United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
WASHINGTON FRONTIER LEAGUE BASEBALL, LLC, and STUART A. WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
MICHAEL E. ZIMMERMAN, MKE BASEBALL, LLC, MKE SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT, LLC, W. CHRIS HANNERS, and BRYAN WICKLINE, Defendants. FRONTIER PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL, INC., Nominal Defendant.
ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS
pending before the Court are a number of pre-trial motions
filed by Plaintiffs Washington Frontier League Baseball, LLC
(the “Washington Club”), and Stuart A. Williams
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) and Defendants
Michael E. Zimmerman (“Zimmerman”), MKE Baseball,
LLC, and MKE Sports & Entertainment, LLC (collectively,
“Zimmerman Defendants”). In preparation for
trial, the Court addresses these motions as follows.
Separation of Witnesses (Filing No. 283 and No.
Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Separation of Witnesses
(Filing No. 283), and the Zimmerman Defendants also
filed a similar “Notice, ” requesting separation
of witnesses (Filing No. 280). The Court
GRANTS the Motion. The parties are to
instruct their witnesses to report to Room #346 of the
Indianapolis courthouse during trial. The parties also are to
instruct their witnesses to not discuss their testimony with
others either before or after it is given.
Motion for Leave to File Notice of Defenses (Filing No.
Zimmerman Defendants filed a Motion for Leave to File Notice
of Defenses and request permission to file a belated
statement of defenses (Filing No. 281). The case
management plan directed the parties to file a statement of
claims or a statement of defenses that they intend to prove
at trial (Filing No. 127 at 4). These statements
were due within fourteen days of the close of non-expert
discovery, which was September 13, 2017. The Zimmerman
Defendants neglected to timely file a statement of
Zimmerman Defendants apologized for failing to timely file a
statement of defenses and assured the Court that the failure
was inadvertent and unintentional. They ask that “the
filing be allowed and no sanction be issued.”
(Filing No. 282 at 1.) They explain that at the time
the statement of defenses was due, the parties were engaged
in extensive summary judgment briefing. Because of the
complexity and amount of work required for the summary
judgment briefing, counsel inadvertently failed to file a
statement of defenses. Counsel explains that, in his time
practicing law, he has never encountered a filing related to
a notice of defenses, and in this case, he has not missed any
other filing deadlines. After learning of his oversight,
counsel promptly prepared a notice of defenses, which
“track[s] the anticipated jury instructions in the case
as well as the Zimmerman Defendants' answer to the
complaint.” Id. at 2.
Court concludes that it is in the interest of justice to
permit the Zimmerman Defendants to file their belated
statement of defenses so that they may comply with the
requirements of the case management plan. Importantly, the
defenses listed in the Zimmerman Defendants' Notice are
not a surprise to the Plaintiffs, as these arguments have
been advanced throughout the litigation, and they were
asserted in the Zimmerman Defendants' Answer. The Court
determines that Plaintiffs will not be prejudiced by the late
filing; therefore, Zimmerman Defendants' Motion for Leave
to File Notice of Defenses (Filing No. 281), is
granted and the Notice of Defenses
(Filing No. 282-1) is deemed filed as of the
date of this Order.
Motion for Leave to Withdraw (Filing No.
for Nominal Defendant Frontier Professional Baseball, Inc.
(“Frontier League”) filed a Motion for Leave to
Withdraw, requesting permission to withdraw their appearance
on behalf of Frontier League (Filing No. 276).
Counsel asserts, “In light of the Court's Order
Approving Proposed Settlement of Derivative Action and Entry
on Response to Order to Show Cause , the participation of
counsel for . . . Frontier League . . . in this case is no
longer necessary.” (Filing No. 276 at 1.)
Counsel additionally asserts, “Moreover, a situation
has arisen such that continued representation of the Frontier
League by the undersigned in this case in the circumstances
has been rendered impossible.” Id.
Plaintiffs oppose the Motion for Leave to Withdraw,
explaining that they are in the process of preparing a motion
for sanctions under 29 U.S.C. § 1927, which allows for
monetary sanctions against an attorney who unreasonably and
vexatiously multiplies the proceedings. The Plaintiffs assert
that the Court should defer ruling on the Motion for Leave to
Withdraw until after the sanctions issue is resolved.
additional information from Frontier League's counsel
regarding the “situation” that renders ongoing
representation impossible, and in light of the anticipated
§ 1927 motion as well as the fact that dismissal
paperwork has not yet been filed following the Court's
approval of the settlement agreement, the Court is declines
to rule on this motion at this time. The Court takes
the Motion for Leave to Withdraw under advisement.
Plaintiffs have ten (10) days from the date of this Entry in
which to file any motion for sanctions under 29 U.S.C. §
1927. If no such motion is filed, the Court will promptly
rule on (and likely grant) the pending Motion to Withdraw.
Zimmerman Defendants' Motion in Limine (Filing No.
Zimmerman Defendants filed a Motion in Limine,
seeking to exclude certain evidence from trial (Filing
No. 258). They seek to exclude testimony of “de
facto ownership” between Chris Hanners
(“Hanners”) and Zimmerman, damage testimony
related to “valuation of a lost opportunity” and
a travel team, and a claim for “punitive
damages”. The Zimmerman Defendants assert that evidence
concerning these three matters are “based on incorrect
assumptions making them irrelevant pursuant to FRE 401 (test
for relevant evidence) and excludable pursuant to FRE 403
(unfairly prejudicial, confusing or misleading).”
(Filing No. 259 at 1-2.)
parties have correctly acknowledged, the Court has
“broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary questions
during trial or before on motions in limine.”
Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664
(7th Cir. 2002). The Court excludes evidence on a motion in
limine only if the evidence clearly is not
admissible for any purpose. See Hawthorne Partners v.
AT&T Technologies, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400
(N.D. Ill. 1993). Unless evidence meets this exacting
standard, evidentiary rulings must be deferred until trial so
questions of foundation, relevancy, and prejudice may be
resolved in context. Id. at 1400-01. Moreover,
denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily
mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion is
admissible; rather, it only means that, at the pre-trial
stage, the Court is unable to determine whether the evidence
should be excluded. Id. at 1401.
De facto ownership evidence
Zimmerman Defendants seek exclusion of evidence or argument
concerning Zimmerman being a “de facto owner” of
Hanners' Rock River Valley Baseball Club before Zimmerman
actually became an officer of the club. They point out that
the Court previously limited the conspiracy claim in an
conclude, the claim for breach of fiduciary duties against
the Zimmerman Defendants is dismissed, and the claim for
civil conspiracy to breach fiduciary duties remains pending
but is limited to the time period before the Zimmerman
Defendants became officers of a Frontier League member team.
At that point in time, fiduciary duties to Frontier League
would have arisen, and the claim then should have been
resolved through the procedures mandated by Frontier
League's by-laws. (Filing No. 116 at 17-18). The
Zimmerman Defendants assert that the Plaintiffs' use of
“de facto ownership” arguments would go against
the plain meaning of the doctrine, insert a ...