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McCaffery v. McCaffery

United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

April 21, 2015

REGINA MCCAFFERY, Plaintiff,
v.
MARC MCCAFFERY, Defendant.

Greenberg Traurig PA Attorneys for Plaintiff BY: Christopher Torres, Esq. David Barnett Weinstein, Esq. John A. Wirthlin, Esq.

Chalos & Co., P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiff BY: George M. Chalos, Esq.

Eaton & Van Winkle LLP Attorneys for Defendant BY: Robert N. Swetnick, Esq.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Denis R. Hurley United States District Judge

Regina McCaffery (“plaintiff”) and Marc McCaffery (“defendant”) are adult siblings who purchased a condominium at 27-1 Mitchell Road, Westhampton Beach, New York (“the property”) in which their mother Barbara McCaffery (“Barbara”) currently resides. Plaintiff commenced this diversity action against defendant seeking partition, sale, and purchase of the property. In the alternative, plaintiff asserts a cause of action for unjust enrichment and seeks dissolution of an at-will partnership formed between her and defendant pursuant to N.Y. Gen. Partnership Law §§ 10-11. On March 21, 2014, the Court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on its claims. Presently before the Court is defendant’s motion to bifurcate the trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b). For the reasons set forth below, defendant’s motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with the facts as contained in its Order of March 21, 2014.

DISCUSSION

I. Bifurcation Standard

Bifurcation is governed by Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which provides as follows:

For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims. When ordering a separate trial, the court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial.

“[W]hether to bifurcate a trial . . . is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Getty Petroleum Corp. v. Island Transp. Corp., 862 F.2d 10, 15 (2d Cir. 1988). “To determine whether bifurcation is warranted, courts generally consider the following three factors: ‘1) whether significant resources would be saved by bifurcation, 2) whether bifurcation will increase juror comprehension, and 3) whether bifurcation will lead to repeat presentations of the same evidence and witnesses.’ ” WeddingChannel.Com Inc. v. The Knot, Inc., 2004 WL 2984305, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec 23, 2004) (quoting Gaus v. Conair Corp., 2000 WL 1277365, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2000)). “[T]he moving party bears the burden of establishing that bifurcation is warranted.” Id. Generally, bifurcation “is the exception, not the rule.” Id.

II. Whether Bifurcation is Warranted

As discussed in the Court’s Summary Judgment Order, plaintiff and defendant are tenants in common of the property, and normally tenants in common share the proceeds of a partition sale in direct proportion to their ownership interest, which for each is one half. Plaintiff, however, claims that she is entitled to more than one half of the sale proceeds as reimbursement from the defendant for payments she made on behalf of Barbara in excess of her one-half legal interest. Defendant responds that no such adjustment is warranted because he and plaintiff verbally agreed that his cash contribution to the property would be limited to a $10, 275 ...


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