Lee v. Overbey et al

Filing 205

ORDER finding as moot 200 Motion to Bifurcate; and denying 202 Motion to Bifurcate. Signed by Honorable Robert T. Dawson on January 8, 2010. (lw)

Download PDF
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS FORT SMITH DIVISION MELODY L.LEE, as personal representative of the ESTATE OF JOHN ANDREW MORTON, deceased V. CASE No. 08-2115 PLAINTIFF BOBBY A. OVERBEY, an individual and BRENT HIGGINS TRUCKING, INC., a corporation ORDER DEFENDANTS Now before the Court are Defendants' First Amended Motion for Separate Trials and supporting brief (docs. 202-03). Defendants ask the Court to bifurcate the compensatory damages phase of the trial from any punitive damages phase pursuant to Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules is of Civil to Procedure. eliminate Defendants juror contend and bifurcation necessary confusion prejudice to Defendants. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that district courts should consider the preservation of constitutional rights, clarity, judicial economy, the likelihood of inconsistent results and possibilities for confusion when determining whether to bifurcate. See O'Dell v. Hercules, Inc., 904 F.2d 1194, 1201-02 Other factors to consider are the separability (8th Cir. 1990). of the issues; simplification of discovery and conservation of resources; prejudice to the parties; and the effect of bifurcation on the potential for settlement. See Bancorp Servs., L.L.C. v. AO72A (Rev. 8/82) Sun Life Assur. Co. of Canada, No. 4:00-CV-1073, 2006 WL 1026992, *2 (E.D. Mo. 2006)(citations omitted). However, the key issue is Athey v. Where whether bifurcation is necessary to avoid prejudice. Farmers Ins. Exch., 234 F.3d 357, 362 (8th Cir. 2000). evidence on one issue is relevant to other issues that the movant seeks to bifurcate into a separate phase of the trial, the movant is not prejudiced, and the court does not abuse its discretion in declining to bifurcate the issues. See Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. HBE Corp., 135 F.3d 543, 551 (8th Cir. 1998). This lawsuit arises from a motor vehicle accident involving separate vehicles driven by John Morton, deceased, and Bobby Overbey. The Court finds that judicial economy would not be served by bifurcating the damages phases of the trial, and that some evidence may be relevant to compensatory damages such as emotional distress, as well as any punitive damages. Further, any prejudice can be avoided by instructing the jury it is not to consider damages. Defendants' net worth when assessing Amended compensatory Motion for Accordingly, Defendants' First Separate Trials (doc. 202) is DENIED, and Defendants' Motion for Separate Trials (doc. 200) is DENIED AS MOOT. IT IS SO ORDERED this 8th day of January 2010. /s/ Robert T. Dawson Honorable Robert T. Dawson United States District Judge AO72A (Rev. 8/82)

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?