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to exclude such evidence is denied.
Value of Aircraft and FAA Violations
The defendants seek to exclude any evidence the value of Aircraft N400GK
decreased due to the defendants’ failure to maintain proper records in accordance with
FAA requirements. See Filing No. 140 - Brief. The defendants describe several reasons
Aircraft N400GK may have decreased in value, including the plaintiff’s failure to sell the
aircraft at an earlier time, which are unrelated to the maintenance of FAA required records.
Id. Additionally, the defendants argue the plaintiff fails to show the defendants were
responsible for any missing records. Id. Similarly, the defendants seek to exclude any
evidence of their failure to maintain proper records in accordance with FAA requirements
caused a loss of value with regard to Aircraft N789DJ. See Filing No. 141 - Brief. The
plaintiff opposes the motion arguing the defendants’ action and inaction may be relevant
to damages for breach of contract. See Filing No. 149 - Response p. 5-7. The defendants
contend any evidence obtained after the deadline for disclosure should be excluded
because the timing of such evidence prejudices the defendants. See Filing No. 153 Reply p. 3.
The court finds the defendants have failed to show evidence related to alleged FAA
violations as they relate to the value of aircraft is inadmissible on all potential grounds.
Moreover, the court will not make a determination about the admissibility of evidence that
does not yet exist or a party has yet to disclose. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to
exclude such evidence is denied.
The defendants seek to exclude any evidence of misrepresentations that induced
the plaintiff to enter into any agreement or suffer damage. See Filing No. 142 - Brief. The
defendants assert that even if there were any evidence that a material misrepresentation
existed the terms of the written agreements, negotiated by experienced businessmen with
advice of counsel, will determine the liability of the partes. Id. The defendants argue the
specific representations noted by the plaintiff are merely unactionable projections and
estimates. Id. The plaintiff contends the defendants are restating their motion for
summary judgment, which was denied as to this argument. See Filing No. 149 - Response
p. 7-8. Moreover, the plaintiff asserts the issue is not appropriate in a motion in limine
because the defendants ask the court to determine whether the alleged misrepresentations
may legally support a cause of action. Id. The defendants seek to force the plaintiff to
elect between the claims for breach of contract and fraud prior to trial. See Filing No. 153 Reply p. 4-6. Furthermore, the defendants argue any misrepresentations are irrelevant to
the breach of contract claim and fail to support a fraud claim as a matter of law. Id.
The court finds the defendants have failed to show evidence of misrepresentations
are inadmissible on all potential grounds. The court will not make a determination about
the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff’s claims, particularly when summary judgment was
denied, in the context of a motion in limine. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to exclude
such evidence is denied. Upon consideration,
IT IS ORDERED:
The defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony Regarding “Oil Loss”
Incident on Aircraft N789DJ (Filing No. 131) is denied without prejudice.
The defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony Regarding Jet Linx
Submissions of Claims to AIG that Jet Linx Attempted to Defraud AIG (Filing No. 132) is
The defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Repairs Exceeding
$5000.00 Being Made Without the Express Permission of the Aircraft Owner (Filing No.
133) is denied without prejudice.
The defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Decreased Value
of Aircraft N400GK (Filing No. 134) is denied without prejudice.
The defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence Alleging Jet Linx
Violated FAA Regulations (Filing No. 135) is denied without prejudice.
The defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Any Alleged
Misrepresentations (Filing No. 136) is denied without prejudice.
The plaintiff’s Objections to Evidence Submitted in Support of Defendants’
Motions in Limine (Filing No. 150) are overruled. The court accorded due weight to the
defendants’ evidentiary submissions.
DATED this 1st day of February, 2012.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Thomas D. Thalken
United States Magistrate Judge
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