because such evidence was relevant to prove defendant's motive).
Evidence that an employment discrimination defendant discharged
protected employees prior to discharging plaintiff "may reveal patterns of
discrimination against a group of employees, increasing the likelihood
that an employer's offered explanation for an employment decision
regarding a particular individual masks a discriminatory motive" Id., 895
F.2d at 84. Here, the RIF evidence is relevant to the issue of pretext
and is admissible under Rule 404(b) to prove defendant's motive.
Third, the RIF evidence is admissible to prove defendant's knowledge of
plaintiff's disabilities. Evidence of the circumstances surrounding the
adverse employment actions taken with regard to other employees are
admissible to prove defendant's knowledge of plaintiff's disability. See
Finley v. Cowles Bus. Media, 1994 WL 665019, *2 (S.D.N.Y. 1994) (holding
that evidence of the way human resources handled demotion of
another employee was relevant to "rebut defendant's denial that
top management was aware of plaintiff's heart condition"). Here,
the primary decisionmaker responsible for plaintiff's
termination, defendant's CEO at the time of plaintiff's
discharge, testified that he was not aware of plaintiff's
disabilities at the time of plaintiff's discharge. See
Deposition of Mell Vaughan, Oct. 10, 1997. Plaintiff alleges that it is
defendant's practice to consider an employee's age and disability status
when it determines whether to terminate that employee, and plaintiff
plans to prove this practice with evidence that defendant compiled such
data as part of the RIF. See Plaintiff's Memo at 13-15. The RIF evidence
is relevant to prove defendant's knowledge of plaintiff's disability and
is therefore admissible under Rule 404(b).
The defendant argues that even if this evidence is relevant, it should
be excluded because admitting the evidence would result in a "trial
within a trial" to determine whether the RIF terminations were
discriminatory. See Defendant's Reply Memorandum of Law in Support of
Motion, at 6. Although this may be true, such a determination will not
result in a significant increase in the time required at trial because
the persons who were involved in the RIF decision-making process are the
same persons who were involved in the decision to terminate plaintiff.
Therefore, no new witnesses will be added to provide the RIF evidence.
Lastly, the probative value of the RIF evidence to establish
defendant's intent, motive, and knowledge outweighs any prejudice under
Rule 403. Again, the Court invites defendant to prepare a proposed
limiting instruction to the jury with respect to the admissibility of
this evidence for consideration by plaintiff and the Court.
Defendant moves that the Court bifurcate the trial into liability and
damage phases. See Motion at 1. Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure gives the Court the power to order separate trials, "in
furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials
will be conducive to expedition and economy," provided that the Seventh
Amendment's grant of the right of trial by jury is held inviolate. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 42(b). Within the confines of Rule 42(b), however, the Court
has "broad discretion" over the question of whether to order that issues
in a single case be tried separately. See Smith v. Lightning Bolt
Prods., Inc., 861 F.2d 363, 370 (2d Cir. 1988); In Re Master Key
Antitrust Litigation, 528 F.2d 5, 14 (2d Cir. 1975). The principal
purpose of the rule is to "enable the trial judge to dispose of a case in
a way that both advances judicial efficiency and is fair to the parties,"
while furthering convenience, avoiding delay and prejudice, and serving
the ends of justice. See In Re Bendectin Litigation, 857 F.2d 290, 307
(6th Cir. 1988).
Defendant first argues that the Court should bifurcate the trial to
jury confusion. Defendant argues that differences in federal and
state employment discrimination statutes, which allow for different
remedies, will confuse the jury if the jury is confronted with testimony
relating to the issue of damages during the liability phase of the
trial. See Defendant's Memo at 6. However, the jury will not be informed
of the relevant legal standards until the Court provides the jury
charge. Furthermore, because the Court will exclude any evidence
regarding plaintiff's medical condition other than that to which the
parties stipulated, the jury will not be confronted with any
scientifically complex testimony. Where large amounts of the court's and
parties' time may be potentially expended on establishing a legal issue
that could later turn out to be unnecessary, and when bifurcation is
likely to result in "considerable simplification of the issues," separate
trials become favorable. See Akzona Inc. v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours &
Co., 607 F. Supp. 227, 235 (D. Del. 1984) (Bifurcation appropriate in
"enormously complex" foreign patent dispute involving antitrust and
unfair competition claims and scientifically complicated concepts). The
defendant has not convinced the Court that this trial has the potential
to be enormously complex, particularly given the absence of any medical,
scientific, or psychological testimony.
Second, defendant argues that the introduction of medical evidence will
prejudice the jury. See Defendant's Memo at 7. As the Court will exclude
any evidence regarding the plaintiff's medical condition other than that
to which the parties stipulated, this argument is of no moment.
Third, defendant argues that testimony regarding plaintiff's emotional
distress will prejudice the jury in its determination of liability.
Testimony regarding extreme emotional distress may prejudice the jury in
its determination of liability. See Zofcin v. Dean, 144 F.R.D. 203, 205
(S.D.N.Y. 1992) (emotional distress testimony prejudicial where
plaintiff's testimony included "detailed evidence of extreme pain and
suffering, including burning flesh and screams of pain"). However, there
is no potential for such extreme testimony in this case. Plaintiff will
offer no expert testimony on the issue of emotional distress, and
plaintiff himself is the only witness scheduled to testify regarding
plaintiff's emotional distress. See Plaintiff's Memo at 23. Therefore, not
only will plaintiff's testimony regarding emotional distress not
prejudice the jury, but bifurcation could have an adverse effect on
judicial economy, as it would unnecessarily require plaintiff to testify
on two separate occasions.
For the reasons stated above, defendant's request that the Court bar
the introduction of evidence regarding plaintiff's medical condition
other than that to which the parties stipulated is GRANTED; defendant's
request that the Court bar the introduction of Moross' comment discussed
above is DENIED; defendant's request that the Court bar the introduction
of evidence regarding the defendant's 1996 RIF is DENIED; and defendant's
request that the trial be bifurcated is DENIED.