Stumph v. Spring View Physician Practices, LLC, CASE NO. 3:19-CV-00053-LLK

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtLanny King, Magistrate Judge United States District Court
PartiesNICOLE STUMPH PLAINTIFF v. SPRING VIEW PHYSICIAN PRACTICES, LLC et al DEFENDANTS
Docket NumberCASE NO. 3:19-CV-00053-LLK
Decision Date25 November 2019

NICOLE STUMPH PLAINTIFF
v.
SPRING VIEW PHYSICIAN PRACTICES, LLC et al DEFENDANTS

CASE NO. 3:19-CV-00053-LLK

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY LOUISVILLE DIVISION

November 25, 2019


MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The parties consented to have the undersigned Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 73, determine all dispositive and non-dispositive matters in this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Docket # 14).

Defendant Spring View Physician Practices ("Spring View") has filed a Motion to Bifurcate and Stay Discovery (Docket # 25). Plaintiff Stumph has responded (Docket # 27), as has Defendant Kriegler. (Docket # 30). Defendant Spring View has filed a reply. (Docket # 32). This matter is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

For the reasons discussed below, Spring View's Motion to Bifurcate and Stay Discovery (Docket # 25) is DENIED.

Background

This matter arises from two alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by Defendant Dr. Samuel Kriegler, an employee of Spring View Urology, at Spring View's offices. Plaintiff Nicole Stumph alleges that she was the victim of unwanted sexual touching from Defendant Kriegler during her patient visits with Defendant Kriegler. (Docket #1-2 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kriegler "touched the private areas, buttocks, and breasts of the Plaintiff" during her patient visits on January 18, 2018 and January 24, 2018 and that "such touching was

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offensive and unwarranted." (Id.). Plaintiff brings claims against Defendant Spring View for negligent selection, retention, supervision, and training of Defendant Kriegler, resulting in Defendant Kriegler's actions while functioning as its agent/employee. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff brings claims of battery (Counts I & II), outrage (Count III), negligence (Count IV), and for punitive damages (Count V) against Defendant Kriegler. (Id.). On January 18, 2019, Defendant Kriegler removed the case from the Marion Circuit Court. (Docket # 1).

On October 1, 2019, Spring View filed a Motion to Bifurcate and Stay Discovery. Therein, Spring View argues that the Court should exercise its discretion to bifurcate Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Kriegler from what it calls "the secondary, dependent claims against Spring View Urology." (Docket # 25 at 1). Spring View further argues that the Kentucky Supreme Court's holding in Lake Cumberland Reg. Hosp., LLC v. Adams, 536 S.W.3d 683 (Ky. 2017) necessitates bifurcation of the claims against Dr. Kriegler from the claims against Spring View, via the exercise of the Court's discretion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b). Dr. Kriegler joins in this Motion. (Docket # 30).

Plaintiff responds that bifurcation would not promote judicial economy and would instead risk inconsistent proceedings and verdicts. (Docket # 27). Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the evidence against both Defendants is "certain to be largely overlapping and intertwined" and that bifurcation would only serve to allow Spring View "a preview of most of Plaintiff's case." (Id. at 3). Plaintiff further argues that Spring View has not met its burden to show the necessity of bifurcation and that the Motion is untimely. (Id. at 2).

Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b), the Court may bifurcate a trial "for convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize." Fed.R.Civ.P.42(b); Wilson v.

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Morgan, 477 F.3d 326, 339 (6th Cir. 2007) citing Yung v. Raymark Indus., Inc., 789 F.2d 397, 400 (6th Cir. 1986). The court must consider several facts, including "the potential prejudice to the parties, the possible confusion of the jurors, and the resulting convenience and economy" in determining whether to bifurcate. Martin v. Heideman, 106 F.3d 106 F.3d 1308, 1311 (6th Cir. 1997). "The language of Rule 42(b) places the decision to bifurcate within the discretion" of this Court. Saxion v. Titan-C-Mfg., Inc., 86 F.3d 553, 556 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing Davis v. Freels, 583 F.2d 337, 339 (7th Cir. 1978).

This Court is vested with the "inherent authority to manage" its docket and affairs "with a view toward the efficient and expedient resolution of cases." Dippin' Dots, LLC v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am., 322 F.R.D. 271, 273 (W.D. Ky. 2017) (quoting Dietz v. Bouldin, 136 S.Ct. 1885, 1892 (2016) (collecting cases)). "[T]he power to stay proceedings" is part of that authority. Gray v. Bush, 628 F.3d 779, 785 (6th Cir. 2010) (alteration in original) (quoting Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). In exercising its judgment, this Court must "weight competing interests and maintain an even balance." Landis, 299 U.S. at 255 (citing Kan. City S. Ry. Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 760, 763 (1931); Enelow v. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 293 U.S. 379, 382 (1935).

"Bifurcation may be appropriate where the evidence offered on two different issues will be wholly distinct, or where litigation of one issue may obviate the need to try another issue." Athridge v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 604 F.3d 625, 635 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting Vichare v. AMBAC Inc., 106 F.3d 457, 466 (2nd Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he question of bifurcation centers on whether resolution of a single claim would be dispositive for the entire case." Brantley v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., No. 1:11-cv-54-R, 2011 WL 6012554, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Dec. 1, 2011) (citing Smith v. Allstate Ins. Co., 403 F.3d 401, 407 (6th...

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