Herbert v. National Amusements Inc
ORDER denying 65 Motion in Limine to exclude evidence regarding sale of theaters to Rave Cinema; denying 69 Motion to Bifurcate. See attached order. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 1/24/2012. (Fernandez, Melissa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
DAVID J. HERBERT,
NATIONAL AMUSEMENTS, INC.
: CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:08cv1945(VLB)
: JANUARY 24, 2012
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO BIFURCATE TRIAL AND
DEFENDANT’S MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE OF DEFENDANT’S
SALE OF ITS THEATERS TO RAVE MANEGMENT [DKT. ## 69 and65]
A. Motion to bifurcate
Defendant has moved to bifurcate the liability and damages phases of the
trial on the basis that such action is warranted to prevent undue prejudice against
Defendant. This is an employment discrimination case in which the Plaintiff is
seeking damages for economic and noneconomic damages customarily sought
in similar cases. “The decision to bifurcate into phases lies within the sound
discretion of the trial court.” Sverge v. Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp., 329
F.Supp.2d 283, 284 (D.Conn. 2004) (citing Fed.R.Civ. P. 42(b)). The “separation of
issues for trial is not to be routinely ordered. Ordinarily, a jury is entitled to hear
all of the evidence and deliberate over all of the issues in the case at one
time…Bifurcation is thus the exception, not the rule, and the movant must justify
bifurcation on the basis of substantial benefits that it can be expected to
produce.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Here, Defendant has cited no unusual facts or circumstances tending to prove
that there are substantial benefits warranting this exceptional measure. There
will always be some measure of prejudice inherent in any action where evidence
on liability and damages are presented together. The fact that there will ordinarily
be some amount of prejudice does not provide adequate justification warranting
an exception to the longstanding rule that a jury is entitled to hear all of the
evidence. To permit an exception in every such instance would result in the
exception swallowing the rule.
As the Sverge court noted, courts have long addressed this inherent potential
for prejudice through “cautionary instructions at the outset of the case and
throughout the trial that are designed to emphasize that jurors must not be
swayed by sympathy and that they have a duty to consider the evidence and the
claims fairly and impartially.” Id. at 284-85.
In addition, Plaintiff’s alleged damages are relatively straightforward and
commonplace. Bifurcation will therefore likely frustrate not promote judicial
economy if the jury returns a verdict for Plaintiff. Lastly, the potential for
confusion is minimal considering the relatively straightforward nature of
Plaintiff’s age discrimination claim and the nature of his alleged damages. As the
Sverge court concluded in cases which are “not so complicated and liability
issues are not so numerous or complex” the jury is unlikely to be “distracted
from their task on liability by the presence of testimony and exhibits relating to
damages…Good lawyering and careful instruction should keep the jury focused
and on task even if liability and damages are tried together.” Id. at 285. The
Court is confidant in the ability of counsel to properly focus and keep the jury on
task during the course of this relatively routine and straightforward trial. Since
Defendant has failed to demonstrate that the particular claims and damages at
issue are unique or unusually challenging, it has not satisfied its burden to
establish that bifurcation would produce substantial benefits warranting
departure from the long standing practice of presenting the entire case to the
jury. Defendant’s motion to bifurcate the trial is accordingly DENIED.
B. Motion in limine to exclude evidence of Defendant’s sale of its theater to
Defendant has moved to preclude Defendant from introducing testimony or
evidence regarding the circumstances of Defendant’s sale of many of its theaters
to Rave Cinemas LLC as well as evidence concerning the post-sale employment
of former Showcase Cinemas employees with Rave as irrelevant, prejudicial and
without any probative value. In response to Defendant’s motion in limine,
Plaintiff has indicated that the parties have agreed to stipulated facts regarding
the sale of its theater to Rave for purposes of limiting the potential recovery of an
award of backpay since all of Defendant’s employees were terminated when
Defendant sold its theaters to Rave Cinemas LLC. Plaintiff has further indicated
that he has no intention of introducing further evidence beyond the stipulated
facts and “has no objection to granting of the Defendant’s motion with respect to
the ‘Rave Information’ provided that such motion has no impact on the agreed
upon stipulations of fact and that they will be read to the jury.” [Dkt.# 73, Pl.
Mem. at 9]. Defendant’s motion in limine is therefore DENIED by consent without
prejudice to renewing the objection should Plaintiff introduce evidence pertaining
to Rave Cinemas LLC at trial beyond the stipulations of fact.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: January 24, 2012
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