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Heller Financial Leasing, Inc. v. Gordon

June 12, 2006

HELLER FINANCIAL LEASING, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ARTHUR E. GORDON, AN INDIVIDUAL RESIDENT OF CALIFORNIA, ROSE A. GORDON, AN INDIVIDUAL RESIDENT OF CALIFORNIA, NAN R. EISLEY BENNETT, AN INDIVIDUAL RESIDENT OF CALIFORNIA, AND JEFFREY P. BENNETT, AN INDIVIDUAL RESIDENT OF CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on the parties' motions in limine. For the reasons stated below, we deny all of the motions in limine.

BACKGROUND

In August 2000, Pace, LLC ("Pace") entered into a promissory note ("Promissory Note") and an Aircraft Chattel Mortgage Security Agreement regarding an aircraft ("Aircraft") with Plaintiff Heller Financial Leasing, Inc. ("Heller"), under which Heller loaned Pace $18,000,000. At the same time, as inducement to Heller to make the loans and extend credit to Pace, Defendants Arthur E. Gordon and Rose A. Gordon (collectively referred to as "Gordons") each entered into a guarantee agreement ("Guarantees") with Heller. In the Guarantees, the Gordons agreed to pay Heller "on demand . . . the due and punctual payments and performance of all indebtedness of Pace to Heller." (Guarantee Par. 1). Pace defaulted on its obligation to repay Heller and the Gordons failed to honor their obligations to act as guarantors. In July 2002, Heller entered into a Voluntary Surrender and Transfer Agreement ("Surrender Agreement") with Defendants and Pace, whereby Pace agreed to voluntarily convey title and possession of the Aircraft and certain equipment to Heller. Heller hired AVPRO, Inc. ("AVPRO") as a broker to sell the Aircraft and Heller ultimately sold the Aircraft. Heller then brought the instant action against Defendants seeking to recover the remaining money owed to Heller pursuant to the Guarantees. On October 19, 2005, we granted Heller's motion for summary judgment on the claims brought against the Gordons and we dismissed the claims brought against Defendant Nan R. Eisley Bennett and Defendant Jeffrey P. Bennett. On March 28, 2006, we denied Heller's motion for summary judgment on the issue of damages in regard to the claims brought against the Gordons. The parties have now filed motions in limine.

DISCUSSION

I. Heller's Motions in Limine

Heller requests that the court limit the scope of the testimony of the Gordons' expert witness. Heller also moves separately to bar the expert from testifying as to the estimated value of the Aircraft on July 31, 2002.

A. Motion to Limit Scope of Expert Testimony

Heller contends that the Gordons intend to present Robert Waddell ("Waddell") as an expert witness at trial. Heller requests that the court bar Waddell from testifying about: 1) aircraft auctions, 2) how the use of the Aircraft for business trips by Heller's parent company, GE Capital Corporation ("GECC"), inhibited the sale of the Aircraft and diminished the value of the Aircraft, 3) how Heller repeatedly turned down offers for the purchase of the Aircraft, 4) the efforts of AVPRO to sell the Aircraft, 5) the maintenance charges for the Aircraft, and 6) the reasonableness of the ultimate sale of the Aircraft.

The admissibility of expert testimony is controlled by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 ("Rule 702"), which states:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. In determining whether to permit an expert to give testimony "including non-scientific expert testimony," a court must act as a "gatekeeper" and "'ensure the reliability and relevancy of expert testimony'" before admitting the testimony. Naeem v. McKesson Drug Co., 444 F.3d 593, 607-08 (7th Cir. 2006)(quoting in part Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152 (1999)).

1. Aircraft Auctions

Heller contends that Waddell does not possess sufficient knowledge concerning aircraft auctions to provide testimony regarding such auctions. Heller points out that Waddell admitted during his deposition that he has not attended an aircraft auction since the late 1980s. (W Dep. 265). Waddell also admitted that he has never seen a "large cabin, long-range, state-of-the-art aircraft," which is the type of aircraft at issue in this action, being sold at an auction. (W Dep. 265-66). Finally, Waddell admitted that he could only speculate as to how much money the Aircraft would have sold for at an auction. (W Dep. 266). However, the evidence also shows that Waddell has extensive experience in dealing with aircraft appraisals and that he has attended between six and twelve aircraft auctions. (W Dep. 265)(Mot. Ex A). Heller has not shown that Waddell's testimony would be speculative in regard to all testimony concerning aircraft auctions. Heller will be able to point out on cross examination that Waddell has not recently attended an auction and that Waddell does not know exactly what price the aircraft would have sold for at an auction. Heller can also ask Waddell if he has seen aircraft comparable to the Aircraft sold at an auction. Also, if Waddell testifies that Heller could have sold the Aircraft at an auction, ...


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