(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this brain injury case and its proceedings.)
Ends of Justice/Prejudice
Defendants speculate that a single trial may confuse the liability issues or result in prejudice in that a jury might look past liability. However, defendants cite no empirical evidence suggesting that trying liability and damages in a single trial would cause any prejudice to defendants. Certainly the fact that Mr. Santoro suffered a severe injury is no reason to bifurcate. Serious injury cases are tried in the courts of Sacramento County and other counties routinely without bifurcation and with no evidence of prejudice to defendants.
Jurors are routinely instructed they must find liability before considering damages and they appear to do so with little problem. Defendants offer speculation, but no evidence to the contrary. Further, as discussed above, the jury in this case would be aware of the seriousness of the injury in the liability phase in any event. The issue will be discussed in voir dire, as will many issues relating to Mr. Santoro’ injury and damages, for there is only one opportunity to voir dire the jury before it is empaneled. See Bly-Magee v. Budget Rent-A-Car 24 Cal.App.4th 318, 332-344 (1994).
Further, the fact that Mr. Santoro suffered a fractured skull, a severe brain injury and was in a coma for weeks, etc. will be admissible on the amount of force used, to show that the amount of force used was unreasonable and excessive. Similarly, Mr. Santoro’s injury must be discussed to some extent by medical professionals to explain to the jury why Mr. Santoro’s memory loss is so extensive and, importantly, that his inability to recall any part of this incident is real and not feigned.
In short, the jury will know that Mr. Santoro suffered a severe, debilitating head and brain injury whether or not the trial is bifurcated. No prejudice will result to defendants. Jurors are fully capable of following the law and making a fair liability determination before considering the extent of Mr. Santoro’s damages. Jurors do this on a regular basis in severe injury cases. Nothing suggests they could not do so here.
For this reason as well defendants’ motion should be denied. (See Part 8 of 9.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.