United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Paulina Brooke Burdine originally filed this lawsuit against
defendant Metropolitan Direct Property and Casualty Insurance
Company (hereinafter “MetDirect”) in Franklin
Circuit Court in October, 2017. [See R. 1.]
MetDirect removed the proceedings to this Court pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. Ms. Burdine asserts two
claims against MetDirect stemming from two separate
automobile accidents. In July 2018, MetDirect moved to sever
these claims or, in the alternative, bifurcate the
proceedings. [R. 20.] Ms. Burdine subsequently filed a
Response to MetDirect's motion, and MetDirect filed a
Reply to that Response. [R. 21; R. 25.] For the following
reasons, MetDirect's Motion to Sever or Bifurcate [R. 20]
Burdine initiated this lawsuit in the wake of two separate
automobile accidents. [See R. 1.] Collision one took
place in Scott County, Kentucky when Sandy Strong ran a red
light and struck Ms. Burdine's vehicle. Id. Ms.
Strong admitted fault, and her insurance policy paid Ms.
Burdine to its limits. Id. Collision two took place
in Fayette County, Kentucky when Phillip Smith failed to
yield the right of way to Ms. Burdine and struck her vehicle.
Id. Again, Mr. Smith admitted fault and his
insurance paid Ms. Burdine to its limits. Id. At all
relevant times, Ms. Burdine carried Underinsured Motorist
Insurance from MetDirect. Id.
occasions, the drivers carried only $25, 000 in liability
insurance. Id. Ms. Burdine alleges that her medical
expenses from each accident exceed the $25, 000 that she
received from the other drivers' insurance policies.
Id. Ms. Burdine now wishes to collect compensation
from MetDirect, her own insurance carrier, because her
hospital expenses are in excess of what she received from the
policies of the other drivers. Id.
of claims is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18,
which states “a party asserting a claim, counterclaim,
crossclaim, or third-party claim may join, as independent or
alternative clams, as many claims as it has against an
opposing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). The scope of Rule
18(a) is well settled: “The claims which may properly
be joined under Rule 18(a) include those which arise out of
separate and independent transactions or occurrences, as well
as those which arise out of a single transaction or
occurrence.” MGD Graphic Sys., Inc. v. A & A
Bindery, Inc., 76 F.R.D. 66, 67-68 (E.D. Pa. 1977).
argues that Ms. Burdine's claims against it are
improperly joined in a single action and should be severed.
[R. 20.] In support of its position, MetDirect cites Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2), which governs the joinder
of parties. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). But this
is the wrong rule. “Rule 20 deals solely with joinder
of parties and becomes relevant only when there is more than
one party on one or both sides of the action. It is not
concerned with joinder of claims, which is governed by rule
18.” Procter v. Applegate, 661 F.Supp.2d 743,
778 (E.D. Mich. 2009).
is correct that Ms. Burdine has asserted two separate claims
involving two separate, negligent drivers. [See R.
20.] In its motion, MetDirect tries to analogize this suit to
one against two separate, negligent drivers, and argues that
Ms. Burdine will have to prove their negligence to recover at
trial. Id. But Ms. Burdine has not sued these
drivers in negligence. Rather, she is suing MetDirect in
contract, and whatever evidence of the drivers'
negligence Ms. Burdine will have to show at trial, those
drivers are not defendants. There is but one defendant in
this action-MetDirect-and Ms. Burdine has two claims against
that defendant. As such, Ms. Burdine's claims are
properly joined under Rule 18(a). Whether or not Ms. Burdine
could have sued the individual drivers for negligence in a
single action is irrelevant.
Ms. Burdine's claims are properly joined against
MetDirect under Rule 18, the Court may sever them if
inconvenience would result “from trying two. . .
matters together which have little or nothing in
common.” Thompson Thrift Constr., Inc. v. Hyman
Plumbing Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96844, *7 (E.D. Ky.
2013). However, “the joinder of claims is strongly
encouraged, and, concomitantly, severance should generally be
granted only in ‘exceptional circumstances.'”
Compania Embotelladora del Pacifico, S.A. v. Pepsi Cola
Co., 256 F.R.D. 133, 133 (S.D.N.Y 2009) (citing
United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715,
724 (1966); Hatfield v. Herz, 9 F.Supp.2d 368, 373
governs the bifurcation of civil trials. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 42(b). It states in relevant part, “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.” Id. “Bifurcation
may be appropriate ‘where the evidence offered on two
different issues will be wholly distinct. . . .'”
Wise v. Pine Tree Villa, LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
29704, * 4 (W.D. Ky. 2015) (citing Athridge v. Aetna Cas
& Sur. Co., 604 F.3d 625, 635 (D.D.C. 2010)). The
movant has the burden of proving the appropriateness of
argues that bifurcation is necessary to avoid confusing the
jury. [R. 20.] Specifically, MetDirect is concerned that
“the commingling of Plaintiff's claimed damages
will . . . render it difficult, if not impossible, for the
jury to accurately determine the amount of damages
attributable to each incident, ” which would prejudice
MetDirect. Id. But this is a problem that cannot be
avoided even with bifurcation. Ms. Burdine's collisions
occurred approximately ten months apart. [R. 1.] Ms. Burdine
was still rehabilitating injuries from collision one when she
was involved in collision two. Id. At the very
least, a ...