United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
KOCH FOODS, INC. PLAINTIFF
PATE DAWSON COMPANY, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on a motion in limine [Doc.
106] filed by defendants Malcolm Sullivan, Micah
Sullivan, and Mike Pate, Jr. (collectively,
“Defendants”) and a motion in limine
[Doc. 109] filed by Plaintiff Koch Foods,
Inc. (“Koch”). Having considered the motions,
responses, and applicable statutory and case law, and being
otherwise fully informed in the premises, the Court finds as
point was the Pate Dawson Company no longer prosecuting its
business in good faith? That is the critical question for
trial. And it is the question upon which other questions
depend -- when a fiduciary duty arose and whether it was
is also a question upon which Koch's theories of
liability must stand or fall. Koch's claims for
constructive fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and
conspiracy each depend in some measure on whether the Pate
Dawson Company was prosecuting its business in good faith at
the time it placed the disputed orders with Koch.
Court's evidentiary rulings should reflect the salience
of the fiduciary duty question. Any argument or testimony
speaking to that question -- and the underlying fact issue of
when the Pate Dawson Company was no longer prosecuting its
business in good faith -- is highly relevant.
Court's trial management authority includes the power to
issue pre-trial rulings on the admissibility of evidence.
Luce v. United States, 8');">469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4 (1984).
And the Court has “wide discretion in determining the
admissibility of evidence under the Federal Rules.”
Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v. Mendelsohn, 2 U.S. 379');">552 U.S. 379,
384 (2008) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
Defendants' Motion in Limine
ask the Court to exclude (1) “any
argument or suggestion” of a “relationship of
trust and confidence” between Koch and the Pate Dawson
Company; (2) any “evidence or
argument” that the Pate Dawson Company had lost its
senior lender, PNC Bank, when it placed the disputed orders
with Koch; and (3) two waiver-of-default
letters from PNC Bank. [Doc. 106]
basis for Defendants' request is Federal Rule of Evidence
Defendants surmise that introducing this evidence would
unfairly prejudice them and confuse the jury. The Court
addresses each evidentiary topic in turn.
contend that any “argument or suggestion” of a
“relationship of trust and confidence” between
the Pate Dawson Company and Koch would unfairly prejudice
Defendants because the Pate Dawson Company and Koch were
sophisticated businesses with an open-account-type
starters, it is not clear what relief, exactly, Defendants
seek. On the one hand, Defendants ask the Court to forbid
Koch from arguing or suggesting that a fiduciary-type
relationship existed, but on the other, Defendants appear to
take issue only with the “use of . . . terms”
such as holding funds “in trust” or
“earmark[ing]” funds. [Doc. 106, ¶1]
Koch from arguing that the relationship between the Pate
Dawson Company and Koch was fiduciary in nature would be
tantamount to a summary judgment disposing of Koch's
breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud claims. The
Court has denied Defendants' summary judgment motion and
also denies this repurposed motion for summary judgment
masquerading as a motion in limine.
use of the specific terms “in trust” and
“earmark” is not a proper target for a motion in
limine in this case. Just as Defendants are free to argue
that certain payments to creditors were made in the
“ordinary course, ” see § II(B)(3) infra,
Koch is free to argue that the money the Pate Dawson Company
received from Bojangles was “earmarked” for Koch.
Court therefore DENIES Defendants'
motion in limine to prohibit Koch from arguing or suggesting
that a relationship of trust or confidence existed between
PNC Bank's Non-Renewal of the Pate Dawson Company's
Line of Credit
ask the Court to exclude “any evidence or
argument” that the Pate Dawson Company had
“lost” or was “in default with” its
senior lender, PNC Bank, at the time it placed the disputed
orders with Koch. This loss-of-senior-lender argument would
mislead and confuse the jury, Defendants submit, because the
argument is untethered to the evidence.
undisputed that in September 2015 PNC Bank informed the Pate
Dawson Company that its line of credit would not be renewed.
What is disputed is how PNC Bank's non-renewal should be
characterized. Koch insists that PNC Bank's non-renewal
equates to a “loss” of the Pate Dawson
Company's senior lender. And Defendants rejoin that
because PNC Bank continued to support the Pate Dawson Company