United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO BIFURCATE AND TO STAY
DISCOVERY Re: Dkt. No. 24
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendants City and County of San
Francisco (“San Francisco”), and Sergeant Sean
Perdomo, Officer Michael Graham, Officer David Sands, Officer
Brandon Rock, Officer Garth Sutton, Officer Jarron Cross, and
Officer Jeffrey Camilosa's (the “Officers”)
(collectively, “Defendants”) motion to bifurcate
Plaintiff Jacobia Perkins' (“Plaintiff”)
trial of his § 1983 claims against San Francisco, and to
stay discovery related to those claims. Dkt. No. 24.
Plaintiff has opposed, Dkt. No. 26, and Defendants have
replied, Dkt. No. 27. Having read the parties' papers and
carefully considered their arguments, the Court finds the
matter appropriate for decision without oral argument,
see Civil L.R. 7-1(b), and GRANTS the motion for the
reasons stated below.
November 26, 2014, Defendant Perdomo allegedly received a tip
from an informant that someone was selling methamphetamine at
the back of the Burger King located at the intersection of
16th and Mission Streets in San Francisco.” Dkt. No. 1
¶ 14. The informant did not offer a physical description
of the individual, though Plaintiff was sitting in the Burger
King around the same time. Id. When Perdomo, Graham,
and Sands arrived at the Burger King, they approached
Plaintiff, and Perdomo “allegedly lifted up his
shirt” “without saying a word.”
Id. ¶ 15. As Plaintiff began to stand up,
Perdomo slammed Plaintiff onto a table before tackling him to
the ground. Id. Graham then grabbed Plaintiff's
hand, and the three Officers placed Plaintiff in handcuffs.
Id. As this was happening, Plaintiff began screaming
and repeatedly telling the Officers “that he wanted to
kill himself.” Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff
alleges that despite these “clear signs that he was
experiencing a mental health emergency . . . [the officers]
continued to handle him without any regard for his physical
or mental well-being.” Id.
Rock and Sutton then arrived on the scene and carried
Plaintiff to their patrol car. Id. ¶ 17.
Plaintiff allegedly began slamming his head against the car
as the Officers watched, before placing Plaintiff in a spit
mask that covered his entire head. Id. Rock and
Sutton then transported Plaintiff to the Mission Police
Station. Id. Plaintiff alleges that during the ride,
Rock and Sutton did nothing as Plaintiff repeatedly slammed
his head against the metal gate in the patrol car, causing
his head to bleed “profusely.” Id.
Plaintiff alleges that “[t]he Defendant officers on the
scene and at the station failed to provide Plaintiff with
adequate medical attention.” Id. ¶ 18. At
the station, Plaintiff alleges that Cross and Camilosa
“violently” removed Plaintiff from the patrol car
and pinned him against it, before putting Plaintiff into a
police wagon that transported Plaintiff to San Francisco
General Hospital for treatment. Id.
contends that Perdomo “wrongfully assumed that
Plaintiff was a drug dealer, ” “did not act  in
lawful performance of his duties when he detained and
arrested him, ” and that as a result of the incident,
“Plaintiff suffered from an unlawful arrest . . . [and]
gashes to his head and bruises all over his body.”
Id. ¶¶ 20, 22, 23. Plaintiff further
contends that “[t]he actions and omissions of
[Defendants] w[ere] objectively unreasonable under the
circumstances, without legal justification or other legal
right, done under color of law, within the course and scope
of their employment as law enforcement officers and/or public
officials, and pursuant to unconstitutional customs, policies
and procedures . . . .” Id. ¶ 25.
Finally, Plaintiff contends that San Francisco “was
also responsible for Plaintiff's injuries through its own
acts and omissions, negligent and otherwise, by failing to
properly and adequately investigate, train, supervise,
monitor, instruct, and discipline its law enforcement
officers and/or employees and agents . . . .”
filed this action on November 25, 2016. Dkt. No. 1. The
complaint asserts § 1983 claims against various Officers
for unlawful detention, unlawful seizure, excessive force,
and denial of medical care, a § 1983 municipal liability
claim against San Francisco for ratifying and/or tacitly
authorizing unconstitutional customs and practices by the
Officers, and a 42 U.S.C. § 12132 Americans with
Disabilities Act claim against all Defendants for San
Francisco's alleged failure to train officers in
recognizing the symptoms of disability, exclusion of
Plaintiff from participation in or denial of benefits of
services provided by San Francisco, or otherwise
discriminating against Plaintiff. Id. Defendants
filed the instant motion to bifurcate and to stay discovery
and disclosures on March 1, 2017. Dkt. No. 24.
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) provides that: “For
convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and
economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or
more separate issues, [or] claims[.]” Rule 42(b)
confers “broad authority, ” Danjaq LLC v.
Sony Corp., 263 F.3d 942, 961 (9th Cir. 2001), and
“giv[es] the district court virtually unlimited freedom
to try the issues in whatever way trial convenience
requires.” Charles A. Wright, et al., 9A Fed.
Prac. & Proc. (Trials) § 2387 (3d ed. rev. 2015).
The Ninth Circuit has held that implicit in the power of
courts to bifurcate trial under Rule 42(b) is the
“power to limit discovery to the segregated
issues” because “[o]ne of the purposes of Rule
42(b) is to permit deferral of costly and possibly
unnecessary discovery pending resolution of potentially
dispositive preliminary issues.” Ellingson Timber
Co. v. Great N. Ry. Co., 424 F.2d 497, 499 (9th Cir.
1970) (per curiam); accord Craigslist Inc. v. 3Taps,
Inc., 942 F.Supp.2d 962, 982 (N.D. Cal. 2013). When a
party moves to stay only discovery and not the entire
proceeding, the “good cause” standard of the
protective order provision of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(c) controls. Gray v. First Winthrop Corp., 133
F.R.D. 39, 40 (N.D. Cal. 1990); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 26(c) (“The court may, for good cause, issue an
order to protect a party . . . forbidding inquiry into
certain matters, or limiting the scope of disclosure or
discovery to certain matters[.]”). “A party
seeking a stay of discovery carries the heavy burden of
making a ‘strong showing' why discovery should be
denied.” Id. (quoting Blankenship v.
Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975)).
its discretion under Rule 42(b), the Court finds that it is
appropriate to bifurcate trial of the individual claims and
the Monell municipal liability claim in this case.
Bifurcation will preserve substantial judicial and party
resources in the event the Officers are not found
individually liable. For the same reason, under Rule 26(c),
the Court also stays any and all discovery that pertains
exclusively to that derivative liability claim.
other courts in this district have held under similar
circumstances, “bifurcation is conducive to expedition
and economy because a finding that the individual officers
did not deprive [the plaintiff] of his constitutional or
statutory rights . . . is dispositive of plaintiffs'
claims against the City[.]” Boyd v. City and Cnty.
of San Francisco, No. C-0405459, 2006 WL 6800556, at *2
(N.D. Cal. Mar. 14, 2006). This is because “neither
Monell . . . nor any other of [the Supreme
Court's] cases authorizes the award of damages against a
municipal corporation based on the actions of one of its
officers when in fact the jury has concluded that the officer
inflicted no constitutional harm.” City of Los
Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986); see
also Fairley v. Luman, 281 F.3d 913, 916 (9th Cir. 2002)
(“Exoneration of [the individual officer] of the charge
of excessive force precludes municipal liability for the
alleged unconstitutional use of such force.”);
Scott v. Henrich, 39 F.3d 912, 916 (9th Cir. 1994)
(holding, where individual officers were entitled to judgment