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Idaho Golf Partners, Inc. v. Timberstone Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 21, 2016

IDAHO GOLF PARTNERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TIMBERSTONE MANAGEMENT, LLC., Defendant. TIMBERSTONE MANAGEMENT, LLC., Counterclaimant,
v.
IDAHO GOLF PARTNERS, INC., Counterdefendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court are Plaintiff/Counterdefendant's motion in limine (Dkt. 62) and three motions in limine filed by Defendant/Counterclaimant (Dkts. 67, 68, 73-1). The motions are fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the motions.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine (Dkt. 62)

         Plaintiff's motion seeks to preclude Defendant from introducing evidence or testimony at trial referencing: (1) telephone calls from anonymous persons to TimberStone Golf Course, as inadmissible hearsay, and (2) settlement offers or statements made during settlement discussions or mediation proceedings. On September 19, 2016, the court issued an Order (Dkt. 97) granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion as to request (1). The Court takes up the remaining request here.

         A. Settlement and Mediation Discussions

         Plaintiff seeks to exclude any testimony or evidence regarding settlement offers or statements made during settlement discussions or mediation proceedings, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 408. See Pl. Brief at 3, Dkt. 62.[1] Defendant opposes the motion, asserting that it has no intention of relying on such evidence for a purpose prohibited under Rule 408 but may seek to rely on the evidence “for another purpose, such as proving a witness's bias or prejudice [and/or] negating a contention of undue delay . . . .” See Def. Resp. at 6, Dkt. 83 (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 408(b)).

         Rule 408 generally prohibits the introduction of evidence relating to offers of compromise and statements made during the course of settlement negotiations to “prove or disprove the validity or amount of a disputed claim or to impeach by a prior inconsistent statement or a contradiction.” Fed.R.Evid. 408(a). However, Rule 408 is not an absolute ban on evidence regarding settlement negotiations.

         It is presently unknown what testimony or evidence pertaining to settlement offers or negotiations the parties may seek to introduce, and for what purpose. Therefore, the Court declines at this stage to place a blanket prohibition on this category of evidence. Defendant's motion is DENIED, without prejudice to a timely objection to the presentation of such evidence at trial. However, Plaintiff's counsel is directed to raise the issue with the Court outside the presence of the jury before attempting to offer evidence concerning prior settlement discussions.

         2. Defendant's Motions in Limine

         A. References to Prior or Pending Litigation (Dkt. 67)

         Defendant asks the court to preclude Plaintiff from offering any testimony or evidence, or making any other reference before the jury, regarding prior or pending litigation between the parties. Def. Brief at 1-2, Dkt. 67-1. Relying on Federal Rules of Evidence 401, 402, and 403, Defendant explains that such evidence has no probative value and presents a substantial risk of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, and misleading the jury. Def. Brief at 5-8, Dkt. 67-1.

         The parties refer specifically to three prior or pending proceedings. The first, the “Cancellation Proceeding, ” is the petition for cancellation of Defendant's federally registered trademark filed by Plaintiff on or about July 8, 2014 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Watkins Aff. Ex. E, Dkt. 67-7. The Cancellation Proceeding has been stayed until this case reaches a final disposition, and the USPTO has yet to rule on any substantive issues. Watkins Supp. Aff. in Support of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 1, Dkt. 49-1. The second proceeding, the “Illinois Action, ” is the trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Defendant on July 18, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Watkins Aff. Ex. C, Dkt. 67-5. This case was dismissed on November 6, 2014 for lack of personal jurisdiction and did not reach the merits at issue. Watkins Aff. Ex. D, Dkt. 67-6. The third, the “Clerk's Default, ” is the Clerk's Entry of Default filed in this case on August 13, 2014 (Dkt. 10), which the court later set aside on March 31, 2015 (Dkt. 26).

         (1) Illinois Action and Clerk's Default

         Plaintiff states in its response to the motion in limine that it “has no intention of mentioning [the Illinois Action and Clerk's Default] in its case in chief, though respectfully reserves the right to do so if raised by Defendant during the trial.” Pl. Resp. at 4, Dkt. 82. Based on this representation, the Court will GRANT the motion as to the Illinois Action and Clerk's Default, but on the condition that Defendant not present any evidence or testimony, or make any comment before the jury, regarding these prior proceedings at any point during this trial.

         (2) Cancellation Proceeding

         The parties disagree on the admissibility of evidence regarding the ...


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