United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge
Wheeler filed this action against the Commonwealth of
Virginia, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage
Control, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
(collectively, the "ABC"), and David Chrisley. In
her amended complaint, Wheeler asserts claims of gender
discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the ABC,
and related claims of assault and battery against Chrisley.
The case is presently before the court on Chrisley's
motion to bifurcate the assault and battery claims for trial.
The court held a hearing on the motion via teleconference on
April 23, 2018. For the reasons that follow, the motion will
motion is governed by Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, which permits the court to order a separate
trial on one or more separate issues "[f]or convenience,
to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). Under this rule, "the granting of
separate trials is within the sound discretion of the trial
judge." Bowie v. Sorrell, 209 F.2d 49, 51 (4th
Cir. 1953). "The party requesting separate trials bears
the burden of convincing the court that such an exercise of
its discretion will (1) promote greater convenience to the
parties, witnesses, jurors, and the court, (2) be conducive
to expedition and economy, and (3) not result in undue
prejudice to any party." F&G Scrolling Mouse.
LLC v. IBM Corp., 190 F.R.D. 385, 387 (M.D. N.C. 1999).
support of his bifurcation request, Chrisley primarily argues
that he will suffer prejudice if the assault and battery
claims against him are tried at the same time as the Title
VII claims against the ABC. Chrisley seeks to prevent the
jury from hearing evidence that Wheeler will likely offer
against the ABC in support of her sexual harassment claim,
including evidence that Chrisley engaged in inappropriate
sexual conduct while working with Wheeler in 2014. Chrisley
contends that the alleged misconduct in 2014 falls outside
the limitations period applicable to the assault and battery
claims, and that evidence regarding these earlier incidents
would likely be inadmissible in the case against him.
carefully considered the parties' arguments, the court is
unable to find that bifurcation is necessary to avoid
potential prejudice. Assuming, without deciding, that certain
evidence would not be admissible to support Wheeler's
claims of assault and battery, "the court can instruct
the jury that it may not consider the evidence in rendering a
verdict on.plaintiff s state law claims." Kidwelly.
Sheetz, Inc., No. 3:95CV00083.1997U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3183,
at *8 (W.D.Va. Mar. 13, 1997). The court has no reason to
believe that the jury will be unable or unwilling to follow
the court's instructions and consider the evidence only
for the limited purposes for which it is admitted.
Accordingly, the court is of the opinion that Chrisley's
concerns regarding potential prejudice can be addressed by
appropriate limiting instructions. See id.; see
also Dotson v. Joseph, No. 3:04CV10099, 200 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 58206, at *2-3 (W.D. Va. Aug. 18, 2006) ("[T]he
potential for prejudice arising from different claims, for
different injuries, entitling Plaintiff to different damages,
may be cured by appropriate jury instructions. Indeed, the
law presumes that juries will understand and follow
court is also unable to find that bifurcation is warranted on
the basis of convenience or judicial economy. This is not a
case in which the plaintiffs assault and battery claims are
unrelated to her federal claims or involve completely
different evidence. Cf Rezende v. Citigroup Global Mkts.,
Inc., No. 1:09CV09392, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45475, at
*23 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 27, 2011) (bifurcating assault and battery
claims in an action involving a dispute over the rightful
owner of certain funds and securities since the facts
relevant to the assault and battery claims were distinct from
those relevant to the claims of ownership). To the contrary,
the state tort claims against Whitley substantially overlap
with the sexual harassment claim against the ABC. Indeed, the
sexual harassment claim is based, at least in part, on the
same alleged misconduct by Chrisley. Thus, while bifurcation
would relieve Chrisley of some of the burdens and risks
associated with jointly defending the case with the ABC, it
would likely necessitate the presentation of duplicative
testimony and evidence. Accordingly, Chrisley has failed to
convince the court that severing the state and federal claims
would "promote greater convenience to the parties,
witnesses, jurors, and the court, " or "be
conducive to expedition and economy." Fed.R.Civ.P.
these reasons, Chrisley's motion to bifurcate the assault
and battery claims for trial will be denied. The Clerk is
directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion and the
accompanying order to all counsel of record.
 In her brief in opposition to the
pending motion, Wheeler indicates that other ABC employees
witnessed one or more of the incidents in the spring of 2016
on which her assault and battery claims are based. For the
reasons discussed during the hearing, the court will permit
Chrisley to propound an additional interrogatory requesting
the identity of any eyewitness to the alleged incidents at
 In accordance with the scheduling
order, issues of liability and damages will be bifurcated
unless all of the ...