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Xiao v. Feast Buffet, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 14, 2019

PENGBO XIAO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FEAST BUFFET, INC., HELEN EMPLOYMENT AGENCY, and DOES 1-25, Defendants.

          ORDER RE: MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine (Dkt. #49) and Defendant Feast Buffet, Inc. (“Feast Buffet”)'s Motions in Limine (Dkt. #50). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion is GRANTED and Defendant, Feast Buffet, Inc.'s Motions are GRANTED IN PART.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Parties may file motions in limine before or during trial “to exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before the evidence is actually offered.” Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984). To resolve such motions, the Court is guided by Fed.R.Evid. 401 and 403. Specifically, the Court considers whether evidence “has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, ” and whether “the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. 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.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine

         Plaintiffs move to exclude evidence or prevent reference to evidence that Plaintiffs allegedly filed false income tax returns. Dkt. #49 at 2.

         On June 4, 2019, Feast Buffet filed an untimely response to Plaintiffs' Motion. Dkt. #55. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(d)(4) (“Any opposition papers shall be filed and served no later than the Monday before the noting date.”). The Court will nonetheless consider the arguments raised in Defendant's Response in the interest of judicial economy, given that parties' evidentiary disputes will otherwise be raised during trial.

         Plaintiffs argue that their alleged filing of false or inaccurate income tax returns and information is not relevant to any of the claims or issues in the case or, alternatively, any evidentiary value is substantially outweighed by the misleading effect it would have at trial. Dkt. #49 at 3-5. Feast Buffet responds that Plaintiffs' tax returns are not unfairly prejudicial and are relevant to demonstrating that Plaintiffs willingly consented to Feast Buffet's pay practices. Dkt. #55 at 1-2.

         The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that evidence of their alleged false income tax returns is more prejudicial than probative of Plaintiffs' willing submission to Feast Buffet's nonpayment of wages and risks confusing the issues for the jury. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion in Limine.

         B. Defendant's Uncontested Motions in Limine 2-3, 5-10.

         Defendant has proposed eight (8) Motions in Limine which Plaintiff does not oppose. Dkt. #50 at 4-6, Dkt. #53 at 6-7. The Court notes Plaintiffs' claim that Feast Buffet violated the Local Rule 7 meet-and-confer requirement by failing to raise all issues contained in its Motions in Limine prior to filing. See Dkt. #53 at 5-6 (citing Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(d)(4)). However, given that Plaintiffs do not oppose the majority of Defendant's Motions, the Court declines Plaintiffs' request to issue sanctions under Rule 11. Accordingly, the following unopposed Motions in Limine are GRANTED, wherein parties agree to:

2. Exclude evidence of an alleged threat received by Plaintiff Cai Mingfeng subsequent to quitting his ...

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