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Maryland’s Intermediate Appellate Court holds effectuating service of case information report indicating the need for a jury trial is insufficient to demand a jury trial under the Maryland Rules

Lisy Corp. v. McCormick & Co., Inc.
No. 1231, ___ Md. App. ___ (Md. App. Oct. 7, 2014)

by Wayne C. Heavener, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2014/1231s13.pdf

In Lisy Corporation v. McCormick & Co., Inc., Maryland’s intermediate appellate court held a party to a civil action fails to effectively plead a demand for a jury trial by simply checking the “jury demand” box on a Civil Non-Domestic Case Information Report, irrespective of whether that report was subsequently served on the opposing party. In reaching its decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals clarified a decision rendered by the State’s highest appellate court, Duckett v. Riley, 428 Md. 471 (2012), which had left open the possibility that a litigant may properly demand a jury trial by so indicating on a Case Information Report, so long as that report was served upon the opposing party.

McCormick & Company, Inc. and its subsidiary, Mojave Foods Corporation (collectively, “McCormick”), manufacture spices. Lisy Corporation (“Lisy”) also manufactures spices, and directly competes with McCormick. Barry Adams worked for Lisy until 2011, when he began working for McCormick. Lisy filed suit against both Mr. Adams and McCormick, alleging that Mr. Adams’ new employment violated his employment contract. Along with its complaint, Lisy filed a Civil Non-Domestic Case Information Report (the “Report”), in which Lisy checked the “yes” box indicating that Lisy was seeking a jury trial. Lisy did not file any separate document demanding a jury trial. The Report was served on all of the defendants. The circuit court issued a scheduling order, which indicated that a jury trial would take place on September 17, 2012.

Before the date of the scheduled jury trial, the Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Duckett v. Riley, 428 Md. 471 (2012), in which the Court held that a plaintiff was not entitled to a jury trial where that plaintiff simply submitted a Civil Non-Domestic Case Information Report, but failed to file a separate demand for jury trial. Notably, the defendants in Duckett were never served with plaintiff’s report; this arguably left open the possibility that the Duckett decision did not apply to situations where a defendant was served with a plaintiff’s report. Shortly after the Court of Appeals’ decision, McCormick filed a “Motion to Confirm Non-Jury Proceeding,” which Mr. Adams joined. The trial judge telephoned all parties in the case, and informed them that Lisy’s Report was insufficient to demand a jury trial. Lisy was granted a postponement by the acting administrative judge in order to file a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Court of Appeals, asking the Court to order the circuit court to overturn the trial judge’s decision to proceed with a bench trial. Lisy’s petition was denied, the bench trial took place, and judgment was entered in favor of McCormick and against Lisy. Lisy appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.

The Court held that Lisy failed to demand a jury trial. The Court looked to Maryland Rule 2-325, which states that “[a]ny party may elect a trial by jury . . . by filing a demand therefore in writing either as a separate paper or separately titled at the conclusion of a pleading[.]” MD. RULE 2-325 (a). Rule 2-325 likewise provides that a party’s failure to file a jury demand “constitutes a waiver of trial by jury.” MD. RULE 2-325 (b). The Court noted that the Duckett Court held that a case information report did not constitute a “paper” or “pleading” under Rule 2-325, but also acknowledged that the Duckett decision left open the question of whether a properly served case information report is a separate paper through which a party can validly demand a jury trial. Lisy argued that the Court should follow the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals interpretation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, which held that a timely served civil cover sheet indicating the litigant’s desire for a jury trial constituted a proper demand of a jury trial. The court declined to follow the Second Circuit’s holding, noting that Maryland Rule 2-325 differs significantly from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38, which also regulates jury trial demands. Rather, the Court held that the Duckett decision made clear a case information report is neither “papers” nor “pleadings” under the Maryland Rules, and held that a case information report does become a “paper” or pleading” upon proper service. The Court held that Lisy’s Report did not comply with Rule 2-325, and that Lisy, therefore, waived his right to a jury trial.


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