Saturday, May 2, 2009

Error to Have Bifurcated Trial on Damages Prior to Trial on Liability

In Stanley v. Delta Connection Academy, Inc. (5D09-197) the Fifth DCA held it a departure from the essential requirements of law to have a trial on damages before a trial on liability.  

The circuit court judge ordered two separate jury trials and ordered the damages trial  to occur first because “I guess I’m prepared to gamble that the decision on the damages is likely to resolve all or at least some of the liability that will shorten the judicial time that I need to spend.”

The Fifth DCA held:
[i]n the instant case, that determination should only be made by proper administration of the rules of evidence and trial procedure before a fair and impartial jury impaneled to resolve, in the following order, the issues of whether the defendants breached the applicable standard of care or warranty, whether that breach caused the plaintiffs’ damages, and what those damages are.


We conclude that regardless whether the same or different juries are impaneled to resolve the issues in each trial, the order bifurcating the liability and damages issues, with the latter being tried first, departs from the essential requirements of the law and causes irreparable injury that cannot be remedied on appeal.


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