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Slantis v. Capozzi & Associates

August 9, 2010

LAHNEEN SLANTIS, PLAINTIFF
v.
CAPOZZI & ASSOCIATES, P.C., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William T. Prince United States Magistrate Judge

(JUDGE CONNER)

(MAGISTRATE JUDGE PRINCE)

OPINION OF THE COURT

Pursuant to an Order entered on August 2, 2010 (Doc. 70), Honorable Christopher Conner referred plaintiff's pending motion in limine to the undersigned Magistrate Judge.

I. Background

This case is about access made by defendant Capozzi & Associates (C&A) to plaintiff Slantis's credit report. Plaintiff alleges that C&A's access was unauthorized and lacked a legitimate business need, thus violating the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1601--1693r (West 2010). Defendant asserts that its credit inquiry, made as part of preparation for litigation, was permissible, and seeks to introduce a variety of evidence to support its position. A portion of this evidence comprises the subject of plaintiff's pending motion in limine (Doc. 63), filed June 16, 2010, which seeks to bar defendant's introduction of ten different items or categories of evidence. Plaintiff filed a brief in support (Doc. 64) and defendants a brief in opposition (Doc. 67); plaintiffs responded with a reply brief (Doc. 69), making this motion ripe for adjudication.

II. Discussion

(A) Overview of the Law of Evidence

The Federal Rules of Evidence are designed to facilitate the introduction of evidence; relevant evidence is, by default, admissible unless the governing rules provide to the contrary. United States v. Sriyuth, 98 F.3d 739, 745 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing United States v. Scarfo, 850 F.2d 1015, 1019 (3d Cir. 1988)); Fed. R. Evid. 402. The foundational definition of relevant evidence is "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probably or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. This definition sets a low threshold for admissibility. Hurley v. Atl. City Police Dept., 174 F.3d 95, 110 (3d Cir. 1999).

However, relevancy has its limits. A trial judge has broad discretion to exclude evidence that, although relevant, has a probative value that 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. As a general matter, evidence of a person's character is inadmissible to prove their propensity to act in a certain way, with certain specific exceptions for matters including motive, intent, and a witness's reputation for truthfulness. Fed. R. Evid. 404, 607--09.

Matters of relevance and evidentiary exclusion are generally left to the discretion of the trial judge. Livingstone v. N. Bell Vernon Borough, 91 F.3d 515, 524 (3d Cir. 1996). In making its determination, a court is not bound by the rules of evidence, except for those concerning privileges. Fed. R. Evid. 104(a). A court is thus free to examine any non-privileged material within or without the record to determine whether a particular item of evidence may be admitted.

(B) Matters Sought to be Excluded

In her motion in limine, plaintiff requests that the following ten categories or specific articles ...


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