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Shamblin v. Chesapeake Energy Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 6, 2014

TODD A. SHAMBLIN and DAWN SHAMBLIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORPORATION, CHESAPEAKE APPALACHIA, LLC, NOMAC DRILLING, LLC, HODGES TRUCKING COMPANY, LLC, GREAT PLAINS OILFIELD RENTAL, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Before the Court are several motions in limine filed by both parties (Docs. 56, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, and 66) and Defendants' Motion to Bifurcate the Issue of Workers' Compensation Immunity (Doc. 45).

I. Relevant Background

An extensive factual background of this case is unnecessary here. Plaintiffs Todd Shamblin ("Shamblin") and Dawn Shamblin assert claims for negligence and loss of consortium against Defendants Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., and Nomac Drilling L.L.C. ("Defendants"). On December 15, 2009, Shamblin was moving a sheave block pulley from a drilling rig across a metal catwalk when the catwalk collapsed underneath him. (Doc. 37, " Defs.' SMF, " ¶ 1, Ex. A; Doc. 39, " Plfs.' Answer, " ¶ 1.) It is undisputed that Shamblin was injured while acting within the course and scope of his employment. ( Defs.' SMF, ¶ 2; Plfs.' Answer, ¶ 2.)

Defendants' motion to bifurcate and the motions in limine filed in advance of trial are discussed below.

II. Discussion

A. Defendants' Motion to Bifurcate the Issue of Workers' Compensation Immunity (Doc. 45)

Defendants move to bifurcate the issue of workers' compensation immunity from the remaining issues in litigation pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b). They want the issue of workers' compensation immunity to be determined at a non-jury hearing.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) provides that:

For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims. When ordering a separate trial, the court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b).

The decision to bifurcate is a "matter to be decided on a case-by-case basis and must be subject to an informed discretion by the trial judge in each instance." Lis v. Robert Packer Hosp., 579 F.2d 819, 824 (3d Cir.1978). In exercising its discretion, the court "must weigh the various considerations of convenience, prejudice to the parties, expedition and economy of resources." Emerick v. U.S. Suzuki Motor Corp., 750 F.2d 19, 22 (3d Cir. 1984). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that bifurcation is appropriate. Innovative Office Prods., Inc. v. Spaceco, Inc., No. 50-04037, 2006 WL 1340865 at *1 (E.D. Pa. May 15, 2006) (citing Spectra-Physics Lasers, Inc. v. Uniphase Corp., 144 F.R.D. 99, 101 (N.D. Cal.1992).

Here, the parties agree that the issue of whether an employer-employee relationship exists, the sole issue in determining whether an entity has workers' compensation immunity, is a question of law, based on findings of fact. See JFC Temps, Inc. V. Workmen's Comp. Appeal Bd., 680 A.2d 862, 864, 545 Pa. 149, 153 (Pa. 1996). Even if, as Defendants assert, bifurcating the issue of worker's compensation immunity would not infringe on any federal right to a jury trial, it is not clear how bifurcation would expedite the hearings, preserve judicial resources, or serve the convenience of both parties and the ...


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