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Alexiou v. Moshos

October 26, 2009

THALIA ALEXIOU
v.
ANGELO MOSHOS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elizabeth T. Hey United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In this diversity contract action, Plaintiff Thalia Alexiou seeks contract and other damages against Defendant Angelo Moshos. Thalia and Angelo were sister and brotherin-law, because Thalia was married to Angelo's brother Lazaros Moshos.*fn1 Thalia alleges that Angelo breached an agreement dated September 15, 2004 (the "September Agreement"), pursuant to which Angelo loaned money to Thalia and Lazaros to buy a property located at 1001 10th Avenue in Philadelphia ("the Property"). Presently before the court is Thalia's motion in limine (Doc. 44) and Angelo's response thereto (Doc 45). In her motion, Thalia seeks to preclude (1) evidence related to an agreement signed by Thalia, Lazaros and Angelo and dated November 15, 2004 ("November Agreement"), (2) evidence related to Angelo's alleged loans to Lazaros and Thalia, and (3) evidence related to Thalia's personal background. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In this action, Thalia seeks to recover the $90,000 she paid toward the purchase of the Property at closing, plus the costs of deposits, extension fees, mortgage assumption payments, renovation expenses, and other fees and costs, for a total of $125,991.58. See Joint Pretrial Stip. at Facts §§ 17-30. In defense of the action, Angelo asserted, among other things, an affirmative defense that the November Agreement represented Thalia's release of any claims related to the Property. See Doc. 6. Thereafter, Thalia filed an Amended Complaint to include a count for declaratory relief, seeking a declaration from the court that the November Agreement was invalid due to lack of consideration, due to waiver or, in the alternative, that it was signed under duress. See Doc. 28 (Count IV). In his answer to the Amended Complaint, Angelo asserted a counterclaim for declaratory judgment with respect to the November Agreement, seeking its enforcement as a complete release, as well as an affirmative defense asserting the release. See Doc. 30.

Thalia filed a motion for partial summary judgment on her declaratory judgment action, seeking the court's ruling that the November Agreement was void as a matter of law for lack of consideration. By Memorandum and Order dated October 2, 2009, I granted Plaintiff's motion and entered judgment in favor of Thalia as to Count IV of the Amended Complaint. See Doc. 42, 43. Although the Memorandum and Order specifically addressed only Count IV of the Amended Complaint, it had the effect of dismissing Angelo's counterclaim relying on the validity of the November Agreement.

On September 29, 2009 -- prior to my ruling on Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment -- the parties submitted their Joint Pretrial Stipulation. Thalia now seeks to preclude three categories of evidence which Angelo has identified in the pretrial stipulation and plans to introduce at trial, namely (1) evidence related to the November Agreement, (2) evidence related to Angelo's loans to Lazaros and Thalia, and (3) evidence related to Thalia's personal background.

II. EVIDENTIARY STANDARD

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, relevant evidence is "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequences to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 401. Rule 402 provides, in part, that "[e]vidence which is not relevant is not admissible." Fed. R. Civ. P. 402. In addition, Rule 403 provides:

Although relevant, 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. Civ. P. 403. "[T]here is a strong presumption that relevant evidence should be admitted, and thus for exclusion under Rule 403 to be justified, the probative value of evidence must be 'substantially outweighed' by the problems in admitting it." Coleman v. Home Depot, Inc., 306 F.3d 1333, 1344 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 403).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Timeliness of Thalia's Motioin in Limine

Angelo argues that I should summarily deny Thalia's motion in limine because the motion is untimely. See Doc. 45 at 4-5. On June 4, 2009, I entered a Second Amended Scheduling Order that required the parties to file motions in limine on or before June 26, 2009. See Doc. 29. On July 22, 2009, I entered a Third Amended Scheduling Order that required the parties to file a Joint Pretrial Stipulation on or before September 29, 2009, but which provided that "[a]ll other deadlines stated in the Second Amended Scheduling Order remain in effect" and "deadlines are subject to revision only by the Court and only for good cause." Doc. 36. Thalia filed her present motion in limine on October 15, 2009, well after the deadline set forth in the Second Amended Scheduling Order.

As previously explained, I granted Thalia's motion for partial summary judgment on October 2, 2009, several days after the parties submitted their Joint Pretrial Stipulation in compliance with my Third Amended Scheduling Order. Because I ruled that the November Agreement is void as a matter of law for lack of consideration, that ruling bears directly on at least one aspect of the present motion in limine, namely, that evidence related to the November Agreement should be precluded at trial. The remainder of the motion in limine relates to matters Angelo incorporated into the parties' pretrial stipulation, well after the ...


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