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Gajarawala v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

July 20, 2006

MAHENDRA M. GAJARAWALA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY AND DAVID ELMER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

Defendants Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") and David Elmer ("Elmer") (collectively, "Defendants") have filed two Motions in Limine (Docket Nos. 70, 85) seeking to exclude from evidence at trial a number of Plaintiff's proposed exhibits relating to testimony and documents concerning former MetLife employee, James Rayl. James Rayl was the Director of MetLife's Tulsa, Oklahoma Customer Service Center during time periods relevant to this case. Plaintiff opposes Defendants' Motions. (Docket Nos. 108-109). After careful review, Defendants' Motions are granted in part and denied in part as follows.

I. Motion in Limine to Exclude from Evidence Unrelated Testimony and Exhibits of James Rayl

Defendants move to exclude Plaintiff's proposed Exhibit Nos. 135 and 136, the deposition testimony of James Rayl taken in previous employment discrimination litigation filed by Rayl against MetLife as well as the exhibits to that deposition. (Docket No. 70). Defendants argue that Rayl's testimony and exhibits are irrelevant and will serve only to inflame the jury. Defendants also argue that the exhibits are inadmissible hearsay or contain hearsay within hearsay. Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

As an initial matter, Plaintiff indicates in his response brief that he does not intend to read to the jury any portions of Rayl's deposition testimony concerning his employment claims against MetLife. Thus, Defendants' Motion to exclude these portions of Rayl's deposition testimony is denied as moot.

With respect to the deposition testimony, Plaintiff only seeks to read excerpts concerning Rayl's work history at MetLife, his communications concerning the "vanishing" premium/APP sales problems, and MetLife's response thereto. Pl.'s Resp. (Docket No. 109) at 3. I find that this testimony is relevant to Plaintiff's claims in this case. In particular, Rayl's concerns involve sales practices similar to Plaintiff's "vanishing premiums" allegations in this case. Such evidence may be relevant, for example, in establishing a pattern and practice on the part of MetLife, or a corporate culture encouraging similar deceptive sales techniques. This probative value is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Defendants. Accordingly, Defendants' motion is denied to the extent it seeks to exclude these portions of Rayl's deposition testimony. Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402, 403.

The only individual document as to which Defendants raise a specific objection is Deposition Exhibit No. 38, a Rayl memo concerning the Pennsylvania Market Conduct Examination Report. (Docket No. 70, Ex. B). To the extent Defendants argue, however, that this memo is inadmissible because the Pennsylvania Report itself is inadmissible, such argument is unavailing. As set forth in my Opinion and Order dated July 18, 2006 (Docket No. 121), Defendants' motion to exclude the Pennsylvania Report was denied to the extent the report discusses or makes findings concerning sales practices similar to Plaintiff's allegations in this case. Therefore, I cannot exclude deposition exhibit 38 simply because the document to which it relates has been excluded, because it has not. Defendants also argue that deposition exhibit 38 is inadmissible because Rayl's testimony does not account for the unique factual circumstances of this case, and Rayl offers general opinions regarding MetLife that are unsubstantiated, unreliable and irrelevant to the transactions at issue. Def.'s Br. at 4. To the extent exhibit 38 relates to concerns regarding sales practices similar to Plaintiff's "vanishing premium" allegations in this case, this argument fails because such evidence may be relevant in establishing a pattern and practice on the part of MetLife, or a corporate culture encouraging similar deceptive sales techniques. This probative value is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. See Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402, 403.*fn1

Defendants' Motion is also denied to the extent it seeks to exclude the remaining exhibits to Rayl's deposition testimony in their entirety*fn2 on the basis of irrelevance or prejudice. To the extent these deposition exhibits are documents to which Defendants object more specifically in their other Motion in Limine (Docket No. 85), those documents and objections thereto are discussed more fully below. Insofar as any remaining exhibits relate to Rayl's concerns regarding sales practices similar to Plaintiff's "vanishing premium" allegations in this case, such evidence is probative and is not unduly prejudicial for the reasons set forth above.

I also disagree with Defendants that the Rayl deposition exhibits are categorically inadmissible as hearsay.*fn3 As an initial matter, Plaintiff indicates that he will be able to establish at trial that the documents are business records within the meaning of Rule 803(6).*fn4 Plaintiff also argues that Rayl's statements are admissible as admissions of a party-opponent, an argument not addressed by Defendants. Fed. R. Evid. 801. Even if the statements are neither admissions nor business records within the meaning of the Rules of Evidence, however, I find that the exhibits to Rayl's deposition may be admissible under the "residual" hearsay exception set forth in Rule 807.

Rule 807 provides:

A statement not specifically covered by Rule 803 or 804 but having equivalent circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness, is not excluded by the hearsay rule, if the court determines that (A) the statement is offered as evidence of a material fact; (B) the statement is more probative on the point for which it is offered than any other evidence which the proponent can procure through reasonable efforts; and (C) the general purposes of these rules and the interests of justice will best be served by admission of the statement into evidence. However, a statement may not be admitted under this exception unless the proponent of it makes known to the adverse party sufficiently in advance of the trial or hearing to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to prepare to meet it, the proponent's intention to offer the statement and the particulars of it, including the name and address of the declarant.

Fed. R. Evid. 807.

Defendants' Motion is granted, however, with respect to any portions of the Rayl exhibits that constitute hearsay within hearsay. For example, any statements in a document authored by Rayl as to what a customer said or told him are double hearsay and must be excluded, unless an independent hearsay exception applies. Fed. R. Evid. 805. Plaintiff has not identified any such exceptions.

Defendants' Motion also is granted with respect to any "expert"-type opinions contained in Rayl's deposition testimony or exhibits. Rayl is not an expert witness, and, thus, opinion evidence ...


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