Wagner et al v. The Sherwin-Williams Company et al

Filing 27

ORDER denying 19 Motion to Bifurcate; denying 22 Motion to Bifurcate. Signed by Hon. Richard J. Arcara on 9/27/2010. (JMB)

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Wagner et al v. The Sherwin-Williams Company et al Doc. 27 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT W E S T E R N DISTRICT OF NEW YORK M A R IA E. W A G N E R and K E V IN W A G N E R , P la in tiffs , D E C IS IO N AND ORDER 0 5 -C V -7 4 5 A v. THE SHERW IN -W IL L IA M S COMPANY and S H E R W IN -W IL L IA M S DEVELOPMENT, D e fe n d a n ts . P e n d in g before the Court is a motion by plaintiffs Maria and Kevin W a g n e r to bifurcate the liability and damages phases of the trial scheduled for October 2 0 , 2010. In support of their motion, plaintiffs contend that the liability phase is s tra ig h tfo rw a rd and would take no more than two or three days. In contrast, a c c o rd in g to plaintiffs, the damages phase could add as many as 10 days to the tria l and would not be necessary unless the jury found defendants liable. In o p p o s itio n to the motion, defendants contest plaintiffs' estimate of the duration of th e damages phase. More importantly, defendants contend that the liability and d a m a g e s phases are inextricably intertwined because the nature of plaintiffs' c la im e d injuries bear on whether the alleged defective condition in question had b e e n dangerous by its very nature. The Court held oral argument on September 2 4 , 2010. Dockets.Justia.com "For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the c o u rt may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, c ro s s c la im s , counterclaims, or third-party claims. W h e n ordering a separate trial, th e court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). "[T]he court's power to sever claims and order separate trials is . . . discretionary, re q u irin g it to balance the factors of benefit and prejudice that will result from the a lte rn a tive courses." Garber v. Randell, 477 F.2d 711, 714 (2d Cir. 1973). After c o n s id e rin g the written and oral arguments from the parties, the Court finds that b ifu rc a tio n likely would hamper defendants' ability to present the jury with what a p p e a rs to be their principal trial theory--that plaintiff Maria W a g n e r cannot e s ta b lis h proximate cause, because her alleged injuries after the incident are in d is tin g u is h a b le from various chronic conditions that she had before the incident. Regardless of whether the jury ultimately accepts or rejects that theory, h a m p e rin g defendants' ability to present it outweighs any economic benefit from w h a t would be--if defendants won--a shorter trial. F o r the above reasons, the Court denies plaintiffs' motion (Dkt. No. 19/22). SO ORDERED. s/ Richard J. Arcara HONORABLE RICHARD J. ARCARA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE DATED: September 27, 2010 2

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