United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
CLINTON E. CRAKER and DANA M. CRAKER, Plaintiffs,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
L. LANCASTER, CHIEF JUDGE.
an insurance coverage action involving a dispute over payment
of underinsured motorist benefits ("UIM"). The
Crakers' complaint asserts causes of action for both
breach of contract and bad faith pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 8371. Before the Court is State Farm's
Motion in Limine to Bifurcate Pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). [Doc. No. 96].
Court previously denied State Farm's motion to sever and
stay the bad faith claim, which we construed as an untimely
motion to conduct phased discovery pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 26. [Doc. No. 44] . The Court also
previously indicated at the Post-Discovery Status Conference
that it intended to deny any motions to bifurcate trial. For
the following reasons, we deny State Farm's motion.
Farm argues that bifurcation is appropriate because the
issues to be decided on the UIM claim are entirely-separate
from the issues to be decided on the bad faith claim, and
because a verdict in its favor on the UIM claim could render
the bad faith claim moot. The Crakers contend that
bifurcation would be ineffective in this case because:; the
issues and evidence overlap, and because the UIM and bad
faith claims are not dependent on each other under
of trial is within the court's discretion. Fed.R.Civ.P.
42(b); Barr Labs., Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 978 F.2d
98, 105 (3d Cir. 1992). Separation of issues for trial is not
to be routinely ordered. Kiskidee, LLC v. Certain
Interested Underwriters at Lloyd's of London, 2012
WL 1067918 (D.V.I. Mar. 26, 2012) (citing Lis v. Robert
Packer Hospital, 579 F.2d 819, 824 (3d Cir. 1978)). In
determining whether to bifurcate, the court must balance
considerations including the convenience of the parties, the
avoidance of prejudice to either party, and "promotion
of the expeditious resolution of the litigation."
Official Comm. Of Unsecured Creditors v. Shapiro,
190 F.R.D. 352, 355 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (internal quotation
omitted). Specifically, the court is to consider: (1) whether
the issues are significantly different from each other; (2)
whether they require separate witnesses and documents; (3)
whether the non-moving party would be prejudiced by
bifurcation; and (4) whether the non-moving party would be
prejudiced if bifurcation is not granted. Id. The
moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that
bifurcation is appropriate. Reading Tube Corp. v.
Employers Ins. of Wausau, 944 F.Supp. 398, 404 (E.D. Pa.
Court has weighed these considerations and finds that
bifurcation of the trial is not appropriate in this case.
First, there is considerable overlap in the issues. Both
claims centrally involve State Farm's valuation of the
Crakers' injuries and losses. In this case, there is no
question that State Farm's UIM coverage has been
triggered, that the Crakers were without fault in the
accident, that the Crakers suffered injuries requiring past
and future surgeries as a result of the accident, and that
State Farm has refused to meet the Crakers' demand for
payment of full UIM coverage. The only issue in dispute on
the UIM claim is the valuation of the Crakers' injuries.
The same issue is central to the Crakers' bad faith
although the bad faith claim will require additional
witnesses and evidence as compared to the breach of contract
claim, the parties' pretrial statements indicate that
many witnesses would be required to testify in both phases.
It would waste judicial resources and cause inconvenience to
require those witnesses to testify twice in the same trial.
State Farm argues that both parties will be prejudiced if
bifurcation is not granted, because the testimony of trial
counsel may be relevant to the bad faith claim. The
possibility that counsel will be called to testify is "a
risk of litigation" and does not require bifurcation.
See, Calestini v. Progressive Cas. Ins.
Co., No. 09-1679, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117138 (M.D. Pa. Dec.
19, 2009) at *2. Both parties will have the ability to use
substitute trial counsel, i:i: necessary. The potential
prejudice presented by this situation does not outweigh the
Court's obligation to promote the expeditious resolution
of this matter, particularly given the substantial overlap in
issues and evidence.
Farm has failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that
bifurcation is appropriate under the facts of this case. In
addition, it has also relied on case law that is not
controlling on this Court, and is distinguishable, both
factually and in that it addresses the bifurcation of bad
faith claims either before or during the fact discovery phase
of a case. Here, the Court issued its final scheduling order
in December of 2011 and trial is scheduled to commence in
less than three months.
such, we deny State Farm's motion in limine to
bifurcate the trial. An appropriate order will be filed
contemporaneously with this opinion.
NOW, this 3rd day of August, 2012, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that,
for the reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum,
defendant's Motion in Limine to Bifurcate