Krug et al v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc.
ORDER denying 27 Motion to Bifurcate. Signed by Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr on 4/12/2017. (ail)
United States District Court
Southern District of Florida
Janet Krug, Plaintiff,
Celebrity Cruises, Inc., Defendant.
) Civil Action No. 16-22810-Civ-Scola
Order Denying Motion to Bifurcate
Defendant Celebrity Cruises, Inc. (“Celebrity”) has moved to bifurcate this
matter for separate determinations of liability and damages. (Mot. to Bifurcate,
ECF No. 25.) The Plaintiff opposes bifurcation. (Pls.’ Opp., ECF No. 28.)
The Plaintiff brought this suit on June 29, 2016 for severe injuries that
she sustained while on the Defendant’s cruise ship. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-10, ECF No.
1.) Count One of the Complaint asserts a claim of negligence against Celebrity,
and Count Two asserts a claim of vicarious liability against Celebrity for the
negligence of its employees. (Id. ¶¶ 11-20.) The Plaintiff seeks past and future
economic and non-economic damages. (Id.)
Celebrity seeks to bifurcate liability and damages in this matter because it
asserts that “once a jury hears evidence of Plaintiff’s severe injuries, it may be
inclined to compensate Plaintiff for those injuries out of sympathy, clouding its
judgment with respect to liability.” (Mot. to Bifurcate at 4, ECF No. 25.)
Celebrity notes that the “Plaintiff sustained severe and allegedly disfiguring
injuries to her face resulting in her emergency evacuation from the Defendant’s
ship, facial reconstruction surgery, and treatment with numerous specialists
which continues to the present day.” (Id.) In addition, Celebrity asserts that
bifurcation will minimize the time and expense of trial, because if a jury finds
that Celebrity was not negligent, then evidence concerning damages would be
irrelevant. (Id. at 5.) Finally, Celebrity asserts that there is little risk of
overlapping evidence with respect to liability and damages. (Id. at 6-7.)
The Plaintiff opposes bifurcation because she asserts that it would
increase the time and expense required to litigate this matter. (Pls.’ Opp. at 9,
ECF No. 28.) The Plaintiff is a California resident, and was required to file suit
in Florida due to the forum selection clause in her ticket contract. (Id.) She
asserts that the necessity of litigating two trials in Florida would result in great
expense and inconvenience, because both she and her treating physicians, most
of whom are in California, would have to travel to Florida for both trials. (Id. at
9-10.) The Plaintiff asserts that there would be a great deal of overlapping
witnesses and testimony. (Id. at 10-11.) Finally, the Plaintiff argues that there is
nothing special about the circumstances of this case that warrants bifurcation.
(Id. at 7.)
As set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b), “[f]or convenience, to
avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate
trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or
third-party claims.” Rule 42(b) “confers broad discretion on the district court,”
permitting bifurcation when it furthers convenience. Gilbert v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., 311 F.R.D. 685, 686 (M.D. Fla. 2015) (quoting Harrington v.
Cleburne Cty. Bd. of Educ., 251 F.3d 935, 938 (11th Cir. 2001)); see also Brown
v. Toscano, 630 F.Supp.2d 1342, 1345 (S.D. Fla. 2008) (Seltzer, J.) (quoting
Innovative Office Prods. v. Spaceco, Inc., No. 05–04037, 2006 WL 1340865, at *1
(E.D. Pa. 2006) (the decision of whether to bifurcate a trial is “subject to an
informed discretion by the trial judge in each instance.”)). “The predominant
consideration is a fair and impartial trial ‘through a balance of benefits and
prejudice.’” Gilbert, 311 F.R.D. at 686 (quoting Medtronic Xomed, Inc. v. Gyrus
ENT LLC, 440 F.Supp.2d 1333, 1334 (M.D. Fla. 2006). The party seeking
bifurcation bears the burden of demonstrating that bifurcation would serve
judicial economy, avoid inconvenience, and not prejudice any of the parties.
Brown, 630 F.Supp.2d at 1345 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Considering the possible prejudices, the conveniences, and the judicial
economies at issue, the Court finds that bifurcation is not warranted. Although
bifurcation would promote judicial economy if a jury finds that Celebrity is not
liable for negligence, it would result in unnecessary delay if Celebrity is found to
be liable. See Brown, 630 F.Supp.2d at 1347 (quoting Real v. Bunn-O-Matic,
Corp., 195 F.R.D. 618, 620 (N.D. Ill. 2000) (“Even if bifurcation might somehow
promote judicial economy, courts should not order separate trials when
bifurcation would result in unnecessary delay.”) The Defendant has not shown
that the injuries in this case present a special or unique risk of prejudice such
that any risk outweighs the additional inconvenience, expense, and delay that
would result from bifurcation.
Under the Defendant’s theory, every personal injury case that involves
severe injuries should be bifurcated into two trials. District courts in the
Eleventh Circuit have noted that a civil case “almost always involves the dual
issues of liability and damages. Following [Defendants’] argument to its logical
conclusion, every civil trial should therefore be conducted in two phases. . . .
Clearly, this is an untenable proposition.” Campbell v. Pirelli Tire, LLC, No. 1221153, 2013 WL 12092519, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 12, 2013) (Rosenbaum, J.)
(quoting Dzafic v. Geovera Specialty Ins. Co., No. 08-cv-0026, 2008 WL
3874602, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 15, 2008)).
Accordingly, the Court finds that bifurcation is not warranted, and
Celebrity’s motion to bifurcate (ECF No. 25) is denied.
Done and ordered at Miami, Florida on April 12, 2017.
Robert N. Scola, Jr.
United States District Judge
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