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C.D. Cal. Grants Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Sanctions for Spoliation

This month, the Central District of California issued a decision, Mfg. Automation & Software Sys. v. Hughes, 2:16-cv-08962-CAS-KSx, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9343 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 15, 2019) on the motions in limine filed by the Plaintiff and the Defendants. The Plaintiff's suit concerned copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, interference with economic advantage, fraud, and alleged violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and California's Computer Data Access and Fraud Act.

The Plaintiff's motion in limine sought to exclude evidence of the dissimilarity of the parties' source codes and similarity of the non-literal elements of their software. The Plaintiff's claims concerned the alleged copying by the Defendants of its software which was used to track inventory. A magistrate judge previously ruled that the Plaintiff failed to preserve emails when litigation was anticipated and committed spoliation for which monetary sanctions were awarded under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37.

The Court found that the record did not allow it to reach a conclusion as to whether or not the Plaintiff would advance the theory that there was a dissimilarity of the parties' source codes, and denied a motion in limine for evidence on this point without prejudice. The Plaintiff filed another motion in limine to exclude testimony regarding the similarity of the non-literal elements of the software because the Defendants' expert's report did not analyze screenshots of the software. The Court denied this motion.

The Plaintiff also moved to exclude evidence and argument regarding the spoliation of evidence and the related sanctions. The Court granted this motion finding that, "would be improper to provide an additional remedy, in addition to the sanction awarded by the Magistrate Judge." Id. at *14-15.

The Court denied the Plaintiff's motion to limine to exclude future expert disclosures not disclosed in discovery, with respect to a declaration, because the Court would be better able to rule on this as they were raised in the context of the trial. The declaration was filed seven months before the trial and so was not likely to cause prejudice. The Defendants' motion in limine to exclude previously undisclosed testimony by the Plaintiff's expert was also denied without prejudice.

The Defendants filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence obtained by a private investigator who posed as a customer for the purpose of obtaining admissions from the Defendants. The Court did not find that there was evidence that an ethical violation occurred and found that even if there was, the request would be overbroad and and improper.

The Court did grant the Defendants' motion in limine to exclude all witness and evidence not disclosed in accordance with the parties' scheduling order.

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