United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
April 15, 2004.
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
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