In a recent decision by the Second Department of the New York Appellate Division, the court unanimously ruled against the presumption that personal injury trials should be bifurcated. This is a reversal from prior precedent, which stated that personal injury trials should be bifurcated, which means splitting up the case into two parts: the liability phase, and the damages phase. However, this does bring it more in line with other Departments around the state, which have been moving away from the presumption of a bifurcated trial for some time.
The case, Castro v. Malia Realty, involves a worker on a construction site in New York City, who was injured after the scaffolding he was standing on “collapsed, slipped, or otherwise failed to support him.” The defendants argued for a bifurcated trial, under the argument that a unified trial, where a single jury would hear about both the liability and the damages, would be prejudicial, and that there was a previous presumption of a bifurcated trial in personal injury cases. However, the plaintiffs argued that there was crucial evidence about the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries that might get excluded from one side of the trial if it were bifurcated.
After hearing the arguments, the Second Department ruled in favor of a unified trial, rebutting the notion that a bifurcated trial should be presumed in a personal injury case. This could have serious potential consequences on personal injury cases throughout the Second Department’s jurisdiction, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Staten Island, and several Upstate New York counties. For one, it is true that juries might be impacted by hearing evidence related to both liability and damages, rather than hearing them independently. It could also affect how many cases go to trial in the first place, with defendants more willing to settle rather than face a unified trial. It is important to be able to identify the circumstances where a unified trial is necessary so that the appropriate applications can be made to the trial court.
The Brooklyn personal injury attorneys at Georgaklis & Mallas, PLLC are experienced in representing clients who have been seriously injured, and the surviving family members of those who have been fatally injured, as a result of a construction accident. The firm’s accomplished personal injury lawyers strive to secure full and appropriate compensation for their clients’ injuries. With two law offices conveniently located in New York City, our New York personal injury lawyers are available to represent clients in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Queens. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact our Brooklyn personal injury attorneys at (718) 238-2400 or fill out our contact form.