Orange County Water District v. Alcoa Global Fasteners, Inc.

Trial court did not violate the parties’ right to a jury trial when it bifurcated a trial in a case involving mixed legal and equitable claims, trying the equitable claims first—after which it ruled plaintiff had not proven causation, thus precluding legal as well as equitable claims.  This decision upholds a trial court’s decision to bifurcate trial in a case involving mixed legal and equitable claims, and try the equitable claims first—after which it ruled plaintiff had not proven causation thus precluding legal as well as equitable claims.  California has traditionally allowed and recommended trial of equitable issues first.  The amendment change CCP 1048 to mimic Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42 regarding bifurcation did not overturn this traditional practice.  The section says that bifurcation must preserve the parties’ right to a jury trial but does not specify what that right is.  In federal court, the Seventh Amendment has been interpreted to require trial of legal issues first, but that constitutional provision does not apply to state courts, and CCP 1048 did not make it applicable.

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1 (Haller, J.); June 1, 2017; 2017 WL 2376596

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