NEW ORLEANS – On April 9, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana denied a contracting company’s motion to strike a jury in its breach of contract case against a property company, finding that it agreed to a jury trial.
“The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to trial by jury,” wrote Judge Susie Morgan. “Even when there is no jury trial right, under Rule 39(c)(2), ‘the court, on motion or on its own may, with the parties’ consent, try any issue by a jury whose verdict as the same effect as if a jury trial had been a matter of right.’”
Team Contractors LLC, et al, sued Waypoint Nola LLC, et al, in 2016. Team and Waypoint signed on to work with one another via a construction contract in 2014 inwhich Team was the general contractor on a project to renovate Waypoint’s property. In the contract was a clause that required both parties to waive their right to a jury trial, the ruling states.
At the same time, Waypoint went into business with HC Architecture (HCA), wherein HCA was the architect on the same project included in Team and Waypoint’s contract. HCA subcontracted the plumbing and other aspects to KLG LLC.
Team sued Waypoint, HCA and KLG on a breach of contract claim, alleging that Waypoint didn’t pay Team. A jury found Waypoint did not breach its contract and awarded Team $565,979.99 in damages on the design-related acceleration claim, giving only 5 percent of the damage responsibility to Waypoint.
Team filed a motion to amend in 2018, arguing the jury’s determination that Waypoint didn’t breach its contract was inconsistent with its assignment of Waypoint for damages. After more back-and-forth, Team filed the motion to strike the jury, pointing out the jury waiver clause in their contract. Still, the court disagreed and sided with Waypoint.
When Waypoint filed a jury demand in 2016, the ruling stated Team never objected, causing the court to order a jury trial. Both sides prepared for the trial by jury without any opposition from either side. The ruling also stated when the court ordered a new trial for Team’s lawsuit against Waypoint, both sides prepared for a trial by jury. Team did not take issue with the jury until less than two weeks before the trial started.
"In light of the years Team waited before moving to strike the jury demand, the short time left before trial, Team’s statement in the pretrial order for the upcoming April 22 trial that this is a jury trial, and the prejudice to Waypoint that would result from enforcing the waiver on the eve of trial, the court finds that Team has consented to a jury trial," Morgan wrote.