United States District Court, D. Maine
RYAN D. BURNETT, Plaintiff,
OCEAN PROPERTIES, LTD. and AMERIPORT, LLC, Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OF
ALLEGED AFFILIATIONS OR INDIVIDUALS
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Properties Ltd. and AmeriPort, LLC (Ocean Properties) have
moved to prevent Ryan Burnett from introducing evidence or
information “regarding individuals or entities
allegedly affiliated with the Defendants” pursuant to
Federal Rules of Evidence 402 and 403.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
support of its motion, Ocean Properties argues that
“evidence regarding other individuals or companies,
such as hotels allegedly affiliated with Defendant or for
whom AmeriPort, LLC makes reservations, is completely
irrelevant. . . and [has] no bearing on the Plaintiff's
claim that Defendants failed to accommodate his request for
push button access to the door.” Defs.' Mot. in
Limine to Exclude Evidence of Alleged Affiliated Entities or
Individuals at 2 (ECF No. 109) (Defs.'
Mot). Ocean Properties also argues that Mr.
Burnett's intent in “introducing comments and
evidence regarding hotels allegedly affiliated with
Defendants . . . is to . . . implicitly refer to the size and
the wealth of Defendants, ” and “any such
references would be unfairly prejudicial under Fed.R.Evid.
403.” Id. at 2. In support, Ocean Properties
cites Jay Cashman, Inc. v. Portland Pipe Line, Inc.,
573 F.Supp.2d 335 (D. Me 2008) (granting defendant's
motion in limine as to “upstream ownership” by
large oil companies as irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial).
Ryan Burnett opposed the motion. Pl.'s Resp. in Opp.
to Mot. In Limine to Exclude Evidence of Alleged Affiliated
Entities or Individuals (ECF No. 119) (Pl.'s
Ryan Burnett's Response
Burnett responds by stating that “it is not unfairly
prejudicial to tell the jury the truth about the nature of
Defendants' business . . . ‘that it is one of the
largest privately held hotel management and development
companies in North America.'” Id. at 1
(quoting Additional Attach. Ade Dep., Ex. 1 at 1
(ECF No. 120)). He further argues that, as discussed in his
opposition to the Defendants' motion in limine regarding
the parties' economic standing (ECF No. 116), the
corporate size and structure of the Defendants'
organization are highly relevant given the damages caps in
the statutes applicable to this case. Id. at. 2.
Burnett also contends that information on corporate structure
is essential to questions of punitive damages, because
“without such information, a jury could be misled into
thinking AmeriPort has a small number of employees and no
human resources department”, which could excuse lack of
knowledge of the ADA such that a punitive damages award may
not be appropriate. Id. Finally, Mr. Burnett avers
that whether Ocean Properties Ltd. and AmeriPort are an
integrated enterprise or separate entities is a question for
the jury, as it was not determined on summary judgment.
Id. at 3.
begin at the most basic, the ADA and the MHRA prohibit
discrimination by employers against employees. Although it is
unusual, the Defendants have not conceded that they are
actually Mr. Burnett's employer under either statute and
they have denied that their enterprise is integrated. In
fact, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) on September 6, 2016,
alleging that Ocean Properties “is not a proper party
to this litigation.” Defs.' Mot. to
Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 5.)
(Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss). The Defendants further
Plaintiff conclusorily alleges - without any supporting facts
whatsoever - that AmeriPort was an ‘integrated
enterprise' with OPL, and that OPL ‘owned and
operated' the hotel in which he worked. [Compl.
¶¶ 5, 7]. Plaintiff fails to offer any explanation
as to why OPL should be treated as an integrated enterprise
with AmeriPort or otherwise held liable as the
‘parent' for AmeriPort's alleged conduct.
Id. at 1. The Court is unaware that this fundamental
question has ever been resolved by the parties and therefore
it is Mr. Burnett's burden to establish that the
Defendants are his employers and subject to the operative
statutes. On this issue, the Defendants cannot have it both
ways. They cannot deny that they are his employers and put
Mr. Burnett to his burden of proof on this issue, and then
protest that he is seeking to admit evidence that would
establish what they have denied.
compelling argument offered by the Defendants is that, though
relevant, such evidence would be unfairly
prejudicial. Rule 403 states that “[t]he 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.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. Mr. Burnett
argues that evidence of Ocean Properties' affiliations is
“not unfairly prejudicial if it is true.”
Pl.'s Opp'n at 2. Even if a fact is true, it
may still be unfairly prejudicial or otherwise inadmissible
under Rule 403(b). “‘Unfair prejudice within its
context means an undue tendency to suggest decision on an
improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an
emotional one.” Old Chief v. United States,
519 U.S. 172, 180 (1997) (internal quotations omitted)
(citing Advisory Committee's Notes on Fed. Rule Evid.
403, 28 U.S.C. App., p. 860).
evidence of Ocean Properties' alleged affiliations is
unfairly prejudicial echoes the issue raised in the
Defendant's motion to exclude evidence of its
organization's wealth and size. In both instances, such
evidence is unfairly prejudicial, and therefore inadmissible,
when it is being offered only to appeal to the jury's
economic bias, but information regarding a defendant's
wealth or size is not inherently “unlawful or
inappropriate.” Rooney v. Sprague ...