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CARTER v. FINLEY HOSPITAL

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois


April 15, 2004.

Carter
v.
Finley Hospital

The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant, The Finley Hospital, has filed a motion to bifurcate the issues of liability and damages in its upcoming medical malpractice trial. Plaintiff opposes the motion to bifurcate.

Rule 42(b) provides that a court, in "furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and economy," may order a separate trial on any issue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). Either of these criteria, avoidance of prejudice or judicial economy, will support an order of separation. Houseman v. United States Aviation Underwriters, 171 F.3d 1117, 1121 (7th Cir. 1999). The court must also be satisfied that the decision to bifurcate does not unfairly prejudice the non-moving party. Houseman, 171 F.3d at 1121. The ultimate decision as to whether to order bifurcation under Rule 42(b) is discretionary. Houseman, 171 F.3d at 1121.

  In this case, the relevant considerations weigh in favor of denying the motion to bifurcate. First, defendant will not suffer any substantial or undue prejudice should the jury hear evidence of damages simultaneously with evidence of liability. Juries are routinely instructed to keep such evidence in its proper place, and there is nothing about the anticipated evidence in this case that leads the court to believe such instructions would be ineffective. Second, the issues in this case as to liability and damages do not appear to be unusually complex, as medical malpractice cases go. Third, as is the case in most trials where liability and damages are presented jointly, time and effort will be saved by avoiding duplication, some of which is typical in separate trials. There is simply nothing about this case that leads the court to believe that it would be more expeditious or less prejudicial to defendant to separate the issues of liability or damages.

  For the foregoing reasons, the court denies defendant's motion to bifurcate.

20040415

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