Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

CRST Expedited, Inc. v. Swift Transportation Co of Arizona, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

July 8, 2019

CRST EXPEDITED, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CO OF ARIZONA, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER IN LIMINE

          C.J. Williams United States District Judge

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE ................................................... 4

         A. Defendant's Affirmative Defenses ............................................... 4

         1. Invalidity Defenses ......................................................... 4

         2. Voidability Defenses ....................................................... 5

         3. Blacklisting Statutes and Antitrust Defenses ...........................6

         B. Other Lawsuits ...................................................................... 7

         C. Plaintiff Has Not Sued the Drivers at Issue for Breach of Contract ........ 9

         D. Advice of Counsel ................................................................. 10

         E. Settlement Discussions ............................................................ 12

         F. Related Corporations .............................................................. 13

         G. Witnesses Not Called to Testify ................................................. 13

         H. Hearsay of Declarants Not Appearing to Testify at Trial ................... 14

         I. Items Not Subject of Discovery ................................................. 17

         J. Expert Witnesses Not Disclosed in Discovery ................................ 18

         K. Exhibits and Witnesses Not Disclosed in Discovery ......................... 19

         II. DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE ............................................... 20

         A. Defendant's Financial Information and “Profit Per Driver Per Day” ..... 20

         B. Expert Testimony of David Souza .............................................. 24

         C. Drivers Defendant Hired While Still Employed by Plaintiff ................ 29

         D. Drivers Defendant Reimbursed .................................................. 30

         E. Independent Contractor Agreements ............................................ 32

         F. Punitive Damages .................................................................. 33

         III. CONCLUSION ............................................................................. 35

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' motions in limine. (Docs. 181, 182). Each party timely resisted the opposing party's motion (Docs. 185, 186), and each party filed a reply in support of its own motion (Docs. 197, 207). “A district court has wide discretion in admitting and excluding evidence . . ..” Bennett v. Hidden Valley Golf & Ski, Inc., 318 F.3d 868, 878 (8th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). “The Federal Rules of Evidence ‘favor admitting relevant evidence absent a specific reason to exclude it.'” Doe v. Young, 664 F.3d 727, 733 (8th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion in limine (Doc. 181) is granted in part, denied in part, and held in abeyance in part. Defendant's motion in limine (Doc. 182) is granted in part, denied in part, and held in abeyance in part.

         This case involves two competing trucking companies that employ individuals as drivers. CRST Expedited, Inc. v. Swift Transp. Co. of Ariz., LLC, No. 17-cv-25-CJW-KEM, 2019 WL 2358407, at *1 (N.D. Iowa June 4, 2019) (“Swift”). To work as a truck driver, an individual must possess a commercial driver's license (“CDL”). Id. (citations omitted). Plaintiff operates a driver training program that allows individuals to obtain their CDLs. Id. (citations omitted). Each driver who attends this training program and is hired by plaintiff signs a Driver Employment Contract (“Driver Contract” or “contract”) that contains a restrictive term, during which time the driver-signatory is prohibited from driving for one of plaintiff's “competitors.” Id. (footnote and citations omitted). Plaintiff brought suit alleging that defendant has actively recruited and continues to actively recruit plaintiff's drivers even though those drivers remain within the restrictive terms of their contracts. Id., at *2 (citation omitted). This Court previously granted partial summary judgment. See generally Id. As a result of the Court's summary judgment Order, only plaintiff's tortious interference with contract and unjust enrichment claims remain to be tried. See id., at *30.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION IN LIMINE

         A. Defendant's Affirmative Defenses

         Plaintiff seeks an order in limine barring defendant from introducing any evidence or making any reference to defendant's “failed” affirmative defenses because under Federal Rules of Evidence 401, 402, and 403, “[a]ny reference to evidence pertaining to these defenses is irrelevant to this lawsuit, has no tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence in this case more or less probable, and would result in confusing the issues, misleading the jury, and unduly prejudicing [plaintiff] . . ..” (Doc. 181-1, at 2). In its summary judgment Order, the Court found that certain affirmative defenses failed as a matter of law, certain survived, and certain failed on the record before the Court at the summary judgment stage. Swift, 2019 WL 2358407, at *27-30.

         1. Invalidity Defenses

         Defendant's first affirmative defense asserts, in part, that plaintiff's driver contracts are void as a matter of law. (Doc. 51, at 13). Defendant's twenty-eighth affirmative defense argues that the contracts are not supported by consideration, and, thus, are invalid. (Id., at 17). The Court has already determined that the contracts are valid as a matter of law and that defendant's first affirmative defense fails as a matter of law to the extent it asserts that the contracts are void. Swift, 2019 WL 2358407, at *28-29.

         Defendant's twenty-eighth affirmative defense also fails as a matter of law because the Court has found that the contracts are supported by consideration and, thus, cannot be considered invalid for lack of consideration. Id. Because these affirmative defenses fail as a matter of law and all relevant questions of law have been resolved as to the issue of validity, reference to these defenses would be irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 401 and inadmissible under Federal Rules of Evidence 402. There is also a danger that evidence or argument referencing such defenses could also mislead the jury and confuse the issues, making the evidence inadmissible under Rule 403 as well. Thus, plaintiff's motion is granted to the extent plaintiff seeks to exclude reference to and evidence of defendant's first affirmative defense, to the extent it asserts an invalidity defense, and defendant's twenty-eighth affirmative defense.

         2. Voidability Defenses

         Defendant's twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh affirmative defenses, as well as the first affirmative defense, in remaining part, allege conditions of the contracts that, if shown, would make the contracts voidable. The Court previously held that defendant's first, twenty-sixth, and twenty-seventh affirmative defenses, to the extent they assert voidability defenses, failed as a matter of law on the record before the Court at the summary judgment stage, and would only prove viable if defendant could show that one or more drivers attempted to avoid his contract on the basis set forth in the respective defenses. Id., at *28-29. At the trial stage, defendant will have the opportunity to more fully develop the record to show that one or more drivers attempted to avoid his contract on the basis of the relevant affirmative defense. Evidence of and reference to these defenses is, thus, relevant to the issue of causation.

         Additionally, the twenty-sixth affirmative defense asserts that “[p]laintiff breached its [driver contracts] by failing to honor such contracts with its drivers.” (Doc. 51, at 17). To the extent plaintiff's alleged breaches may be the cause of the drivers leaving plaintiff's employ, defendant may argue that those breaches, not defendant's conduct, were the cause of the drivers subsequently breaching their contracts by leaving plaintiff's employ. This defense would address the impropriety prong of the tortious interference claim and could address whether it would be unjust for defendant to retain the benefits it realized by hiring drivers who allegedly quit working for plaintiff because of plaintiff's own contractual breaches.

         The probative value of these defenses outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, or misleading the jury and, thus, are admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. McCrary-El v. Shaw, 992 F.2d 809, 812 (8th Cir. 1993) (“The test of Rule 403 is whether the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”). Plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude reference to or evidence of defendant's first, twenty-sixth, and twenty-seventh affirmative defenses is denied.

         3. Blacklisting Statutes and Antitrust Defenses

         Defendant's twenty-second and twenty-third affirmative defenses allege that plaintiff's requested relief would violate state blacklisting statutes, and the second defense could be read as implicating blacklisting and antitrust issues. (Doc. 51, at 16). The Court has already held that, “to the extent the second, twenty-second, and twenty-third affirmative defenses seek to show the invalidity of the contracts, the defenses fail as a matter of law.” Swift, 2019 WL 2358407, at *29. Additionally, the Court found that although these affirmative defenses do not fail as a defense to plaintiff's prayer for injunctive relief, the Court has found injunctive relief inappropriate and, thus, the defenses are of no benefit to the extent they defend against injunctive relief. Id.

         Plaintiff does not address the relevance the blacklisting and antitrust defenses may have on other issues. Defendant argues that these affirmative defenses are relevant to several of the factors for determining impropriety under plaintiff's tortious interference claim. (Doc. 185, at 3-7). The Court agrees and finds that these portions of the second, twenty-second, and twenty-third affirmative defenses are relevant in defending against the tortious interference claim. As with the voidability defenses, the probative value of these defenses outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, or misleading the jury and, thus, are not properly excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. McCrary-El, 992 F.2d at 812. Plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude reference to or evidence of defendant's second, twenty-second, and twenty-third affirmative defenses is denied.

         B. Other Lawsuits

         In its motion in limine, plaintiff argues that defendant “must not be permitted to reference [plaintiff's] lawsuits against TransAm Trucking, Inc., J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.[, ] or Knight Transportation, Inc., the status[, ] or outcome of those lawsuits.” (Doc. 181-1, at 4). Plaintiff further argues that “[i]nformation relating to lawsuits, complaints, claims[, ] or settlements other than the complaint at issue is not relevant to this lawsuit . . ..” (Id.). In its reply in support of its motion in limine, plaintiff makes more explicit that plaintiff's motion is not limited to the three cases identified in plaintiff's opening brief, but rather seeks exclusion of all evidence and reference to lawsuits other than this lawsuit. (See Doc. 197, at 6-7). In light of plaintiff's more generalized argument in its opening brief regarding the irrelevance of information relating to lawsuits other than this one, the Court views the request to exclude evidence and reference to all other lawsuits, not just the lawsuits against TransAm, Hunt, and Knight, to have been properly raised in plaintiff's opening brief. The Court will, therefore, address the broader issue of whether defendant should be able to reference or introduce evidence of any lawsuit other than the one currently before the Court.

         Defendant argues that the existence of other lawsuits permits defendant to argue that the social interests at stake weigh against a finding of impropriety on the tortious interference with contract claim. (Doc. 185, at 12-13). Defendant further argues that “[f]ear of lawsuits similar to the ones in which [plaintiff] has been embroiled also goes to [defendant's] intent in changing its practice on accepting driver applications from any carrier.” (Id., at 13). Defendant has not explained, however, why it is necessary to reference or introduce evidence of specific lawsuits involving plaintiff for defendant to argue that defendant could face liability for refusing to hire plaintiff's drivers. That is, defendant could introduce the possibility of adverse litigation without addressing plaintiff's involvement in similar litigation. The Court thus concludes that the existence of other lawsuits, complaints, claims, or ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.