Skip to Main Content
Services Talent Knowledge
Site Search


Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

October 24, 2019

Second Department Allows for Unified Trials; Rules Bifurcation Not a Requirement

Prior to the adoption of the statewide Uniform Rules of the Trial Courts, personal injury trials held in the Second Department were presumed to be bifurcated on issues of liability and damages, with a unified trial only granted upon a showing of good cause. The 1986 Uniform Rules, however, state that a bifurcated trial is “encouraged” only “where it appears that bifurcation may assist in a clarification or simplification of issues and a fair more expeditious resolution of the action” (22 NYCRR 202.42(a)). Yet, for 33 years, Second Department trial courts relied upon the previous presumption in favor of bifurcation and interpreted Rule 202.42(a) to mean that issues of liability and damages should only be tried together in “exceptional circumstances” when issues of damages and liability were intertwined.

Recently, in Castro v. Malia Realty, LLC, the Appellate Division, Second Department reversed a post-trial judgment of dismissal due to the lower court’s denial of plaintiff Manuel Castro’s motion for a unified trial on the issues of liability and damages. Castro claimed he fell from a scaffold at a construction site, sustaining head, neck, and back injuries. The defendants disputed Castro’s account, alleging his injuries were the result of lifting wooden planks and not a fall from an elevated position, rendering Labor Law 240(1) inapplicable.

Castro moved for a unified trial on the grounds that medical evidence concerning his injuries was necessary to refute the defendants’ position that he did not fall from a scaffold. The Supreme Court denied Castro’s motion, holding that a bifurcated trial was “required under the [S]econd [D]epartment rules.” The liability phase of the trial ended with a verdict in the defendants’ favor, and judgment was entered dismissing the complaint.

On appeal, the Second Department reversed the lower court, set aside the judgment, and remanded the case for a unified trial, holding “the nature of the injuries had an important bearing on the issue of liability,” as the “[e]vidence relating to [the plaintiff’s] brain injuries … was probative in determining how the incident occurred.” Challenging decades of precedent and local practice, the Second Department noted the bench and bar’s widespread opinion “inflexibly” in favor of bifurcation was misplaced. Instead, the court made clear that “it is the responsibility of the trial judge to exercise discretion in determining whether bifurcation is appropriate in light of all relevant facts and circumstances presented by the individual cases.”

The decision is consistent with those of the other departments that the determination of whether to hold a unified or bifurcated trial requires consideration of the facts and circumstances of the particular case. It is not clear, however, whether the Second Department trial courts will adopt unified trials as the norm, as the other departments have done. The Castro decision is important for counsel and litigants to consider during the course of discovery and trial preparation.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Amanda Miller, associate, at or another member of the firm’s Torts & Products Liability Defense Practice Area.


Click here to sign up for alerts, blog posts, and firm news.

Featured Media


Second Department Joins Other Departments: NYS Child Victims Act Applies to Out-of-State Residents Who Resided in NYS at Time of Abuse


Website Accessibility Lawsuits: Several "Tester" Plaintiffs—Gladys Vasquez, Monique Reid, Raymond Forrest, Pedro Martinez, Linda Slade, and Felipe Fernandez—Targeting Businesses in Recent Flurry of Lawsuits


Website Accessibility Lawsuits: Several "Tester" Plaintiffs—Compres, Sanchez, Fontanez, Pajaro, Garcia, and Jaquez—Targeting Businesses in Recent Flurry of Lawsuits


Website Accessibility Lawsuits: Several "Tester" Plaintiffs—Competello, Fernandez, Liz, Riley, and Trippett—Targeting Businesses in Recent Flurry of Lawsuits


CDPAP Providers Get First Look at the Future of CDPAP Without FIs


New York State Fiscal Year 2025 Budget: Implications for Employers Unpacked

We're Growing in DC!

We’re excited to announce Barclay Damon’s combination with Washington DC–based Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram. SLS’s 10 lawyers, three paralegals, and four administrative staff will join Barclay Damon while maintaining their current office in DC’s central business district. Our clients will benefit from SLS’s corporate, real estate, finance, and construction litigation experience and national energy-industry profile, and their clients from our full range of services.

Read More

This site uses cookies to give you the best experience possible on our site and in some cases direct advertisements to you based upon your use of our site.

By clicking [I agree], you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For information on what cookies we use and how to manage our use of cookies, please visit our Privacy Statement.

I AgreeOpt-Out