Motion to Bifurcate in New York

What Is a Motion to Bifurcate?

Background

In furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, “the court may order a severance of claims, or may order a separate trial of any claim, or any separate issue.” (Civ. Prac. Law & Rules, § 603.) Such an order to bifurcate can be a useful tool in certain limited circumstances, such as when the separation of claims would assist in a clarification or simplification of issues and a fair and more expeditious resolution of the action. (Ellis v. J.M.G., Inc., 31 A.D.3d 1220, 1220-21 [4th Dept. 2006].)

How to Structure the Motion

A motion to bifurcate should be used to facilitate the speedy and unprejudiced disposition of cases. (Raiport v. Gowanda Elecs. Corp., 190 Misc. 2d 353, 355 [Sup. Ct. Cattaraugus Cty. 2001].)

“The ordering of a separate trial of a claim or separate issue… has traditionally been ordered where the separated issue ‘does not touch upon the merits of the main controversy but will, nevertheless, be dispositive of the entire action.’” (Baseball Office of the Commissioner v. Marsh & McLennan, Inc., 295 A.D.2d 73, 78-79 [1st Dept. 2002].)

“While bifurcation is traditionally used in the personal injury context, bifurcation of liability and damages can be used in a wide variety of cases in order to promote efficiency.” (Duke Media Sales v. Jakel Corp., 215 A.D.2d 237, 237 [1st Dept. 1995].)

“As a general rule, questions of liability and damages in a negligence action represent distinct and severable issues which should be tried and determined separately.” (Berman v. County of Suffolk, 26 A.D.3d 307, 308 [2nd Dept. 2006].) In most types of negligence cases (other than medical malpractice), the nature and extent of the injuries has no bearing on liability and thus bifurcation is the preferred course. (Gogatz v. New York City Transit Authority, 733 N.Y.S.3d 345 [2001].) “It is well settled that a trial court may properly exercise its power to sever the issues and direct that a trial be held first solely upon the issue of liability, with a separate trial thereafter of the damage issue if liability is determined in favor of plaintiff.” (Mercado v. City of New York, 25 A.D.2d 75, 76 [1966].)

Response

Bifurcation is not appropriate when the issue to be bifurcated is inextricably interwoven with other issues in the case. (Baseball Office of the Comm’r v. Marsh & McLennan, Inc., 295 A.D.2d 73, 79 [1st Dept. 2002].) A trial on the issues of both liability and damages should be held only where the nature of the injuries has an important bearing on the issue of liability, thus a “party opposing bifurcation and seeking a unified trial on those issues must show that the nature of the injuries has an important bearing on the issue of liability.” (Barrera v. Skaggs-Walsh, Inc., 279 A.D.2d 442, 719 N.Y.S.2d 90, 91 [2nd Dept. 2001].)

Accordingly, only in negligence cases sounding in medical malpractice or other cases where either the nature of injuries has important bearing on question of liability, or where issues of liability and damages are so intertwined, will bifurcation not be ordered or will evidence of damages be permitted during the liability phase of a bifurcated trial. (Diorio v. City of New York, 232 A.D.2d 367, 648 N.Y.S.2d 618 [2nd Dept. 1996].)

The Court’s Decision

“A court may determine the sequence in which the issues shall be tried and otherwise regulate the conduct of the trial in order to achieve a speedy and unprejudiced disposition of the matters at issue.” (Civ. Prac. Law & Rules, § 4011.)

“Judges are encouraged to order a bifurcated trial of the issues of liability and damages in any action for personal injury where it appears that bifurcation may assist in a clarification or simplification of issues and a fair and more expeditious resolution of the action.” (22 N.Y.C.R.R. 202.42(a); Abrams v. Excellent Bus Serv., Inc., 91 A.D.3d 681, 682 [2nd Dept. 2012].)

The decision of “severing various issues of liability and damages rests within the discretion of the trial court.” (Plainview Water Dist. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 66 A.D.3d 754, 755 [2nd Dept. 2009].) “When exercising its discretion in deciding whether to conduct a unified trial or a bifurcated trial, a court should determine whether the nature of the alleged injuries is probative of the issue of liability and, furthermore, should also evaluate the relative importance of such evidence to the parties’ dispute.” (Patino v. County of Nassau, 3 N.Y.S.3d 43, 46 [2015].) “In addition, the probative value of such evidence to the issue of liability and its centrality to the parties’ dispute should be weighed against the degree to which the gravity of such injuries will likely engender sympathy for the plaintiff and thereby post a risk of prejudice to the defendant.” (Id.)

Documents

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County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown
County

Queens County, NY

Filed Date

Aug 26, 2022

Type

Torts - Other (Embezzlement)

Judge Hon. Pam Jackman-Brown Trellis Spinner 👉 Discover key insights by exploring more analytics for Pam Jackman-Brown

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