United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM RE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO BIFURCATE AND
STAY COUNT II
case, Plaintiff Douglas Reeves' contends that Travelers
(“Defendant”) failed to honor the terms of the
underinsured motorist provision of his insurance contract,
and exhibited bad faith in its handling of Reeves' claim
in violation of 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8371. Presently before
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Bifurcate and Stay
Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint (the Bad Faith claim).
For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is
Factual and Procedural Background
alleges that on June 25, 2015, he was a passenger in a motor
vehicle operated by a co-worker, when they were rear-ended by
another vehicle, driven by a Mr. Blake. See ECF 1,
Notice of Removal, Attached Complaint ¶¶ 3-4
(hereinafter “Compl.”). Plaintiff sustained
significant injuries, and recovered from Mr. Blake for the
maximum policy amount available on Mr. Blake's insurance.
Compl. ¶¶ 6, 11. Because that was not
enough to cover the extent of Plaintiff's injuries,
Plaintiff filed a underinsured motorist (UIM) claim with his
insurance company, Travelers. Id. ¶ 12.
February 4, 2016, Travelers denied plaintiff's UIM claim,
citing an exclusion under the policy. Id. ¶ 20.
In a letter to Defendant dated August 22, 2016 Plaintiff
documented his belief that Defendant frivolously denied his
claim. Id. ¶ 21. On September 13, 2016,
Defendant issued a second denial of Plaintiff's UIM
claim. Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff again attempted to
convince Defendant via letter that his claim should be paid,
and on October 4, 2016, for a third and final time, Defendant
denied the claim. Id. ¶¶ 23, 24. In
November 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant
Travelers in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas,
alleging breach of contract and bad faith. Id.
¶¶ 29-48. Defendant removed to this Court on
December 15, 2016, and answered Plaintiff's Complaint on
December 22, 2016. See ECF 1, Notice of Removal; ECF
4, Answer with Affirmative Defenses.
February 17, 2017, Defendant moved to bifurcate and stay
Plaintiff's bad faith claim. ECF 11. Plaintiff filed a
response opposing the motion on March 2, 2017, and Defendant
replied on March 10, 2017. ECF 13; ECF 14. Defendant's
motion is ripe and before the Court.
Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C § 1332, and this
case was properly removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.
brings its Motion to Bifurcate and Stay under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 42(b), which provides that a court may order
a separate trial “[f]or convenience, to avoid
prejudice, or to expedite and economize.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
42(b). Under this rule, the district court has broad
discretion to grant or deny a motion to bifurcate claims.
Lis v. Robert Packer Hosp., 579 F.2d 819, 824 (3d
Cir. 1978). Bifurcation “is not to be routinely
ordered” and should be done on a case by case basis
“where experience has demonstrated its worth.”
Id. at 824 (quoting advisory committee note to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b) 1966 amendment).
moving party has the burden to show that bifurcation is
proper under Rule 42(b). Innovative Office Prod., Inc. v.
Spaceco, Inc., No. 05-04037, 2006 WL 1340865, at *1
(E.D. Pa. May 15, 2006). In determining whether to bifurcate
claims, a district court should consider “the
convenience of the parties, 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 quotations omitted).
Arguments of the Parties
argues that Plaintiff's claim for bad faith should be
bifurcated from his breach of contract claim, and that the
discovery related to the bad faith claim should be stayed
pending the resolution of the contract claim. See
Def.'s Mot. ...