Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr. than Assigned Judge
Before the Court is Defendants' motion  to bifurcate and to staydiscovery and trial as to Plaintiffs' Monell claims. For the reasons set forth below, the motion  is respectfully denied. All further discovery supervision and discovery motions will be referred to a magistrate judge.
O[ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.
In this lawsuit, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs allege that Jeannetta McDowell (deceased) was denied adequate medical care while incarcerated at Cook County Jail, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition to bringing claims against individual defendants, Plaintiffs allege that Sheriff Dart in his official capacity and Cook County (collectively, the "Municipal Defendants") are liable because McDowell's rights were violated as a result of an official custom or policy. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1976).
Defendants have moved for bifurcation of Plaintiffs' Monell claims and to stay discovery and trial on those claims until the claims against the individual defendants are resolved.
According to Plaintiffs' second amended complaint , on June 6, 2008, McDowell, a 25-year-old mother of two, was arrested for shoplifting diapers from a local store. She was charged with retail theft and held as a pretrial detainee at Cook County Jail. During McDowell's initial intake, Defendants took all items in her possession, including two asthma inhalers. Defendants became aware during the initial intake that McDowell had a history of cardiac thrombosis and suffered from asthma, for which she needed medication.
The complaint alleges that over the next few days, McDowell complained repeatedly of shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and chest pains. She was visibly in need of urgent medical attention. On June 9, 2008, McDowell died in her jail cell from bronchial asthma. She did not have an inhaler with her at the time. About six weeks later, McDowell's fiance (the father of infant Plaintiff Gabrielle Warren) committed suicide in connection with his grief over McDowell's death.
Plaintiff Darlene Warren-as next friend and special administrator of McDowell and as next friend of Plaintiff Gabrielle Warren-thereafter filed a complaint against Cook County and Sheriff Dart, as well as supervisory officials, correctional officers, and nurses employed by the Cermak Health Services of Cook County. As previously discussed, Plaintiffs are suing the individual defendants for failing to provide McDowell with constitutionally adequate medical care. In addition, Plaintiffs bring a Monell claim against the Municipal Defendants.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) authorizes federal courts to order a separate trial of one or more separate issues or claims if separation (or bifurcation) is warranted "[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize." Bifurcation may be appropriate if one or more of the Rule 42(b) criteria is met. Treece v. Hochstetler, 213 F.3d 360, 365 (7th Cir. 2000). District courts approach bifurcation motions with a pragmatic mindset and enjoy "considerable discretion" over the decision. Id. at 364-65 (internal quotations omitted). Similarly, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d) permits a court to stay discovery on Monell claims. See, e.g., Jones v. City of Chicago, 1999 WL 160228, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 10, 1999).
The Court has repeatedly acknowledged that "there is a growing body of precedent in this district for both granting and denying bifurcation in § 1983 cases." Carter v. Dart, 2011 WL 1466599, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 18, 2011) (citing cases). Indeed, recognizing that each case must be evaluated on its own merits, the undersigned judge has both granted and denied motions to bifurcate filed by municipal defendants. Compare Carter, 2011 WL 1466599, and Terry v. Cook County Dep't of Corr., 2010 WL 2720754 (N.D. Ill. July 8, 2010) ...