United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Damaris Leanor Retes filed suit against Defendants Detective
Timothy Mallicote ("Det. Mallicote") and Prince
Georgess County, Maryland ("the County") asserting,
in relevant part, a claim against Det. Mallicote for
excessive force pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 9 1983 ("9
1983") based on his alleged sexual assault of Retes
immediately before he arrested her for prostitution, and a 9
1983 claim against the County pursuant to Monell v.
Department of Social Services of the City of New York,
436 U.S. 658 (1978), alleging that the County had an
unconstitutionll policy, custom, or practice of deliberate
indifference to sexual assaults during or in relation to
prostitution arrests. The parties are engaged in discovery.
Defendants have filed a Motion for Bifurcation of Trial,
arguing that discovery and trial on the claims against the
County should be bifurcated from discovery and trial on the
claims against Det. Mallicote. Retes opposes the Motion.
Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the Court finds
no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE to renewal after the close of discovery.
may order separate trials of one or more separate issues or
claims "[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to
expedite and economize." Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). Only one of
these criteria must be met to justify bifurcation.
Houseman v. U.S. Aviation Underwriters, 171 F.3d
1117, 1121 (7th Cir. 1999). Once a criterion is satisfied,
the court "must be satisfied that the decision to
bifurcate does not unfairly prejudice the non-moving
party." Id. However, "separation of issues
for trial is not to be routinely ordered, " Fed.R.Civ.P.
42(b) advisory committeess note to 1966 amendment; rather,
"[e]ach case must be considered in light of its
particular facts and circumstances." Marryshow v.
Town of Bladensburg, 139 F.R.D. 318, 319 (D. Md. 1991).
The decision on bifurcation is committed to the trial
court's sound discretion. Houseman, 171 F.3d at
Defendants request that the Court hold a trial on Det.
Mallicotess liability first, then hold a separate trial on
the Countyss liability in the event that Det. Mallicote is
found liable. Defendants argue that separate trials are
warranted because it would be "confusing" and
unduly prejudicial to Det. Mallicote for the jury to consider
in the same trial both evidence relating to Det. Mallicotess
actions and evidence offered against the County of
"prior actions of or complaints against other police
officers." Mot. Bifurcation at 2-3. Defendants assert
that such bifurcation would also preserve resources because a
jury verdict in Det. Mallicotess favor would obviate the need
for a trial on the Countyss liability.
time, the Court finds these arguments unpersuasive. Discovery
on the claims against Del. Mallicote has not yet been
completed, and discovery on the claim against the County has
not yet begun. With the universe of relevant evidence yet to
be established, there is not yet a basis to conclude that
evidence against the County would unduly prejudice Det.
Mallicote or confuse the jury in a manner that could not be
remedied by relevant jury instructions. See generally
Conn. v. Johnson, 460 U.S. 73, 85 n.14 (1983) (noting
that courts "must assume that juries for the most part
understand and faithfully follow instructions".. If the
serious allegations against Det. Mallicote are substantiated
by the evidence, it arguably could benefit him to have his
alleged misconduct placed in the context of a larger,
conservation of resources, a S 1983 claim of an
unconstitutional municipal custom or policy, at least in the
context of inadequate training, generally may succeed only if
there is a finding of a constitutional violation by an
individual defendant. See Temkin v. Frederick Cty.
Comm'rs., 945 F.2d 716, 724 (4th Cir. 1991)
(concluding that "[a] claim of inadequate training under
section 1983 cannot be made out against a supervisory
authority absent a finding of a constitutional violation on
the part of the person being supervised".. But see
Fairley v. Luman, 281 F.3d 913, 917 (9th Cir. 2002)
(holding that the district court did not err by denying a
municipality's motion for judgment as a matter of law
after the individual defendant had been exonerated because,
in some instances, S 1983 liability may still attach where a
constitutional deprivation was "a consequence of
[municipal] policy, " regardless of the liability of an
individual defendant); see also City of Canton v.
Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989) (noting that a city
could be held liable under S 1983 for failure to train police
officers even though no individual defendants were sued).
However, bifurcation would not necessarlly be more efficient,
because if Retes were to prevail at a trial against Det.
Mallicote only, it is likely that the witnesses and evidence
presented in that first trial would be relevant to the claim
against the County and would be properly presented a second
time in the trial against the County. Because the allegations
against Det. Mallicote are serious, the weight of the
evidence against him has yet to be discerned, and discovery
against the County has yet to commence, it is premature for
this Court to determine whether bifurcation would advance or
undermine judicial economy.
the Court notes that bifurcation presents a risk of unfair
prejudice to Retes because it imposes a significant barrier
to her ability to pursue a claim against the County to
vindicate systemic concerns by increasing the resources
required to do so. Without a fuller understanding of the
record through discovery on all issues, the Court cannot
properly weigh this and other considerations to determine
whether bifurcation is warranted under the particular facts
and circumstances of this case.
it is hereby ORDERED that the Motion for Bifurcation of
Trial, ECF No. 21, is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Pursuant to
the Court's June 23, 2017 Order, the Parties must submit
to the Court within 14 days of the date of this Order a joint