A trial judge has discretion to dispose of a case or claim on the merits in the course of ruling on a motion in limine, but must do so using the normal nonsuit standard of review. Echoing Amtower v. Photon Dynamics, Inc. (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1582, this decision holds that a trial judge has discretion to dispose of a case or claim on the merits in the course of ruling on an in limine motion. However, when the trial court does so, it must apply the normal nonsuit standard, crediting all of the non-moving party’s evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Furthermore, on appeal the ruling is reviewed de novo, rather than for abuse of discretion as on an ordinary in limine motion admitting or excluding evidence. Here, the trial court erred in excluding evidence of anonymous Yelp! reviews which were the basis for plaintiff’s defamation claim. Reasonable inferences from the evidence plaintiff adduced would support a finding that defendant was the source of the reviews.
California Court of Appeal, Sixth District (Grover, J.); June 6, 2016 (partial publication); 2016 WL 3157299