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Gutierrez v. Galiano Enterprises of Miami, Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 23, 2019

OMELIA DEL ROSARIO GUTIERREZ, ANA M. CASTILLO, CECILA RAMIREZ BRITO, and all others similarly situated under 29 U.S.C. 216b, Plaintiffs,



         This matter is before the Court on Omelia Del Rosario Guiterrez's (“Ms. Guiterrez”), Ana M. Castillo's (“Ms. Castillo), and Cecila Ramirez's (Ms. Ramirez”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) motion in limine against Galiano Enterprises of Miami d/b/a Galiano Restaurant (“Galiano Restaurant”) and Sultan Mamun (“Mr. Mamun”) (collectively, “Defendants”). [D.E. 72]. Defendants responded to Plaintiffs' motion on July 8, 2019 [D.E. 76] to which Plaintiff replied on July 15, 2019. [D.E. 77]. Therefore, Plaintiffs' motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful review of the motion, response, reply, relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed this action on November 7, 2017 for (1) overtime wages pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), (2) federal minimum wage violations, and (3) Florida minimum wage violations. [D.E. 1]. Plaintiffs allege that Galiano Restaurant is a company that regularly transacts business in Miami-Dade County and that Mr. Mamun is a corporate officer/manager of the corporation. Between 2011 to 2017, Plaintiffs claim that they worked more than forty hours per week, and that Defendants failed to compensate them as required under the FLSA. Plaintiffs also allege that they worked for roughly two dollars per hour in violation of the minimum wage provisions of the FLSA and Florida law. Because Defendants failed to compensate Plaintiffs for overtime hours worked and paid Plaintiffs below the federal and state minimum wage, Plaintiffs request damages, fees, court costs, and interest.


         “The purpose of an in limine motion is to aid the trial process by enabling the Court to rule in advance of trial on the relevance of certain forecasted evidence, as to issues that are definitely set for trial, without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial.” Highland Capital Mgmt., L.P. v. Schneider, 551 F.Supp.2d 173, 176 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (citing Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996)). Under the Federal Rules, evidence is considered relevant if it has the tendency to make a fact of consequence more or less probable. See Fed. R. Evid. 401(a)-(b). The Rules permit the exclusion of relevant evidence when the probative value is substantially outweighed by danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, and/or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 403 (emphasis added). Courts are cautioned to use Rule 403 sparingly, see, e.g., United States v. King, 713 F.2d 627, 631 (11th Cir. 1983), in part because the federal rules favor admission of evidence and in part because relevant evidence is inherently prejudicial to a defendant. See id. (citing to other sources).

         The term “unfair prejudice” in and of itself speaks to the ability of a piece of relevant evidence to lure the fact finder into declaring a defendant's guilt on grounds other than specific proof of the offense charged. See Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 180 (1997). It also signifies an undue tendency to suggest guilt on an improper basis, commonly an emotional one. See Id. In the context of a Rule 403 balancing test, the more essential the piece of evidence is to a case, the higher its probative value; the higher a piece of evidence's probative value, the less likely it should be excluded on 403 grounds. See King, 713 F.2d at 631.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs seek to preclude Defendants from presenting testimony or evidence on (1) attorneys' fees and costs, (2) liquidated damages, (3) Plaintiffs' counsel, (4) Plaintiffs' payment or non-payment of federal income taxes, (5) Plaintiffs' arrests, convictions, pleas, and pending criminal cases, (6) Plaintiffs' prior litigation against Defendants, and (7) Plaintiffs' immigration status. Defendants do not oppose most of the relief sought and only object to the introduction of evidence related to Plaintiffs' payment of federal income taxes and Plaintiffs' prior litigation against Defendants. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion to exclude any testimony or evidence related to the categories enumerated above - except for the fourth and sixth categories - is GRANTED. We will consider the remaining issues in turn.

         A. Plaintiffs' Taxes

         The first issue is whether Defendants should be precluded from presenting any evidence related to Plaintiffs' payment or non-payment of federal income taxes. Plaintiffs argue that evidence related to their taxes should be excluded under Rule 403 because any probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues. Plaintiffs also claim that any evidence on this issue is irrelevant and creates undue prejudice in the minds of the jury:

[T]he undersigned concludes that Defendants shall be precluded from suggesting that Plaintiffs failed to pay income taxes because such evidence will likely create undue prejudice in the minds of the jurors; and, it will likely give rise to collateral disputes-including the extent of Plaintiffs' reporting obligations regarding such taxes-that will cause undue delay and confusion of the issues. Thus, Plaintiffs' motion in limine to preclude Defendants from introducing evidence that Plaintiffs failed to pay income taxes is GRANTED.

Ortiz v. Santuli Corp., 2009 WL 2382144, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 3, 2009); see also Torres v. Rock & River Food Inc., 2016 WL 8716674, at *3 (S.D. Fla. May 11, 2016) (“In this case, the Court is not faced with a plaintiff who falsified tax returns or was convicted of tax fraud or tax evasion. Although the Court does not condone the Plaintiff's actions, his failure to pay income taxes has only minor probative value to his character for truthfulness. That probative value, however, is substantially outweighed by confusion of the issues and misleading the jury.”) (emphasis in original).

         On the other hand, Defendants rely on cases where courts have allowed defendants to inquire about a plaintiff's failure to pay income taxes to attack a plaintiff's credibility under Federal Rule of Evidence 608(b).[2] SeeRakip v. Paradise Awnings Corp., 2011 WL 6029981, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Nov. 30, 2011); Barrera, No. 09- cv-21841, ECF No. 291 at *4 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 26, 2011); Palma, 2011 WL 6030073, at *1; Chamblee v. Harris & Harris, Inc., 154 F.Supp.2d 670, 681 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (“Evidence that a witness has failed, for years, to file a tax return is a matter which affects the witness's credibility.”). Because the question of whether Plaintiffs paid federal income taxes is allowed for impeachment purposes under the Federal Rules of Evidence and it relates to the question of whether Plaintiffs ...

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