Lee v. Overbey et al
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)
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
BOBBY A. OVERBEY, an individual and BRENT HIGGINS TRUCKING, INC., a corporation ORDER
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
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
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
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)
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