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Keck v. Metropolitan Group Property And Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 30, 2019

MICHELE KECK, an individual, and JEFF KECK, an individual, and their marital community, Plaintiffs,
v.
METROPOLITAN GROUP PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, a Rhode Island Company, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Currently 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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On June 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.

         At the 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. at 5.

         Plaintiffs 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.

         Plaintiffs 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.

         On 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 resolved.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         The 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).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Met 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 in turn.

         1. ...


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