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E-Alert Case Updates

Jury Trial Election on Unserved Case Information Report Held Insufficient

Ducket v. Riley
No. 61 (Md. August 29, 2012)

by Gregory L. Arbogast, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

In Ducket v. Riley, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that Plaintiff waived her right to a jury trial when Plaintiff only elected a jury trial on a case information report, which Plaintiff failed to serve on Defendant. Therefore, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that Plaintiff was only entitled to a bench trial.

On November 12, 2003, Plaintiff filed a complaint, which did not contain a prayer for a jury trial. When Plaintiff filed the Complaint, Plaintiff also filed a standard Case Information Report, which can be found on the Court’s website. Plaintiff elected a jury trial on the Case Information Report. When Plaintiff served Defendant with process, Plaintiff only served Defendant with the Complaint and the Summons, but not the Case Information Report on which Plaintiff elected a jury trial. About four (4) months after Plaintiff filed her Complaint, the clerk issued a scheduling order, which set the case for a jury trial. Defendant filed a Motion to Amend the Scheduling Order on the grounds that Plaintiff never elected one. The Trial Court granted Defendant’s motion, and Plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Special Appeals overturned the Trial Court and held that Plaintiff did not waive her right to a jury trial. The Court of Special Appeals reasoned that Defendant had plenty of notice of the jury trial, as the trial was scheduled more than two (2) years after the Scheduling Order was issued. Defendant requested that the Court of Appeals hear this case, and the Court of Appeals granted certiorari.

The Court of Appeals examined this case against MD. R. 2-325, which provides that a party may elect a jury trial either by “a separate paper or separately titled at the conclusion of a pleading.” The Court of Appeals easily found that the Case Information Report is not a “pleading” within the meaning of the Rule. Therefore, it analyzed whether the Case Information Report is a “paper” within the meaning of the rule. The Court of Appeals found MD. R. 2-112(a) instructive, which requires the Clerk to issue a summons for each defendant and attach to the summons every “paper” filed with the Case Information Report. Since MD. R. 2-112(a) differentiated between paper and the Case Information Report the Court of Appeals concluded that the Case Information Report could not be considered a “paper.” Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that Plaintiff did not properly elect a jury trial, and it upheld the Trial Court.


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