Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dauphin County Court Reconsiders and Grants Post-Koken Severance Request after a Mistrial at First Consolidated Trial

In a recent Order without Opinion in the Post-Koken case of Oaks v. Erie Insurance Exchange and Austin, No. 2012 - CV - 3741 - CV (C.P. Dauphin Co. May 8, 2015 Bratton, J.) handed down after a mistrial in a matter, Judge Bruce F. Bratton of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas granted the tortfeasor Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of the court's prior denial of the tortfeasor's Motion to Sever the negligence claims asserted against him by the Plaintiff from the Plaintiff's UIM claims against the carrier.

According to information received on this case, the case proceeded through the pleadings and discovery phases in a consolidated fashion.  A motion to sever the cases was originally filed shortly before the first trial and was denied.  During jury deliberations after the first trial, the jury submitted a number of written questions that suggest that the jury was aware that the tortfeasor had insurance coverage and that the jury was focusing on matters that were asserted to be prejudicial to the Defendants.  As such, Judge Bratton granted a motion for a mistrial.  The Motion for Reconsideration which is the subject of this Oaks decision was filed after the mistrial.

 This Motion for Reconsideration was granted and in that Order the court held that the negligence claims asserted by the Plaintiff against the Defendant would be severed, for the purposes of the retrial of this matter, from the UIM claims against the carrier Defendant.

In other words, the retrial of this matter was held to proceed in a bifurcated fashion with one trial on the negligence claim against the tortfeasor, and a separate trial on the UIM claim against the carrier.

Unfortunately no rationale or reasoning behind this decision in contained in the court's Order.

Anyone wishing to review this decision, may click HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney John A. Statler of the Lemoyne, PA law office of Johnson, Duffie, Stewart & Weidner for providing me with a copy of this decision.


A review of the Post-Koken Scorecard on confirms that there is a split of authority within the trial court decisions out of Dauphin County on the issue of consolidation versus severance of Post-Koken cases from the pleadings and discovery phases of a case.

This more recent Oaks v. Erie Ins. Exchange case summarized above confirms that at least one Dauphin County Judge has ruled that a Post-Koken case should be bifurcated into two separate trials, i.e. one trial on the negligence claims against the tortfeasor Defendant, and a separate trial on the UIM claim against the carrier.

The Post-Koken Scorecard on confirms that, to date, there is a split of authority amongst the trial courts on whether or not to bifurcate a Post-Koken case for trial. 

The only appellate case, to date, to comment on this bifurcation of trial issue is the Stepanovich v. McGraw and State Farm case, the Tort Talk blog post on which can be viewed HERE.  My Pennsylvania Law Weekly article reviewing that Stepanovich case can be viewed at this LINK.

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