United States District Court, D. Idaho
MICHELE KECK, an individual, and JEFF KECK, an individual, and their marital community, Plaintiffs,
METROPOLITAN GROUP PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, a Rhode Island Company, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. Nye Judge
pending before the Court is Defendant Metropolitan Group
Property and Casualty Insurance Company's
(“Met”) Motion to Bifurcate Claims and Stay
Discovery on Non-Coverage Claims. Dkt. 8. Having reviewed the
record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal
arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the
interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court
finds that the decisional process would not be significantly
aided by oral argument, the Court will address the motion
without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R.
7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons outlined below, the Court
finds good cause to DENY the motion.
4, 2014, Plaintiff Michele Keck was in an automobile
accident. She contends that this accident led to
“healthcare and related expenses; pain and suffering,
mental distress; emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of
life; and, other general and special damages.” Dkt. 6,
at 3-4. Her husband, Plaintiff Jeff Keck, claims that, as a
result of the injuries suffered by his wife, he has incurred
economic and non-economic damages, including loss of
consortium. Id. at 4.
time of the accident, Plaintiffs carried an automobile
insurance policy (“the Policy”) through Defendant
that included bodily injury liability insurance (with
coverage in the amount of $250, 000) for an
“underinsured motor vehicle” (“UIM”).
The Policy defines UIM as an insured vehicle with a
“bodily injury liability bond or insurance policy in
effect at the time of the accident, in at least the minimum
amount required by the state in which the covered automobile
is principally garaged, but less than the limits of this
coverage provided by [Met's] policy.” Id.
sued the at-fault driver, Melanie Nelson
(“Nelson”), who had a $100, 000 insurance policy
through State Farm. After prolonged litigation, the
Plaintiffs agreed to a settlement with Nelson in December
2017, for $65, 000. Shortly thereafter, on February 13, 2018,
Plaintiffs sent Defendant a demand for UIM coverage. On April
20, 2018, Defendant denied Plaintiffs' demand for UIM
coverage, explaining that “there is no underinsured
motorist claim found in this case.” Id. at 6.
According to Met, “Plaintiffs were sufficiently
compensated under the tortfeasor's $100, 000.00
policy.” Dkt. 8-1, at 3.
then filed the instant case, which includes four causes of
action. “The first cause of action is for Met's
alleged breach of the UIM insurance contract and duties owed
thereunder. Plaintiffs' second, third, and fourth causes
of action are extra- contractual tort claims for insurance
bad faith, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
negligent infliction of emotion distress.” Id.
November 26, 2018, Defendant filed the instant motion, which
seeks two orders: First, an order bifurcating Plaintiffs'
breach of contract claim for UIM benefits from
Plaintiffs' extra-contractual claims for insurance bad
faith, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
negligent infliction of emotional distress; and second, an
order staying discovery related to Plaintiffs'
extra-contractual claims until the coverage claim has been
standard course of litigation is for all claims and issues in
a civil action to be presented for resolution in one trial.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b), however, allows
district courts to bifurcate a trial for any one of the
following reasons: (1) “convenience, ” (2)
“to avoid prejudice, ” or (3) “to expedite
and economize.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). The Rule
“confers broad discretion upon the district court to
bifurcate a trial, thereby deferring costly and possibly
unnecessary proceedings pending resolution of potentially
dispositive preliminary issues.” Zivkovic v.
Southern Cal. Edison Co., 302 F.3d 1080, 1088 (9th Cir.
2002); Hangarter v. Provident Life and Acc. Ins.
Co., 373 F.3d 998, 1021 (9th Cir. 2004). However, absent
some experience demonstrating the worth of bifurcation,
“separation of issues for trial is not to be routinely
ordered.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b) (advisory committee notes
to the 1966 amendment).
argues that bifurcation is proper in this case for three
primary reasons: (1) avoidance of confusion and prejudice;
(2) the promotion of judicial economy; and (3) the fair
balancing of interests. The Court will consider each argument