WINTER, Chief Judge:
This appeal arises out of a class action for civil rights violations brought by prisoners after the riot in Attica prison in 1971. Karl Pfeil, a former Assistant Deputy Superintendent at Attica, appeals from judgments in favor of Frank Smith and David Brosig.
Plaintiffs instituted this class action twenty-five years ago against Pfeil and other New York State officials and corrections personnel, based on the various defendants'
The lynch-pin of the liability award was a verdict sheet that on its face did not require findings sufficient to support class-wide liability or even liability to particular, identifiable plaintiffs. Absent a valid finding of liability, the damage awards to Smith and Brosig must be reversed. Moreover, appellant's Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial was violated by allowing the damages phase juries to revisit many of the same issues as were considered by the liability jury. We therefore reverse both the liability and damages verdicts.
a) Underlying Events
This appeal arises out of events that followed the forceable retaking of Attica prison from riotous inmates in 1971. The case did not reach a final judgment, however, until 1997—fully twenty-three years after it was filed. We set forth the facts directly relevant to this appeal; more detailed accounts of the events following the Attica riot can be found in Al-Jundi v. Estate of Rockefeller, 885 F.2d 1060, 1062-64 (2d Cir. 1989), and Inmates of Attica Correctional Facility v. Rockefeller, 453 F.2d 12, 15-19 (2d Cir. 1971) [Inmates of Attica].
On September 9, 1971, more than 1200 inmates of Attica seized control of substantial portions of the facility and took numerous hostages. While part of the prison was retaken that same day, prisoners remained in control of an area known as the D Yard. They remained there for the next several days, as authorities and representatives of the inmates attempted to negotiate a restoration of state control. Negotiations failed, and then-Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller authorized then-Corrections Commissioner Russell G. Oswald to order the State Police forceably to retake the D Yard. The subsequent retaking resulted in the deaths of ten hostages and twenty-nine prisoners.
There is very substantial evidence that, following the retaking, some, and perhaps most or even all, of the D Yard inmates were the victims of brutal acts of retaliation by prison authorities. Among those who testified for the plaintiffs at trial were numerous non-inmate witnesses, including seven National Guard personnel who entered the prison shortly after the retaking.
The inmates in D Yard were forced to strip naked and lie down on the ground. Later, there were at least two gauntlets through which the naked and barefoot prisoners were forced to proceed, one at a time, across broken glass, while being beaten by baton-wielding corrections officers and subjected to threats and racial slurs. See Inmates of Attica, 453 F.2d at 16. Prisoners who were identified as having played a significant role in the riot were singled out for additional and more egregious punishment, including torture. See id. at 18-19. For example, Smith was forced to lie on a table while officers brutally beat and burned him. During this time, he was forced to hold a football against his throat with his chin and was told that he would be killed if it fell.
There was also evidence of numerous random acts of violence against prisoners. One prisoner, who had two fractured femurs, was being returned to the E housing
b) Pre-Trial Proceedings
Plaintiffs' complaint, filed on September 13, 1974, and amended on September 11, 1975, alleged widespread violations of the inmates' constitutional rights by numerous state officials before, during, and after the retaking and sought class-action certification. The defendants opposed certification and, on September 19, 1975, filed a motion to dismiss. More than four years later, on October 31, 1979, the district court dismissed certain claims and certain defendants. At the same time it certified a plaintiff class consisting of those prisoners who were in the D yard during the riot and the retaking of the prison.
The ensuing year was lost to turnover among class counsel, as a result of which the plaintiffs failed to commence discovery in a timely fashion. In November 1980, the district court determined that the named plaintiffs "are not adequate representatives for the [class]" and accordingly decertified the class and conditionally dismissed the action "unless plaintiffs shall have commenced discovery ... within 120 days of the entry of this [order]." Approximately three months later, plaintiffs' current counsel entered the case and filed comprehensive discovery requests, thereby avoiding dismissal of the action.
Discovery was litigious, but plaintiffs nevertheless completed their discovery in late 1984. Defendants, who had made no attempt at discovery, then filed a motion for discovery and inspection of documents. Ultimately, the parties stipulated to December 3, 1985, as the date for the completion of discovery and further agreed that any request for extension must be made by November 3, 1985. Nevertheless, defendants moved on December 2, 1985, for an indefinite stay of the proceedings so they might continue discovery. On April 21, 1986, the court granted defendants an additional 135 days to complete discovery.
In August 1987, the Estate of Nelson Rockefeller filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The court granted the Rockefeller motion in September 1988 and gave the remaining defendants until July 1989 to file their own motions. We affirmed the dismissal of the Rockefeller Estate on September 15, 1989. See Al-Jundi, 885 F.2d 1060. At this time, however, the remaining defendants still had not filed motions for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. On December 11, 1989, plaintiffs sought an immediate trial date. Defendants opposed this request and asked for additional time to file summary judgment motions. Shortly thereafter, the trial court scheduled the trial for June 5, 1990.
In March 1990, the remaining defendants filed motions for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court denied summary judgment, and an appeal followed. We affirmed the denial in part as to Oswald, Vincent Mancusi (former Superintendent of Attica), and Pfeil on February 27, 1991. See Al-Jundi v. Mancusi, 926 F.2d 235 (2d Cir. 1991). The Eighth Amendment claims that ultimately were permitted to go to trial were against Oswald, for failure to plan for medical needs in connection with the plan of retaking; against John Monahan, for his role in supervising the State Police officers who participated in the retaking; and against Oswald, Mancusi, and Pfeil, all for failure to prevent the acts of retaliation that took place subsequent to the prison retaking. Only the claim as against Pfeil is at issue on this appeal.
c) Liability Phase
Jury selection in the liability phase began on October 15, 1991.
Further evidence indicated that supervisory officials, including Pfeil, were aware of, but did nothing to correct, misconceptions among corrections officers regarding the treatment of hostages during the riot. Rumors were about that the ten hostages who died in the retaking were brutally tortured and killed by inmates. The reality was that all the hostages died as a result of "friendly fire" from the retaking force.
The jury's deliberations were structured by the court as follows. The jury had to determine whether "reprisals" had been committed after the Attica retaking. "Reprisals"—in this case a term of art—were defined as "any act of retaliation" undertaken by officers or officials that met the standards for Eighth Amendment liability as cruel and unusual punishment. If the jury found that "reprisals" had occurred, it then had to determine whether any of the defendants caused "such reprisals." Of course, if no "reprisals" occurred, there could be no liability for causing them.
The district court instructed the jury that the standard for determining Eighth Amendment liability is wantonness, but "[t]he state of mind that satisfies the requirement that the physical abuse be wantonly inflicted is not fixed. What constitutes a wanton state of mind must be determined in light of the circumstances surrounding the infliction of abuse." It continued:
Thus, the court instructed the jury to determine whether the circumstances alleged were riotous, were not riotous, or were somewhere in between, and then to apply either a sadistic and malicious standard, a deliberate indifference standard, or some hybrid of the two.
The court explained to the jury that the case was a class action, meaning "[a]ny decision that you reach will apply to any of the members of the class as to whom cruel and unusual punishment has according to your finding been proximately inflicted upon them wantonly by any particular defendant." With respect to plaintiffs' claim against Pfeil et al. for "fail[ure] to prevent reprisals against the plaintiffs subsequent to the forcible retaking of the facility," the court instructed the jury that if it found "Mr. Pfeil inflicted cruel and unusual punishment upon some or all of the plaintiffs," it should "return a verdict in their favor against Mr. Pfeil."
As noted, the verdict sheet given to the jury plays a critical role in our decision. In pertinent part it read:
At the charge conference, Oswald's counsel objected to several matters in the verdict sheet. These included a claim that (A)'s description of the officers for whose behavior Oswald might be liable was overbroad because it encompassed persons not in the correctional system's chain of command, e.g., state troopers. He also objected to the use of the word "reasonably" in (B) as not accurately describing the applicable standard of Eighth Amendment liability. Finally, he objected to the "[p]laintiffs, or any of them" language in (A) and (B). This last objection was on the ground that the term "plaintiffs or any of them" was not sufficient to establish class-wide liability. Pfeil's counsel did not present additional objections but attempted to join in Oswald's objections.
On the excessive force claim, the jury found Pfeil liable, answering "yes" to questions (A) and (B).
d) Damages Phase
After the verdict was returned against Pfeil, settlement negotiations were undertaken, but they broke down in November 1992. In January 1993, the district court denied Pfeil's post-trial motions. Because liability was joint and several and damages would, in any event, be paid by the State, the court encouraged plaintiffs to focus on their claims against Pfeil in order to facilitate the fashioning of an appealable final judgment. However, despite the court's willingness to certify an appeal from the liability verdict, defense counsel opted to wait until final damage judgments were entered before appealing. See, e.g., Al-Jundi v. Oswald, No. 75-CV-0132E(M), 1996 WL 662866 at *2 n. 4 (W.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 1996) (Memorandum and Order).
Over the next two years, the court and the parties focused on the structuring of representative damage trials. Subclasses were considered and "typical" plaintiffs were selected. In August 1994, the court scheduled two damage trials, one to begin on October 31, 1994, and the other on November 14, 1994. Appellant's counsel refused to stipulate that Pfeil had been found liable to the class, contending that the "plaintiffs or any of them" language in the 1992 verdict sheet did not establish appellant's class-wide liability. The court, apparently unsure how to proceed, then postponed sua sponte the damage trials.
Smith was perhaps the most brutalized of all the plaintiffs and represented the high end of the range of damages an individual plaintiff could expect to be awarded at trial. Brosig, by contrast, was selected because his claims were typical of the majority of class-members who were neither singled out for extra retaliation nor especially injured. The two trials were conducted in May and June, 1997.
At the Smith damages trial, the court instructed the jury:
The court's jury instruction at the Brosig damages trial was similar to that quoted above, except that it also instructed the jury, at Pfeil's request, that Pfeil would not be liable "for some solitary and unrepeated act or omission by some renegade officer."
Appellant makes four principal arguments on appeal: (i) the court misstated the Eighth Amendment culpability standard in its jury instructions; (ii) the liability-jury's verdict did not establish class-wide liability; (iii) the bifurcated trials violated the Seventh Amendment by allowing the damages juries to reexamine issues decided by the liability jury; and (iv) the district court erred in certifying this case as a class action. Appellant also challenges the district court's evidentiary rulings and jury instructions in both damages
a) Eighth Amendment Liability Under Section 1983
Appellant contends that the district court erred in charging the jury that, under the Eighth Amendment, he might be held liable for conduct that amounted only to "deliberate indifference," rather than for conduct that was "sadistic and malicious."
The Eighth Amendment, which applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 666, 82 S.Ct. 1417, 8 L.Ed.2d 758 (1962), prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments." U.S. Const. Amend. VIII. "`[W]hen the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well being.'" Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32, 113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22 (1993) (quoting DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200, 109 S.Ct. 998, 103 L.Ed.2d 249 (1989)).
The appropriate test under the Eighth Amendment involves both subjective and objective elements. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298-99, 111 S.Ct. 2321, 115 L.Ed.2d 271 (1991); Davidson v. Flynn, 32 F.3d 27, 29 (2d Cir.1994). The subjective element is that the defendant must have had the necessary level of culpability, shown by actions characterized by "wantonness." Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298-99, 111 S.Ct. 2321 (citing Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (1986)). The objective element is that the injury actually inflicted must be sufficiently serious to warrant Eighth Amendment protection. See id. at 298, 111 S.Ct. 2321. With respect to the subjective element, the definition of "wantonness" varies according to the circumstances alleged. See Davidson, 32 F.3d at 30 n. 2. "Furthermore, the wantonness of conduct does not depend upon its effect on the prisoner, but rather `upon the constraints facing the official.'" Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303, 111 S.Ct. 2321 (emphasis in original)). As a general matter, it is sufficient to show that a prison official acted with "deliberate indifference" to prisoners' health or safety. See, e.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994) (prisoner-on-prisoner violence); Helling, 509 U.S. at 32-35, 113 S.Ct. 2475 (environmental tobacco smoke); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) (prisoners' serious medical needs). The deliberate indifference standard does not require a showing "that a prison official acted or failed to act believing that harm actually would befall an inmate; it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842, 114 S.Ct. 1970. Still, this standard requires that only the deliberate infliction of punishment, and not an ordinary lack of due care for prisoner interests or safety, lead to liability. Id. at 841, 114 S.Ct. 1970.
However, in excessive force cases, the "wantonness" inquiry turns on "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7, 112 S.Ct. 995, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992); see also
Hudson does not limit liability to that subset of cases where "malice" is present. Rather, Hudson simply makes clear that excessive force is defined as force not applied in a "good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." 503 U.S. at 7, 112 S.Ct. 995. Because decisions to use force are often made under great pressure and involve competing interests, the good-faith standard is appropriate. See id. at 6-7, 112 S.Ct. 995. The Court's use of the terms "maliciously and sadistically" is, therefore, only a characterization of all "bad faith" uses of force and not a limit on liability for uses of force that are otherwise in bad faith.
Indeed, the deliberate indifference test cannot be used in excessive force cases without altering the meaning of ordinary language. The use of force is always an affirmative act and never passive indifference. One does not normally describe someone as being actively indifferent, let alone actively deliberately so, and the use of the deliberate indifference test in excessive force cases would thus be quite odd. The deliberate indifference test is, by contrast, wholly appropriate in cases where the constitutional deprivation results from inaction in the face of depraved conditions.
The objective component of the Eighth Amendment test is also context specific, turning upon "`contemporary standards of decency.'" Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8, 112 S.Ct. 995 (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103, 97 S.Ct. 285). Because society does not expect or intend prison conditions to be comfortable, only extreme deprivations are sufficient to sustain a "conditions-of-confinement" claim. See id. at 9, 112 S.Ct. 995. By contrast, certain actions, including the malicious use of force to cause harm, constitute Eighth Amendment violations per se. See id. ("This is true whether or not significant injury is evident."). This result follows because "[w]hen prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency always are violated." Id.; see also Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130, 136, 25 L.Ed. 345 (1878) ("[P]unishments of torture . . . and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden.").
As noted, appellant contends that the district court erred in instructing the jury that he could be held liable under a deliberate indifference standard. He argues that Hudson requires the same subjective culpability standard be applied to persons whose liability is predicated on actions or inactions as supervisors as is applied to prison officials accused of actually using excessive force. We disagree.
Supervisors may be found liable under Section 1983 for their own actions, but also, in certain circumstances, for the actions of their subordinates. A supervisor may be found personally involved in a deprivation of rights in several ways:
Wright, 21 F.3d at 501 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see Spencer v. Doe, 139 F.3d 107, 112 (2d Cir.1998).
The liability of a supervisor under Section 1983 is thus analytically distinct from that of a subordinate who directly caused the unlawful condition or event. See Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146, 1249 (N.D.Cal.1995) (holding that supervisors may be liable for "conduct of a completely different nature: abdicating their duty to supervise and monitor the use of force and deliberately permitting a pattern of excessive force to develop and persist"). The sadistic and malicious standard articulated in Hudson makes little sense, therefore, in the context of supervisory liability under Section 1983 based on, inter alia, failing to remedy a known wrong or being "grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the unlawful condition or event." Wright, 21 F.3d at 501 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Al-Jundi, 926 F.2d at 240 ("There is no basis for applying the heightened Albers standard to these allegations."). Given the lack of respondeat superior liability under Section 1983, a supervisor's liability is not for the use of excessive force—here, "reprisals"—but for distinct acts or omissions that are a proximate cause of the use of that force.
b) Class-Wide Liability
As noted, the jury answered part (A) of the verdict sheet "yes," finding that some acts against one or more prisoners amounting to Eighth Amendment violations under Hudson—"reprisals"—had occurred. It also answered part (B) "yes," finding supervisory liability on Pfeil's part for "such reprisals." Appellant contends that the verdict sheet in the liability trial failed to establish class-wide liability, that is, liability to every member of the class.
This issue is, of course, a major bone of contention, both because of the very considerable confusion over it reflected in the record and because of the centrality of the issue to this appeal. It is not at all clear exactly what issues the district court intended to be established at the liability trial. The jury instructions reflect that confusion. The court told the jury that this was a class action and that the named plaintiffs represent "all of the inmates who were present in D yard of Attica on the morning of September 13, 1971." The court then told the jury that its "decision . . . will apply to any of the members of the class as to whom cruel and unusual punishment has according to your finding been proximately inflicted upon them wantonly by any particular defendant." The last-quoted statement suggests not that the jury was to render a verdict as to liability to every member of the class but that it is to make individual findings as to each inmate with regard to each defendant, as in a trial of individual actions consolidated under Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a).
Once attention turned to the damages trials, the confusion continued as the court equivocated as to what had actually been established in the liability trial. At one time the court seemed ready to allow Pfeil to contest liability as to every plaintiff in the damages phase, in effect acknowledging that the liability trial settled nothing. It then backtracked and opined that the liability trial had resulted in a verdict that was "prima facie . . . all-encompassing." However, Pfeil was to be allowed "to tender, but not necessarily to adduce, evidence that some particular hurt or deprivation from reprisals was so `out of-the-mainstream' . . . as to be beyond Pfeil's responsibility." And, at the Brosig damages trail, the court instructed the jury
These second-thoughts by the district court are unsettling to say the least. To reiterate, certification of the class was ostensibly intended to allow a class-wide trial of liability for the "reprisals" by officers after the Attica retaking. In theory, if liability was found, all that remained to be decided in the damages trials was the extent of injuries caused to individuals who had suffered "such reprisals."
The court, however, seems to have realized that, given the actual verdict in the liability trial, the issues remaining for the damages trials were not that simple. The court proposed—but never implemented—an exception to Pfeil's liability in the damages trials, allowing him "to tender but not necessarily to adduce" evidence that some injuries were so "out-of-the-mainstream" as to preclude Pfeil's liability, a proposal so enigmatic on this record as to defy analysis. Worse, the instruction to the Brosig jury not to hold Pfeil liable for "solitary and unrepeated act[s]" by a "renegade officer" cannot be reconciled with the instructions given to the liability-trial jury. It suffices to say here that Hudson does not exempt a bad faith act of force—e.g., a murder of a prisoner—because it is "solitary and unrepeated." Moreover, a superior officer can have supervisory liability for being deliberately indifferent to a subordinate's "renegade" murder. Nor should a jury hearing only the damages phase of a case be allowed to ignore injuries caused by acts by "renegade officers" that constitute "reprisals" if the prior jury has held that Pfeil was liable for "such reprisals."
Of course, the court's second-thoughts described above are not directly before us because Brosig got a judgment and has not cross-appealed. However, the court had good reason to second-guess the effect of the verdict that it seems originally to have believed would be class-wide.
The confusion described above was understandable because the liability jury was given a verdict sheet that could not establish the liability of any defendant to either the class or to any individual plaintiff.
The verdict sheet in the liability trial contained two sets of questions with respect to Pfeil's liability for "reprisals." One set addressed his liability for acts that occurred after the retaking but prior to the time the plaintiffs were recelled; the other addressed his liability for the time after the plaintiffs had been relocked in their cells. See supra Note 1. Part (A) of each set asked whether the jury found that "officers engaged in reprisals constituting cruel and unusual punishment against the plaintiffs or any of them by using unnecessary or excessive force." Part (B) of each set, to be answered only upon an affirmative answer to (A), instructed the jury to determine whether Pfeil had: (i) "personally engaged in . . . such reprisals"; or (ii) "directed or ordered . . . such reprisals"; or (iii) "knew [of] such reprisals" and did not do what he reasonably could have done to prevent them; or (iv) "was wantonly and deliberately indifferent to . . . such reprisals" and "did not do all that he reasonably could to stop or prevent [them]." Each of these disjunctive clauses was modified by the final clause "so that he should be held liable to the plaintiffs or any of them for any injury or other harm proximately resulting from such reprisals."
This verdict sheet simply does not suffice to establish Pfeil's liability to the entire class or even to particular plaintiffs who suffered injury from a "reprisal." By its express terms, the jury was allowed to
Moreover, part (A) of the verdict sheet did not ask the jury to specify which acts of excessive force toward which prisoners were "reprisals." A "yes" answer to (A) could be based on a finding of one "reprisal" against one prisoner. Even if a "yes" answer to (B) somehow established Pfeil's class-wide liability for "such reprisals," the damages juries would still be left in the dark as to which actions toward which plaintiffs had been found to be "reprisals." Because the verdict sheet did not establish liability to any particular plaintiff, the tasks that the court expected the damages jury to perform are unfathomable.
These are no minor matters. Liability under Section 1983 is only for those deprivations of rights caused by the defendant's behavior. In the typical case where a single plaintiff sues over acts arising out of a single incident, there is rarely any question about what the jury found. Not so here. While there is substantial evidence from which a reasonable jury might have concluded that Pfeil's behavior was a proximate cause of all the unconstitutional acts that occurred, the assumption that this is what the liability jury found is entirely conjectural. Indeed, the verdict sheet invited the jury to find deliberate indifference to one "reprisal" and to end its inquiry without ever considering the hundreds or thousands of other acts of violence. Moreover, the verdict sheet's failure to establish class-wide causation could not have been harmless. The liability jury evidently found the case to be close, because Pfeil was the only one of the defendants to be found liable.
Appellees argue that Pfeil waived any objection to the verdict sheet. The pertinent events were as follows. During the conference at which the verdict sheets were discussed, the district court asked counsel for "any particular objections" to them. Addressing the verdict sheets to be used with respect to Oswald, which, as to supervisory liability, were identical to that to be used with respect to Mancusi and Pfeil, Mitchell J. Banas, Oswald's counsel, objected to several items, including the lack of the word "correctional" before "officers" in (A), the use of the word "reasonably" in (B), and, most significantly, to the phrase "plaintiffs or any of them" in (A) and (B). The latter objection was expressly based on Banas's view "that establishing constitutional deprivation with respect to one Plaintiff, [does not] establish class-wide liability." Counsel for Mancusi joined in Banas's objections, mentioning specifically the language describing "officers" and the reference to reasonableness. Counsel for Pfeil then stated, "[O]n behalf of Defendant Pfeil, I would simply agree with all of the comments of Mr. Banas as they apply in the same manner to the Defendant Pfeil." However, he added, "In other words, I agree that `officers' should be changed to `correction officers', and the same exception taken to the use of the word `reasonable' in there."
Two questions arise: was Banas's objection to the "plaintiffs or any of them" language sufficient to raise the issue that an answer of "yes" to verdict sheet parts (A) and (B) did not establish class-wide liability and, if so, did Pfeil's counsel adopt
As to the first question, the "plaintiffs or any of them" language was certainly part of the larger problem raised by the verdict sheet. The use of "the plaintiffs or any of them" after the words "so that he should be held liable to" in (B) clearly allowed a "yes" answer that could entail a finding of less than class-wide liability without a finding as to which plaintiff or plaintiffs were deemed to have suffered a reprisal. The fact that the verdict sheet was vulnerable to other similar objections does not vitiate the force of the objection actually made. Banas's objection did, therefore, put before the court one of the verdict sheet's various deficiencies with regard to class-wide liability.
We also believe that Pfeil preserved his objection to the "plaintiffs or any of them" language. He expressly adopted "all of the comments" of Oswald's counsel because "they apply in the same manner to" Pfeil. The "[i]n other words" sentence that followed mentioned only two of the objections (in essence, repeating what was said by the counsel who spoke right after Banas), but we simply cannot construe those three words to override the express adoption of all of Banas's objections and to constitute a waiver by Pfeil of the basic issue concerning class-wide liability. The purpose of objections to verdict sheets is to alert trial judges to the claims of parties so that appropriate corrections can be made before submission to the jury. That purpose was easily fulfilled in this case.
c) Bifurcation and the Seventh Amendment
There is an alternative ground for reversal that we discuss in light of the further proceedings necessitated by our disposition of this matter. The bifurcation ordered by the district court allowed the damages juries to reexamine issues decided by the liability jury and thereby violated the Seventh Amendment.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b) permits a trial court, "in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice . . . [to] order a separate trial of any claim . . . or issue," and a decision to utilize this procedure is reviewed deferentially, see Vichare v. AMBAC Inc., 106 F.3d 457, 466 (2d Cir.1996). In addition, Rule 23(c)(4)(A) states that "an action [when appropriate] may be brought or maintained as a class action with respect to particular issues . . . ." In all cases, however, the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury must be observed. At bottom, issues may be divided and tried separately, but a given issue may not be tried by different, successive juries. See Byrd v. Blue Ridge Rural Elec. Coop., 356 U.S. 525, 537-38, 78 S.Ct. 893, 2 L.Ed.2d 953 (1958); Gasoline Prods. Co. v. Champlin Ref. Co., 283 U.S. 494, 500, 51 S.Ct. 513, 75 L.Ed. 1188 (1931) ("Where the practice permits a partial new trial, it may not properly be resorted to unless it clearly appears that the issue to be retried is so distinct and separable from the others that a trial of it alone may be had without injustice."); In re Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc., 51 F.3d 1293, 1303-04 (7th Cir.1995) (granting mandamus directing district judge to decertify class action).
It can hardly be disputed that in the instant matter both the liability jury and the damages juries were asked to determine whether the same acts constituted "reprisals." That was the issue to be resolved in part (A) of the verdict sheet in the liability trial. However, (A) did not ask the jury to specify which acts were found to be "reprisals" and which were not. The damages juries were not, therefore, given a list of acts constituting "reprisals" and asked to award damages to particular plaintiffs injured by them. Instead, the jurors in the damages trials were told that there had been "reprisals" but were asked to determine for themselves which particular acts constituted such "reprisals." They were instructed:
The damages juries were therefore left free to determine whether any particular act constituted a "reprisal"—the Brosig damages jury was even asked to revisit Pfeil's supervisory liability for "solitary and unrepeated" acts of "renegade officers"—without regard to how the liability jury viewed that particular act. This of course created the real possibility— amounting to a probability—that acts found to be "reprisals" by the liability jury were different from the acts found to be "reprisals" by the damages juries. This procedure clearly violated the Seventh Amendment.
d) Class Certification
Although our disposition of this matter lessens the importance to this appeal of appellant's claim that certification of this case as a class action pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3) was error, we nevertheless address it in light of the fact that retrials seem inevitable.
A district court's decision to certify a class is reviewed for abuse of discretion, and "[a] reviewing court must exercise even greater deference when the district court has certified a class than when it has declined to do so. However, the failure to follow the proper legal standards in certifying a class . . . is an abuse of discretion." Marisol A. v. Giuliani, 126 F.3d 372, 375 (2d Cir.1997) (per curiam) (citation omitted).
To qualify for certification, a putative class action must meet the four requirements of Rule 23(a): numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. In addition, a class certified under Rule 23(b)(3) must meet that provision's heightened requirements that "[common] questions of law or fact . . . predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." Rule 23(b)(3) further notes that:
With the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult for us to see how, with regard to this particular class, common issues of law and fact predominate over individual ones ("the predominance issue") or that a class trial was superior to individual trials ("the manageability issue").
This is an unusual class-action mass-tort case in that it has actually been tried to verdicts.
Indeed, the Supreme Court recently addressed some of these issues in Amchem, in which the Court upheld the reversal of a district court's certification of a settlement-only class in the asbestos context. The narrow issue in Amchem was whether settlement-only classes must comport with the requirements of Rule 23. The Court held that they must, except that a court "need not inquire whether the case, if tried, would present intractable management problems." Id. at 2248. Although Amchem involved a "settlement-only" class, the Court made clear that its skepticism regarding certain types of class actions was based on concerns going beyond the narrow context of settlement class actions. In particular, the Court's analysis sharply curtailed the ability to certify a class action pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3) in the mass tort context.
The proposed class in Amchem encompassed all persons who had been exposed, or who had a family or household member who had been exposed, to asbestos attributable to one of a consortium of twenty companies but who had not yet filed an asbestos-related lawsuit against the consortium. See id. at 2239-40. With the class so defined, the case involved numerous theories of liability and defenses, varying kinds of exposure to different individuals over different periods of time, different injuries, and different governing laws. See id. at 2250. The Court, describing this class as the most "sprawling" it had seen, had no trouble concluding that it failed Rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance requirement. Id. It explained that "[t]he  predominance inquiry tests whether proposed classes are sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation." Id. at 2249. In light of the numerous potential conflicts among the interests of different types of plaintiffs, the proposed class was simply not cohesive under any standard. See id. at 2250.
The class in the instant matter is far less sprawling than the one in Amchem and involves only federal law. Moreover, there appears to be no concern with the preclusive effect of a judgment on absent plaintiffs. For these reasons, this case is quite different from the "adventuresome" uses of the class action device that the Court and commentators have criticized. See id. at 2244 (criticizing certain uses of Rule 23 as "nonadversarial endeavor[s] to impose on countless individuals without currently ripe claims an administrative compensation regime binding on those individuals if and when they manifest injuries").
The case does not end there, however. Because Section 1983 liability requires personal involvement, the supervisory liability of several defendants must be determined, another issue with varying components as to each defendant. For example, Pfeil's liability might depend on findings that differed with regard to different members of the class. A trier might distinguish between his liability for injuries suffered by a class member who was beaten in Pfeil's presence and a class member who was beaten elsewhere. Similar distinctions might conceivably be drawn by a trier with regard to acts of violence when Pfeil was present at Attica and when he was home.
Moreover, in order to permit subsequent individualized damages determinations, a special verdict would have to be returned specifying the set of acts determined to be "reprisals" and for which subset of those acts each defendant was liable. Absent such findings, the damages juries would have to reexamine with regard to each individual plaintiff which acts were "reprisals" and, perhaps, as the Brosig jury was asked, to revisit the issue of supervisory liability. This in turn would violate the Seventh Amendment.
Which brings us to the management issue. As presented in the record before us, the benefits anticipated by the district court from a liability trial involving this particular class were illusory. As the cases were actually tried, the liability jury determined a "reprisal(s)" occurred and that Pfeil was liable for "such reprisal(s)." The damages juries were then asked to determine what award to make for particular injuries to particular plaintiffs without a clue as to whether those injuries were caused by acts that the liability jury deemed to be the "reprisals" for which Pfeil was liable. Indeed, the damages juries were told that there had been "reprisals," but it was up to them to determine what acts were or were not "reprisals."
To be sure, a proper liability trial involving this particular class could have been conducted, as described above. One may question, however, whether the complexity of such a trial and the special verdict it would entail might not have outweighed any benefits. Most of the benefits of class certification seem to have been in the pretrial proceedings, but those advantages could have been fully realized through the use of other consolidation techniques, such as consolidating all discovery relating to Pfeil's liability without certifying a class. See In re Repetitive Stress Injury Litig., 11 F.3d 368, 374 (2d Cir.1993). It may also have been the case, and may still be, that the claims of some plaintiffs have so many common factual elements that a consolidated trial of those claims followed by
Although we doubt the wisdom of certifying this particular class, we do not decide whether the class was improperly certified because it is not essential to our disposition of the case. We leave further proceedings to the sound discretion of the district court.
For reasons stated, we reverse and remand. Given the long history of this matter, we direct the district court to give it expedited treatment. We stand ready to exercise our mandamus power should unreasonable delay occur. We respectfully suggest that the Chief Judge of the district court consider assigning this matter to the judge best able to expedite its resolution.
We note that the defendants in this case, who are functionally the State of New York, have done all they could—frequently not without the court's acquiescence—to delay resolution. That strategy can no longer be tolerated. The district court should not hesitate to resort to appropriate sanctions to induce the defendants to cooperate in promptly resolving this matter.