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Red Rocks Resources L.L.C. v. Trident Steel Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 25, 2017

RED ROCKS RESOURCES L.L.C., d/b/a Red Rocks Oil and Gas Operating, a Colorado Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff,
v.
TRIDENT STEEL CORPORATION, a Missouri corporation, Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court are the following Motions: Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Trident's Witnesses and Evidence Attempting to Place Blame on Non-Parties (Dkt. No. 161), Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Any Evidence or Mention of the Alleged “Innocent Seller” Defense (Dkt. No. 162), Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Mr. Gary W. Wooley as Trident's Expert and to Exclude his Alleged Expert Report (Dkt. No. 163), Trident Steel Corporation's Motions in Limine (Dkt. No. 156), and Defendant Trident Steel Corporation's Motion in Limine to Exclude Certain Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert, John Hadjioannou, P.E. (Dkt. No. 158). The parties have responded and the Motions are now at issue.

         I. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence Placing Blame on Non-Parties

         Plaintiff requests this Court “forbid [Defendant] from . . . in any way mentioning or insinuating that the liability for the defective product should be placed on non-parties to this action.” (Pl.'s Mot. in Lim., Dkt. No. 161, p. 1.) Plaintiff argues a list of witnesses, exhibits, and general arguments should be barred as irrelevant and misleading to the jury.

         Plaintiff bases much of its argument on Defendant's responses to the Complaint and the witness and exhibit lists, which no longer govern the proceedings. The Final Pretrial Report controls at trial and the Court will instruct the jury on the proper considerations for each claim. The Court will not issue a blanket order preventing discussion of the actions and non-actions of non-parties when one of the central issues is whether the subject casing was defective at the time of sale. Thus, Defendant's evidence of the manufacturing process is relevant and will aid the jury's understanding of the case. Plaintiff may submit a limiting instruction to aid the jury at the time such evidence is admitted. Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED, but the Court will consider objections regarding any improper mention of non-party liability at trial.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Innocent Seller Defense

         Plaintiff requests the exclusion of any information related to the innocent seller defense to Plaintiff's manufacturer's products liability claim because it is not an available defense and any mention of it would be misleading to the jury. See 76 Okla. Stat. § 57.2(E). Defendant states the statute is not included in the Final Pretrial Report and it will not reference the affirmative defense at trial. Defendant argues any order preventing it from presenting information generally related to the manufacture, treatment, inspection, and use of the subject casing would be overly broad and inhibit a meaningful defense. The Court agrees. However, because the Motion only requests a specific prohibition of the innocent seller defense, it is GRANTED.

         III. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Dr. Gary W. Wooley

         Plaintiff requests the exclusion of Dr. Wooley's testimony and expert report materials. Defendant responded that it will not call Dr. Wooley as an expert, nor will it introduce his expert reports. Dr. Wooley is not listed in the Final Pretrial Report. Given Defendant's concession, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED.

         IV. Defendant's Motions in Limine

         Defendant requests the Court exclude certain evidence from trial including: (a) unrelated lawsuits and dissimilar products sold by Trident, (b) settlement negotiations, (c) undisclosed demonstrative exhibits, (d) Trident's financial worth, (e) certain undisclosed opinions, (f) Trident's insurance coverage, (g) attorneys' fees and expenses, and (h) “for the community” arguments. Each is addressed below.

         A. Unrelated Lawsuits and Dissimilar Products Sold by Trident

         Defendant requests the preclusion of any reference to other products it has sold or other lawsuits involving those products. Defendant argues its customers order custom products from various distributors and manufacturers that are used under materially different circumstances. Any reference to a lawsuit involving other products would not be relevant to whether the subject casing was defective and would force Defendant to show the dissimilarities between its products, potentially confusing the jury. In support of its argument, Defendant summarizes the governing law as “[e]vidence of the existence of other alleged defects in products existing at a remote time, different place[, ] or under different circumstances and conditions generally is inadmissible.” (Def.'s Mot. in Lim., Dkt. No. 156, p. 3.) In support of this purported legal standard, Defendant cities cases applying a rule of negligence, which the Court finds unpersuasive.

         Plaintiff argues evidence of other defective casing from the Tema Oil & Gas case is admissible because the circumstances were substantially similar to this case because both products were from the same manufacturer and heat-treater, and Defendant sold the products within a short timeframe to Plaintiff and Tema Oil & Gas. Plaintiff also intends to introduce the evidence ...


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