SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.
This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Bar Any Reference to Attorney Fees (d/e 78) and Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Bar Any References to Counsel's Area of Practice (d/e 79). The evidence Plaintiff seeks to bar is either irrelevant or its relevance is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, or misleading the jury. Therefore, Plaintiff's Motions are granted.
This case is set for trial beginning June 19, 2013 on Plaintiff's sole remaining claim: that Defendant violated § 1692e(10) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the Act) by representing to Plaintiff that judgment was inevitable and that attorney fees would apply to the judgment. Plaintiff has filed two Motions in Limine seeking to bar references to: (1) Plaintiff's ability to recover attorney fees if he prevails in this lawsuit (Motion, d/e 78); and (2) Plaintiff's counsel's area of practice, greedy lawyers, greedy plaintiffs, and the motivation of Plaintiff and/or counsel in bringing suit (Motion, d/e 79).
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Motions in limine are disfavored, as courts prefer to resolve questions of admissibility as they arise. Telewizja Polska USA, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite Corp. , 2005 WL 289967, at *1 (N. D. Ill. 2005); Hawthorn Partners v. AT&T Technologies, Inc. , 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). "Only evidence that is clearly inadmissible for any purpose should be excluded pursuant to a motion in limine[.]" Tzoumis v. Tempel Steel Co. , 168 F.Supp.2d 871, 873 (N.D. Ill. 2001).
A. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Bar Any References to Attorney Fees is Granted
The Act provides that a plaintiff who successfully enforces the Act can recover actual damages, statutory damages not exceeding $1, 000, and attorney fees. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a). Plaintiff seeks statutory damages and attorney fees in this case.
The jury determines whether Defendant violated the Act and whether Plaintiff is entitled to statutory damages. See Kobs v. Arrow Service Bureau, Inc. , 134 F.3d 893, 895 (7th Cir. 1998) (finding that a plaintiff is entitled to a "trial by jury in determining statutory additional damages under the FDCPA"). The factors relevant to determine whether a plaintiff in an individual action is entitled to statutory damages include: (1) the frequency and persistence of noncompliance by the debt collector; (2) the nature of the noncompliance, and (3) the extent to which the noncompliance was intentional. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(b)(1); see also Huff v. Dobbins, Fraker, Tennant, Joy & Perlstein , 243 F.3d 1086, 1089 (7th Cir. 2001).
The award of attorney fees is a matter for the court, not the jury. Huff , 243 F.3d at 1090.
Plaintiff argues that the subject of an award of attorney fees if he is successful is irrelevant and prejudicial for the jury to consider. Therefore, Plaintiff asks that the Court bar Defendant from referencing attorney fees at trial.
Defendant objects, asserting that attorney fees are an element of Plaintiff's potential recovery under the Act. According to Defendant, the jury should be fully informed of the impact of the jury's decision on liability and damages. Defendant states: "There is no compelling reason to conceal from the jury the simple fact that if they impose liability and award damages to the plaintiff, the plaintiff will seek to recover his attorneys' fees from the defendant as well." Def. Response, p. 3 (d/e 81).
Neither the parties nor the Court have found a Seventh Circuit case on point. Plaintiff cites to Sixth Circuit and Ninth Circuit decisions that hold that informing the jury that a plaintiff could recover attorney fees is prejudicial. See Fisher v. City of Memphis , 234 F.3d 312, 319 (6th Cir. 2000) ("it is clearly prejudicial to instruct a jury as to the potential for attorneys' fees when it is deciding the merits of the underlying § 1983 action"); Brooks v. Cook , 938 F.2d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 1991) ("informing the jury of the possibility of fees could result in prejudice to the plaintiff and undermine the public policies behind § 1988"). Defendant cites to a Third Circuit case and a federal district court case from the Middle District of Louisiana for the proposition that the jury may be informed of the possibility of an attorney fee award. Collins v. Alco Parking Corp. , 448 F.3d 652, 657 (3d Cir. 2006) (finding no plain error where the jury was instructed that plaintiff may be entitled to attorney fees if successful but that attorney fees should play no part in the jury's calculation of damages; the court specifically declined to decide whether such an instruction was proper); Addison v. Braud , 34 ...