United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
V. ACOSTA United States Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Ian Micael Ryan (“Ryan”) brings this
lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants City
of Salem (“the City”) and Officer Trevor Morrison
“Defendants”). Defendants move to bifurcate the
trial of Ryan's individual § 1983 claim against
Morrison from his claim for municipal liability under
Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S.
658 (1978) against the City. (ECF No. 56.) For the reasons
that follow, the court denies Defendants' motion.
initiated this lawsuit in April, 2016, alleging Morrison
released a police dog into his apartment while Ryan slept.
(Compl. (ECF No. 2) ¶ 1.) Ryan argues Morrison's use
of the police dog constituted excessive force in violation of
the Fourth Amendment. (Id. ¶ 28.) Ryan also
asserts a claim against the City under Monell, based
on the City's alleged deliberately indifferent policies
regarding the use of police dogs. (Id. ¶¶
32-34.) This lawsuit is scheduled for a 4-day jury trial, to
begin on June 27, 2017. (Jury Trial Management Order, ECF No.
55.) The court held a scheduling conference on February 6,
2017, setting dates for trial and pretrial document filings.
(ECF Nos. 54, 55.) Defendants did not raise the issue of
bifurcation during the February 6 scheduling conference, or
at any time prior to filing their motion to bifurcate on
April 20, 2017. (ECF No. 56.) Ryan opposes the motion. (ECF
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 42(b),
“the court may order a separate trial of one or more
separate issues, claims, crossclaims, or third-party”
for “convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite
and economize” the proceedings. The drafters of the
Federal Rules did not intend the routine bifurcation of
trials. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b) advisory committee's note to
1966 amendment. The moving party has the burden to prove that
bifurcation is appropriate. Benson Tower Condo. Owners
Ass'n v. Victaulic Co., 150 F.Supp.3d 1184, 1208 (D.
Or. 2015) (Simon, J.) (citing Clark v. I.R.S., 772
F.Supp.2d 1265, 1269 (D. Haw. 2009). The court has broad,
discretionary authority to bifurcate claims or issues.
Hirst v. Gertzen, 676 F.2d 1252, 1261 (9th Cir.
1982). Bifurcation may not violate the right to jury trial.
Danjaq LLC v. Sony Corp., 263 F.3d 942, 961-62 (9th
seek to separate for trial Ryan's individual § 1983
claim against Morrison and his Monell claim against
the City. Bifurcation, Defendants argue, is appropriate
because of judicial efficiency, possible prejudice, and jury
confusion. Ryan contends Defendants have not met their burden
of proof, and therefore bifurcation is not warranted.
argue bifurcation would further judicial efficiency because
the individual claim is potentially dispositive of the
Monell claim. Some courts have bifurcated §
1983 claims for judicial-efficiency purposes under similar
circumstances. See, e.g., Estate of Lucas v.
Suhr, No. 15-CV-01846-HSG, 2016 WL 1639547, at *6 (N.D.
Cal. Apr. 26, 2016) (bifurcating individual and
Monell § 1983 claims); Boyd v. City &
Cty. of San Francisco, No. C-04-5459 MMC, 2006 WL
680556, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 14, 2006) (same). The
judicial-efficiency rationale for bifurcating an individual
claim from a Monell claim is the potential for
saving time in the event of a defense verdict on the
individual claim. See Scott v. Henrich, 39 F.3d 912,
916 (9th Cir. 1994) (a Monell claim requires an
underlying constitutional violation). Beyond establishing
that courts have bifurcated claims for municipal and
individual § 1983 liability, however, Defendants do not
show a basis for doing so in this particular case. Instead,
the posture of this case weighs against bifurcation.
parties agreed at the pre-trial conference that four days
were sufficient for trial. In light of the relatively small
amount of time needed to try the entire case, bifurcation is
unlikely to meaningfully serve judicial efficiency. The
amount of time saved in the event of a defense verdict in the
first trial would be nominal. If a jury finds that there was
a constitutional violation, the second phase of trial would
likely result in a longer aggregate time for trial than would
a single trial on both claims. See Martinez v. City of
Oxnard, CV 98-9313 FMC, 2005 U.S. Dist. Lexis 32189, at
* 17-18 (C.D. Cal. June 23, 2005) (noting that bifurcated
trials on Monell claims consume more judicial
resources if the jury finds a constitutional violation in the
Ryan's theory of the case is conducive to a single trial.
Ryan argues that Morrison's use of a police dog was
unreasonable because Ryan was, at most, hiding - not fleeing,
physically resisting arrest, or otherwise posing a risk of
injury to others. Ryan also asserts that the City's
policies allowed using a police dog under such circumstances,
giving rise to his Monell claim. The City appears to
agree that its policy allows using a police dog to arrest a
hiding suspect. (Decl. of Jesse Merrithew (ECF No. 60), Ex. 2
at 29:19-31:8.) The evidence of what Morrison did in this
case and what the City's policy allowed are therefore
closely intertwined. Cf. Wilkins v. City of Oakland,
No. C 01-1402 MMC, 2006 WL 305972, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8,
2006) (ordering bifurcation because “the evidence
relevant to the claims against the individual officers does
not overlap in any meaningful way with the evidence relevant
to the municipal liability claim”). Accordingly,
Defendants' judicial-efficiency argument does not support