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J & M Distributing, Inc. v. Hearth & Home Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 12, 2015

J & M Distributing, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Hearth & Home Technologies, Inc. and Magnotti and Sons, Inc. d/b/a The FirePlace and ThePatioPlace, Defendants.

George G. Eck and Jaime Stilson, Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ray C. Stoner, Law Offices of Ray C. Stoner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Plaintiff.

Kelly W. Hoversten and Quentin R. Wittrock, Gray Plant Mooty Mooty & Bennett, PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendant Hearth & Home Technologies, Inc.

Cory D. Olson and Courtland C. Merrill, Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and D. Scott Lautner, Law Offices of D. Scott Lautner, PC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Defendant Magnotti and Sons.

ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' Motions in Limine. Defendant Hearth & Home Technologies Inc. ("Hearth & Home") filed the following motions: Hearth & Home's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Net Profits Plaintiff Allegedly Would Have Earned on Certain Sales and to Reimburse Hearth & Home's Costs and Fees of Bringing this Motion [Doc. No. 170]; Defendant Hearth & Home's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of DOJ and FTC Horizontal Merger Guidelines [Doc. No. 171]; Hearth & Home's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of its Internal Antitrust Policy and Guidelines [Doc. No. 172]. Plaintiff J&M Distributing, Inc. ("J&M") filed the following motions: Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 1 to Limit Evidence and Testimony Related to Prior Settlement Negotiations and Settlement Agreement Between the Parties [Doc. No. 179]; Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 2 to Exclude Certain Testimony and Evidence Related to Hearth & Home's Termination of J&M [Doc. No. 181]; Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 3 to Exclude Testimony and Argument that the 2001 Distributor Agreement or its Terms Governed the Parties' Relationship from 2007 Forward [Doc. No. 183]; Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 4 to Exclude Evidence of Other Contracts [Doc. No. 185]; and Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 5 to Exclude Testimony of Hearth & Home Witness V.P. Berger [Doc. No. 187].

The Court heard argument on these motions at a pretrial hearing held on January 9, 2015. At the hearing, the Court ruled on several of the motions from the bench and took portions of certain motions under advisement. This Order memorializes the Court's rulings from the bench and addresses the remaining issues under advisement.

A. Hearth & Home's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Net Profits Plaintiff Allegedly Would Have Earned on Certain Sales and to Reimburse Hearth & Home's Costs and Fees of Bringing this Motion [Doc. No. 170]

Hearth & Home's motion related to net profits is withdrawn by Hearth & Home in part as to Exs. P-94 and P-131 (Category 1 Documents, as identified in Hearth & Home's Motion); and denied in part as to Exs. P-110 (Category 2 Document), P-136 (Category 2 Document), P-137 (Category 3 Document), P-141 (Category 2 Document), P-142 (Category 3 Document), P-264 (Category 4 Document), and P-459 through P-480 (Category 5 Documents), and denied as to the request for costs and fees. The Court's ruling with respect to the admissibility of Exs. P-110, P-136, P-137, P-141, and P-142 (Categories 2 and 3 Documents) is deferred until trial, subject to adequate foundation.

B. Hearth & Home's Motion in Limine to Exclude DOJ and FTC Evidence [Doc. No. 171]

Counsel for Hearth & Home indicated at the pretrial hearing that no issue remains as to this motion. Accordingly, it is denied as moot.

C. Hearth & Home's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of its Interna Antitrust Policy and Guidelines [Doc. No. 172]

Hearth & Home seeks to preclude J&M from presenting any evidence or argument regarding Hearth & Home's internal antitrust policy and guidelines, including issues regarding Hearth & Home's compliance with those policies. At issue are the following three proposed trial exhibits: P65, P350, and P351. (Hearth & Home's Mot. in Limine at 1 [Doc. No. 172].)

Hearth & Home argues that J&M may use these documents to suggest that Hearth & Home failed to follow its own antitrust policy and to then imply that such failure constitutes a violation of the Sherman Act. (Id. at 2.) Hearth & Home seeks the exclusion of this evidence pursuant to Rules 402 and 403, arguing that the evidence is irrelevant and should be excluded because its probative value is substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. (Id.) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 403 & 403.) Hearth & Home contends that the evidence may confuse the jury as to the law. (Id.)

Plaintiff opposes Hearth & Home's motion, arguing that evidence that Hearth & Home employees failed to follow the company's own internal antitrust policies is relevant to the "knowingly" or "voluntarily and intentionally" element of Plaintiff's conspiracy claim. (Pl.'s Opp'n Mem. at 2 [Doc. No. 198].) J&M argues that this evidence meets the test for relevance under Rule 401, because it "is of consequence in determining the action." (Id.) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 401.) In addition, J&M argues that Exhibit P65 is independently relevant because it was given to Plaintiff at the 2006 meeting with Hearth & Home ...


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