Price v Kraus et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Court GRANTS 23 Motion to Bifurcate. The Monell claims against the Sheriff's Department are bifurcated from the § 1983 claims and from the state law claims against the individual officer Defendants for both discovery and trial. All discovery on the Monell claims against the Sheriff's Department is stayed until resolution of the claims against the individual officer Defendants. There will be separate trials, with the § 1983 claims and the state law c laims against the individual officer Defendants taking place first. The trial on the Monell claims against the Sheriff's Department is stayed until resolution of the claims against the individual officer Defendants. Plaintiff's right to a jury trial on the Monell claims is preserved. Signed by Magistrate Judge Paul R Cherry on 2/1/2016. (tc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
VINCENT PRICE and DENISE PRICE,
JOSEPH KRAUS, individually and in his
official capacity as Deputy Sheriff;
individually and in his official capacity as
Deputy Sheriff; LAKE COUNTY
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT; and LAKE
CAUSE NO.: 2:15-CV-331-PRC
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Lake County Sheriff’s Department Motion [sic]
to Bifurcate § 1983 Monell Claims and Stay Discovery and Trial on Those Claims [DE 23], filed
by Defendant Lake County Sheriff’s Department (“Sheriff’s Department”) on December 30, 2015.
As an initial matter, Plaintiffs filed their response late. Northern District of Indiana Local
Rule 7-1(d)(2)(A) provides that a party must file a response brief within fourteen days, which was
January 13, 2016, in this case. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d) allows an additional three days
following electronic service, which made the deadline January 16, 2016, a Saturday. Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 6(a)(1) provides that weekends and federal holidays are excluded from the
calculation of the last day of a time period. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a)(6), the day
observing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is a federal holiday, and Monday, January 18, 2016,
was the observation of his birthday. Therefore, the response brief was due the following day,
January 19, 2016. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs did not file their response brief until January 22, 2016.
Plaintiffs did not file a motion for an extension of time with a showing of good cause before the
deadline expired, nor did Plaintiffs file a motion after the deadline expired showing good cause and
excusable neglect. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b). However, because the Court prefers to rule on the merits
and because this is a first offense in this case, the Court will not strike the response brief.
Nevertheless, Plaintiffs are advised that any future failure to comply with the filing deadline
requirements may result in the Court striking the filing.
In their Complaint, Plaintiffs seek to hold the individual officer Defendants liable for
excessive force, denial of medical care, and deprivation of speech and expression in violation of the
First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 as well as state law tort claims of battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
negligence, and false imprisonment/false arrest in relation to Plaintiffs’ arrest on July 3, 2014.
Plaintiffs also seek to hold the Sheriff’s Department liable under § 1983 pursuant to Monell v. New
York Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), alleging that customs, policies, and
practices of the Sheriff’s Department caused Plaintiffs’ alleged constitutional violations. In the
Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the Sheriff’s Department had a policy, practice, or custom of
directly encouraging the alleged constitutional violations by consciously disregarding the illegality
and unconstitutionality of illegal detentions and arrests, use of force, and retaliation in order to
punish peaceful expression of speech; a policy and/or custom of inadequately and improperly
investigating citizen complaints of police misconduct; and a policy and/or custom of inadequately
training, supervising, and disciplining its police officers.
In the instant motion, the Sheriff’s Department seeks to bifurcate Plaintiffs’ Monell claims
against it and to stay discovery and trial on the Monell claims pending resolution of Plaintiffs’
federal § 1983 claims and state law claims against the individual officer Defendants. Rule 42(b)
provides: “For 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. When ordering a separate trial, the court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 42(b). Bifurcation of claims may be appropriate if “the separation would prevent prejudice
to a party or promote judicial economy.” Chlopek v. Fed. Ins. Co., 499 F.3d 692, 700 (7th Cir. 2007)
(citation omitted). “If one of these criteria is met, the district court may order bifurcation as long as
doing so will not prejudice the non-moving party or violate the Seventh Amendment.” Id.
Defendants argue that bifurcation will convenience all the parties, avoid prejudice, expedite the
matter, and economize resources for the Court and parties during the discovery process and trial.
First, the Monell claims brought by Plaintiffs against the Sheriff’s Department are based on
allegations of false arrest, excessive force, and denial of medical care. These claims are well suited
for bifurcation because, unless one of the Plaintiffs proves that an officer violated his or her
constitutional rights, the Monell claims against the municipality will fail as a matter of law and the
litigation will be over without the need for discovery or trial on the Monell claims. See City of Los
Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986); see also Swanigan v. City of Chicago, 775 F.3d 953,
962 (7th Cir. 2015). Additionally, there can be no liability under Monell for failure to train when
there has been no violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482,
492 (7th Cir. 2007).1 Thus, it is more efficient and convenient to first determine whether the
Although there can be no Monell liability without proof of a violation of constitutional rights, the Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals has noted that it is possible that “‘a municipality can be held liable under Monell, even when
its officers are not, unless such a finding would create an inconsistent verdict.’” Saunders v. City of Chicago, No. 12-CV9158, 2015 WL 7251938, at *9 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 17, 2015) (quoting Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff’s Dep’t, 604 F.3d 293,
305 (7th Cir. 2010)). In Saunders, the court noted that, “[p]resumably such a situation could arise . . . should Plaintiffs
be unable to recover from the Defendant Officers because of their qualified immunity, but Plaintiffs could still recover
from the municipality, which lacks such a protection.” 2015 WL 7251938, at *9. Like the court in Saunders, the Court
finds that any such concern is premature and can be addressed at the close of the trial on the individual claims, if
individual officer Defendants violated a Plaintiff’s constitutional rights before requiring the Court
(and the parties) to expend resources litigating the Monell claims against the Sheriff’s Department
that may never be reached or otherwise adjudicated. Bifurcating the Monell claims against the
Sheriff’s Department will avoid prejudice to the Sheriff’s Department and avoid spending taxpayer
money to unnecessarily defend against the Monell claims if Plaintiffs are unable to prove that an
underlying constitutional violation occurred.
In addition, the discovery of Monell claims “can add significant time, effort, and
complications to the discovery process.” Medina v. City of Chicago, 100 F. Supp. 2d 893, 895 (N.D.
Ill. 2000); see also Readus v. Dercola, 09 C 4063, 2012 WL 1533167, at *3 (N.D. Ill. May 1, 2012)
(quoting Moore v. City of Chicago, No. 02 C 5130, 2007 WL 3037121, at *9 (N.D. Ill. Oct.15,
2007)). Defendants argue that litigating Plaintiffs’ Monell claims will be burdensome and time
consuming, involving a significant amount of money that would include locating, compiling, and
producing documents, the time required for several depositions in addition to a Rule 30(b)(6)
witness deposition, other written discovery, and potential expert witnesses. In their response brief,
contesting the burden of Monell discovery, Plaintiffs acknowledge only the possibility of document
production and do not factor in the numerous other forms of discovery that would likely be involved
with their Monell claim.
Significantly, in this case, the allegations of the Complaint supporting Plaintiffs’ Monell
claims are general in nature and do not allege any specific facts as to the nature of the policy,
procedure, or custom that lead to the alleged constitutional violations. The relevant paragraphs
allege that the Sheriff’s Department has:
41. . . . policies, practices, and customs that condoned and fostered the
unconstitutional conduct of DEPUTY KRAUS and DEPUTY KOSTOFF . . . .
42. . . . policies, practices, customs, and usages of encouraging and/or tacitly
sanctioning the violation and/or retaliation of individuals’ constitutional rights. [The
Sheriff’s Department] consciously disregarded the illegality and unconstitutionality
of illegal detentions and arrests, use of force, and retaliation in order to punish and
suppress peaceful expression and speech.
44. . . . a policy and/or custom of . . . inadequately and improperly investigat[ing]
citizen complaints of police misconduct, and acts of misconduct were instead
45. . . . a policy and/or custom of . . . inadequately train[ing], supervis[ing], and
disciplin[ing] its police officers, including Defendants DEPUTY KRAUS and
DEPUTY KOSTOFF, thereby failing to adequately discourage further constitutional
violations on the part of its police officers. [The Sheriff’s Department] did not
require appropriate in-service or re-training of officers who were engaged in police
In contrast, in the case cited by Plaintiffs, Miller v. City of Plymouth, No. 2:09-CV-2050,
2010 WL 1754028 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 29, 2010), in which this Court denied a motion to bifurcate, the
plaintiffs brought specific failure to train allegations, namely “prohibitive use of setting up
drug-interdiction checkpoints, use of canines and conducting canine sniffs, motor vehicle searches,
physical search of persons, conducting traffic stops, detention of motorists, use or display of force,
and duty of law enforcement officers to intervene to prevent violations of individuals’ constitutional
rights, as well as Defendant’s failure to require law enforcement officers to generate reports detailing
incidents of canine sniffs or deployments, vehicle searches, personal searches, or handcuffed
detention of motorists.” Id. at *3. In addition, unlike the Sheriff’s Department in this case, the
defendant police department in Miller did not specifically articulate how it would incur significant
costs in responding to Monell discovery requests.
Plaintiffs’ federal right to a jury trial on the Monell claims is unaffected by bifurcation and
will be preserved, and there is no identified prejudice to Plaintiffs. Rather, Plaintiffs will be able to
pursue more efficiently and conveniently the relevant discovery pertaining to the objective
reasonableness standard governing the alleged excessive force claims against the individual officer
Defendants. In fact, Plaintiffs do not argue that they will be prejudiced by the requested bifurcation.
In contrast, Defendants argue, and Plaintiffs do not respond, that presenting evidence to the
jury regarding a countywide policy, practice, or custom involving multiple improper police actions
poses a danger of undue prejudice to the individual officer Defendants by creating the perception
that the police department routinely acts improperly, even if the officers in fact acted properly in this
case. See Readus, 2012 WL 1533167, at *4 (citing Lopez v. City of Chicago, No. 01 C 1823, 2002
WL 335346, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 1, 2002) (“Without bifurcation, the jury would likely hear
evidence against the City of various acts of alleged police misconduct committed by numerous nonparty officers to establish a policy or practice. Such evidence can be prejudicial to the individual
Finally, Defendants argue, also without response from Plaintiffs, that, even if the Monell
claims survive summary judgment and are proven at a trial, Plaintiffs may not recover duplicate
compensatory damages on the Monell claims and the non-Monell claims. See Cadiz v. Kruger, No.
06 C 5463, 2007 WL 4293976, at *8 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2007); Elrod v. City of Chicago, Nos. 06
C 2505, 07 C 203, 2007 WL 3241352, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 1, 2007). Moreover, the Sheriff’s
Department is not required to pay punitive damages under any circumstances; therefore, bifurcation
would not prejudice Plaintiff’s ability to recover punitive damages. See City of Newport v. Fact
Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 271 (1981).
In their belated reply brief, Plaintiffs argue, without citation to law, that Defendant’s motion
is premature at this early stage of the litigation and at the same time that Defendant has waived the
right to seek bifurcation by having participated in the Rule 16(b) discovery conference. Neither
argument is persuasive. This Court has previously found that participation in discovery does not
waive a party’s right to seek bifurcation. Miller, 2010 WL 1754028, at *2. Nor is the motion
premature; the discovery process has only just begun, and the benefit of avoiding the costs of Monell
discovery can only be realized by avoiding the discovery itself. Finally, Plaintiffs argue, again
without citation to law, that “Defendant has failed to provide any specific reasons supporting the
claim that Plaintiffs’ underlying constitutional claims would fail.” (Pl. Resp. 3). No standard requires
a defendant to disprove a plaintiff’s constitutional claim in requesting bifurcation under Rule 42(b).
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the interests of justice, convenience, economy,
expedience, and the avoidance of prejudice support bifurcation and hereby GRANTS Defendant
Lake County Sheriff’s Department [sic] Motion to Bifurcate § 1983 Monell Claims and Stay
Discovery and Trial on Those Claims [DE 23]. The Court ORDERS, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.
42(b), that the Monell claims against the Sheriff’s Department are bifurcated from the § 1983 claims
and from the state law claims against the individual officer Defendants for both discovery and trial.
The Court ORDERS that all discovery on the Monell claims against the Sheriff’s
Department is stayed until resolution of the claims against the individual officer Defendants.
The Court ORDERS that there be separate trials, with the § 1983 claims and the state law
claims against the individual officer Defendants taking place first. The trial on the Monell claims
against the Sheriff’s Department is stayed until resolution of the claims against the individual officer
Defendants. The Court ORDERS that Plaintiff’s right to a jury trial on the Monell claims is
SO ORDERED this 1st day of February, 2016.
s/ Paul R. Cherry
MAGISTRATE PAUL R. CHERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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