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In a complex product liability case where medical causation is at issue, defendants may want to consider moving to bifurcate the trial so that medical causation issues are tried before any liability or damages issues. If the plaintiff fails to convince the jury that the product caused the alleged injury, the case will terminate. If the jury does find causation, the trial continues with the same jury and focuses on liability and damages issues.

Bifurcation often makes good sense. Because medical causation must be established before a jury can or should even consider liability and damages issues, the intertwining of liability evidence with causation evidence can confuse the jury and unfairly prejudice the defendant. Internal corporate documents taken out of context and paraded in front of a jury can make a corporate defendant look like a bad actor. Where the evidence of causation is weak or nonexistent, bifurcation is a very appealing strategy because it will prevent the plaintiffs from distracting jurors from this hole in their case by presenting liability and damages evidence instead. Also, if the plaintiffs’ causation case is weak, bifurcation promotes efficiency and judicial economy because the causation phase will be shorter than a non-bifurcated trial.

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