22 NYCRR 202.42(a) Bifurcated Trials
Carbocci v Lake Grove Entertainment, LLC, 2009 NY Slip Op 05739 (App. Div., 2nd, 2009)
Trial courts are encouraged to conduct bifurcated trials in personal injury cases (see 22
NYCRR 202.42[a]). However, where the nature of the plaintiff's injuries
has an important bearing on the question of liability, a unified trial
should be held (see Wahid v Long Is. R.R. Co., 59 AD3d 712; Wright v New York City Hous. Auth., 273
AD2d 378). The party opposing bifurcation has the burden of showing
that the nature of the injuries necessarily assists the factfinder in
making a determination with respect to the issue of liability (see Barrera v Skaggs-Walsh, Inc., 279 AD2d 442).
Here, the plaintiff, Dolores Carbocci (hereinafter Carbocci),
fell while ice skating at a rink owned and operated by the defendant
Lake Grove Entertainment, LLC, doing business as Sports Plus
(hereinafter Sports Plus). The plaintiffs alleged that Carbocci was
removed from the ice [*2]by the defendant
Patrick Lever, an employee of Sports Plus, either negligently or
forcibly, despite Carbocci's instructions to not touch her and to call
an ambulance. The defendants assert that Carbocci stood up on her own
and was merely assisted from the ice by Lever and other employees of
Sports Plus. The plaintiffs moved for a unified trial asserting that
evidence with respect to her medical treatment was necessary to prove
her case. The Supreme Court denied the motion and, sua sponte, directed
the trial court to give a particular preliminary instruction to the
jury relating to the bifurcation of the case. We reverse.
The plaintiffs established that Carbocci's injuries are
interwoven with the existence or extent of the defendants' liability on
both the negligence and battery causes of action (see Sokolovsky v Mucip, Inc., 32 AD3d 1011). Evidence relating to Carbocci's injuries is probative in determining how the incident occurred (see Byrd v New York City Tr. Auth., 172 AD2d 579, 581; DeGregorio v Lutheran Med. Ctr., 142
AD2d 543). Accordingly, the plaintiffs' request for a unified trial was
improperly denied as the issues of liability and damages are
inseparable (see Jacobs v Broidy, 88 AD2d 904; cf. Pasquaretto v Cohen, 37 AD3d 440).
In light of the foregoing, the preliminary instruction the
Supreme Court directed the trial court to give to the jury is
The bold is mine.