United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants Terex Corporation,
Terex Utilities, Inc., and Terex South Dakota, Inc.'s
(collectively, “Defendants” or
“Terex”) Motion to Trifurcate Trial  (the
a products liability action arising from the failure of a
2002 Terex Hi-Ranger XT 60/70 boom, an aerial lift device
(the “Subject Boom”). Terex XT aerial devices are
commonly utilized by tree trimming companies. The Subject
Boom was part of Terex SD's XT aerial device line, which
consisted of XT52, XT55, XT58, and XT60 aerial lifts. The
line, beginning with the XT52, was first designed by Terex
S.D. in 1996. The Subject Boom, an XT60, was originally
designed in 1999, manufactured on or about October 4, 2002,
and purchased by Ace Tree Surgery, Plaintiff's employer,
in 2003. On April 9, 2014, Plaintiff was in the truck when
the Subject Boom collapsed-resulting in severe injuries to
Plaintiff. On June 19, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action.
(). Following summary judgment motions, three claims
remain pending for trial: (1) whether Terex S.D. negligently
designed the Subject Boom; (2) whether Terex failed to
adequately communicate warnings; and (3) whether punitive
damages should be awarded against Terex. ( at 29).
seeks this Court to divide the impending trial in this matter
into three separate phases. ([398.1] at 2). The first phase
would require the jury to consider whether Georgia's
statute of repose exception applies to Plaintiff's
negligent design claim against Terex SD, irrespective of any
proximate cause or other liability issues. (Id.).
The second phase would require the jury to consider
Plaintiff's failure to warn and negligent design claims,
the amount of compensatory damages to be awarded, if any, and
Terex Defendants' liability, if any, for punitive
damages. (Id.). If the jury finds Defendants liable
for punitive damages, then a third phase of the trial would
commence and the jury would determine how much Plaintiff
should be awarded in punitive damages. (Id. at 3).
Terex contends that trifurcating the trial in this manner
“would promote convenience and judicial economy and
avoid undue prejudice and confusion.” (Id.).
in his Response to Terex's Motion to Trifurcate Trial
 (“Response”), argues that Defendants'
Motion should be denied on the grounds that it is
“inefficient, would confuse and frustrate the jury, and
would prejudice [Plaintiff].” ( at 2). Plaintiff
contends that he would have to use an “identical set of
witnesses and evidence” to prove those issues presented
in the proposed first and second phases of the trial.
(Id. at 1-2). That is, “Terex's additional
phase of litigation quite literally” would require
“every single fact Terex would demand Mr. Gaddy prove
during Phase One he would have to re-prove during Phase
Two.” (Id. at 7). Plaintiff concedes, however,
that the trial should be separated to allow for a separate
phase to determine, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5, the
amount of punitive damages, if any, that should be awarded to
Plaintiff. ( at 4).
42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
“[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite
and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or
more issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or
third-party claims.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b).
The decision to separate a trial is committed to the sound
discretion of the Court. See, e.g., Home
Elevators, Inc. v. Millar Elevator Serv. Co., 933
F.Supp. 1090, 1091 (N.D.Ga. 1996); Kimberly-Clark Corp.
v. James River Corp., 131 F.R.D. 607, 608 (N.D.Ga.
1989).Bifurcating, or in this case, trifurcating, a trial
“works an infringement on such an important aspect of
the judicial process, ” and therefore “courts are
‘cautioned that [it] is not the usual course that
should be followed.'” Kimberly-Clark
Corp., 131 F.R.D. at 608 (quoting Response to
Carolina, Inc. v. Leasco Response, Inc., 537 F.2d 1307,
1323-24 (5th Cir.1976)).
district court should consider the following factors in
determining whether to order separate trials:
whether the specific risks of prejudice and possible
confusion are overborne by the risk of inconsistent
adjudications of common factual and legal issues, the burden
on parties, witnesses and available judicial resources posed
by multiple lawsuits, the length of time required to conclude
multiple suits as against a single one, and the relative
expense to all concerned of the single-trial, multiple-trial
Allstate Insurance Co. v. Vizcay, 825 F.3d 1326,
1333 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Hendrix v.
Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 776 F.2d 1495 (11th Cir.
1985). “[T]he paramount consideration must remain a
fair and impartial trial to all litigants through a balance
of benefit and prejudice.” Kimberly-Clark
Corp., 131 F.R.D. at 609. A district court
“properly exercises its discretion” not to
separate a trial where it is apparent a joint trial will
“‘save the [parties] from wasteful
relitigation, avoid duplication of judicial effort, and . .
. not materially prejudice [the parties']
rights.'” Allstate Insurance Co., 825 F.3d
at 1333 (quoting Hendrix, 776 F.2d at 1495.
Court determines that trifurcation is not appropriate.
Separating the trial into three phases where the issues in
each phase are interrelated would result in inefficiency and
waste of time and expense. For example, the proposed first
phase would require the jury to consider whether Plaintiff
demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that, in
designing the Subject Boom, Defendants manifested “a
willful, reckless, or wanton disregard for life or
property.” O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11(b)(2). The proposed
second phase would, in part, require the jury to consider
whether Defendants “showed willful misconduct, malice,
fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care
which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference
to consequences.” O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Plaintiff
contends that, in effect, this will require him to use nearly
identical relevant and admissible evidence to prove
substantially similar issues. The Court agrees. Indeed, it
appears that similar evidence and witnesses would be required
if the cases is conducted in the phases suggested by the
Defendants. The Court specifically concludes that the
proposed first and second phases of the trial will not