January 09, 2017 Top Story

Procedural Violations Cannot Result in Loss of Right to Jury Trial

Holding bench trial not appropriate sanction for failing to file pretrial disclosures

Lauren M. Gregory

The plaintiff in Williams, acting pro se, had asserted several tort and contract claims against a transport company to recover for damage to his car allegedly sustained while the company was shipping the vehicle from Alaska to New Jersey. The plaintiff did not expressly demand trial by jury in his complaint.

Protecting the "Bedrock" of the Judiciary

Although the defendant company had originally requested a jury trial, it later waived its demand. The trial judge permitted the unilateral waiver, despite a local rule that requires the withdrawal of a jury demand only by consent. The court informed the plaintiff that in order to assert his right, the plaintiff would have to refile the complaint with a formal jury demand and pay the associated fee. The plaintiff refused to do so.

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