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Luv N' Care Ltd. v. Rimar

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

April 3, 2018

LUV N' CARE, LTD
v.
GROUPO RIMAR, AKA SUAVINEX

          KAREN L. HAYES JUDGE

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY MAG. JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Groupo Rimar aka Suavinex's (“Suavinex”) Omnibus Motion in Limine [Doc. No. 196]. Plaintiff Luv n' Care, Ltd. (“LNC”) has opposed the motion in separate filings to address each issue raised. [Doc. Nos. 210-12, 214-15, 222-26].

         This is a breach of contract suit between LNC and Suavinex based on the parties' 2012 Termination Agreement and Mutual Release (“2012 Termination Agreement”). The 2012 Termination Agreement prohibited either party from copying, utilizing, disclosing, or making accessible certain listed items, including products, product designs, trade secrets, formulae, patents, drawings, business plans, prototypes, packaging, procedures and methods, and any other proprietary designs or information, without the other party's consent. LNC's Amended Complaint alleged that Suavinex breached the 2012 Termination Agreement by selling products that closely resembled its own. Thus, the issue to be presented to the jury is whether Suavinex copied LNC's proprietary products in violation of the 2012 Termination Agreement.

         Suavinex presents eleven (11) motions in limine for the Court's consideration. The Court will consider each in turn.

         1. Suavinex's Size

         Suavinex first moves the Court to exclude any evidence, testimony, or argument concerning its size, wealth, overall revenues, or profits, arguing that this type of evidence has no relation to the issues and would be highly prejudicial. Suavinex argues further that the jury might award LNC damages based Suavinex's overall business or as a measure of punitive damages.

         LNC responds that Sauvinex's own expert witnesses have made its size and position in the Spanish pacifier market relevant to their testimony. Further, LNC contends that this evidence is relevant to the story behind the relationship between the two companies and the breach of contract claim.

         Rule 401 defines “‘[r]elevant evidence' . . . [as] evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. However, even if relevant, under Rule 403, “evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         The first Motion in Limine is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. To the extent that Suavinex intends to offer evidence of its development of the products at issue and its longstanding presence in the Spanish market as a baby products distributor, the Court finds that LNC should be allowed to offer a brief evidentiary presentation on the history of the relationship between the companies and Suavinex's subsequent growth in the Spanish market and that such evidence is not unduly prejudicial. However, the Court will otherwise exclude evidence, testimony, and argument with regard to Suavinex's size, wealth, overall revenues, or profits as irrelevant. While the Court is allowing some, limited evidence on the general size and growth of Suavinex, LNC is cautioned that the Court will not allow lengthy presentation on this type of evidence, and, further, that the focus on the evidence should be on the allegedly copied products, not Suavinex's other products. The parties should consider this ruling as a general guide, but the Court will consider appropriate objections at trial.

         2. Suavinex's Other Products

         Suavinex next moves the Court to exclude any evidence, testimony, or argument concerning other products in its catalog of offerings, arguing that this evidence has “no nexus to the accused products or their features and is improper” and “highly prejudicial.” [Doc. No. 196-1, p. 4]. Suavinex argues further that this evidence “may suggest to the jury that it should award LNC damages based upon Suavinex's overall business, the vast majority of which has nothing to do with the accused products or the accused features.” Id.

         LNC responds that it does not intend to introduce evidence of the range of Suavinex's products to mislead or prejudice the jury, but that it should be allowed to “show that the present litigation does not target the entirety of Suavinex's product line.” [Doc. No. 211, pp. 3-4].

         The second Motion in Limine is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court will allow limited evidence showing that the parties had a contract on the distributorship of two of Suavinex's products, but Suavinex retained the right to sell other products in that market. Contrary to LNC's arguments, it is the Court's province to determine whether evidence is relevant, regardless of the parties' arguments. Other than as indicated, ...


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