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Sardinas v. United Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 3, 2019

PAULA SARDINAS, individually, and on behalf of her minor child, G.M., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A JURY DEMAND

          JAMES L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Plaintiffs Paula Sardinas and G.M.'s (collectively “Plaintiffs”) motion for leave to file a jury demand. (Mot. (Dkt. # 9).) Defendant United Airlines, Inc. (“United”) opposes the motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 13).) The court has considered the parties' submissions, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Sardinas is the mother of G.M., a minor child. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 1-1) ¶¶ 3-4.) Plaintiffs commenced this action in King County Superior Court on January 17, 2019, alleging that United, as well as John and Jane Does 1-10, who were members of the flight crew on United Flight 1695, were negligent and indifferent towards G.M.'s safety by allowing a passenger to sexually assault G.M. on the flight. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 16-17.) The state court set a jury demand filing deadline for October 7, 2019. (Daheim Decl. (Dkt. # 10) ¶ 2, Ex. 1.) On February 22, 2019, United removed the case to this court. (Not. of Rem. (Dkt. # 1).) On March 1, 2019, the court set a schedule for the parties' initial disclosures, Rule 26(f) discovery conference, and joint status report. (Scheduling Order (Dkt. # 6).) The same day, United filed its answer. (Answer (Dkt. # 8).)

         On March 14, 2019, Plaintiffs sent United a draft joint status report. (Daheim Decl. ¶ 8.) This draft indicated that Plaintiffs intended to seek a jury trial. (Id., Ex. 4 at 31.)[2] On March 31, 2019, United returned the draft joint status report to Plaintiffs with proposed revisions. (Jorgensen Decl. (Dkt. # 14) ¶ 6; Daheim Decl. ¶ 10.) According to United, because “neither party filed a jury demand by March 15, ” United revised the answer to “Non-Jury or Jury Trial” from “Jury” to “Non-Jury.” (Jorgensen Decl. ¶ 6; see also Daheim Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. 5 at 38.) On April 1, 2019, United told Plaintiffs that it believed Plaintiffs had failed to timely file a jury demand. (Daheim Decl. ¶ 11, Ex. 3 at 18-20.)

         Plaintiffs filed the present motion on April 2, 2019, arguing that they did not waive their right to a jury and that, in the event they did, the court could exercise its discretion to relieve such waiver. (See generally Mot.; Reply (Dkt. # 15).) In response, United argues that the court should deny the motion because Plaintiffs' jury demand is untimely and because it would be improper for the court to use its discretion to relieve Plaintiffs' waiver under the circumstances. (See generally Resp.) The court now addresses the motion.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standards

         The right to a jury trial in a civil lawsuit is fundamental. Aetna Ins. Co. v. Kennedy, 301 U.S. 389, 393 (1937). However, a party may waive the right if it fails to timely file and serve a jury demand. Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(d); see, e.g., Fuller v. City of Oakland, Cal., 47 F.3d 1522, 1530 (9th Cir. 1995). Rule 38 governs the timing of jury demands in federal court and requires parties to make any written demand for a jury “no later than 14 days after the last pleading directed to the issue is served.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(b). But, in the context of a removed case, Rule 81(c)(3) also applies and provides exceptions to Rule 38's timeline. Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(3).

         Read together, the Rules present four scenarios for filing timely jury demands in removed cases. First, no jury demand is necessary after removal when a party expressly and properly demanded a jury trial prior to removal. Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(3)(A). Second, if the state court from which the case was removed did not require an express jury demand, a party need not make a jury demand after removal unless and until the court so orders. Id. Third, if state law requires an express jury demand and all the necessary pleadings have been served at the time of removal, a party must make the jury demand in federal court within 14 days of filing or service of a notice of removal. Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(3)(B). Fourth, if state law requires an express jury demand and all the necessary pleadings have not been served at the time of removal, a party must make the jury demand within 14 days of service of the last pleading directed to the issue. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 38(b); Pac. Fisheries Corp. v. H.I.H. Cas. & Gen. Ins., Ltd., 239 F.3d 1000, 1002 n.2 (9th Cir. 2001).

         B. Plaintiffs' Jury Demand Requirement

         The first scenario discussed above does not apply because Plaintiffs did not expressly demand a jury trial in state court prior to removal. Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(3)(A); (see generally Mot.; Daheim Decl.) Likewise, the third scenario is inapplicable because all the necessary pleadings had not been served at the time of removal. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 81(c)(3)(B). An answer is a necessary pleading. See, e.g., Lutz v. Glendale Union High Sch., 403 F.3d 1061, 1063 (9th Cir. 2005) (noting that “[b]ecause [the defendant] had not filed its answer before it removed the case, [the plaintiff] was entitled to demand a jury trial at any time until ten days after she was served with the answer”).[3] And, as discussed, United did not file its answer until March 1, 2019, after it removed the case on February 22, 2019. (See Answer; Not. of Rem.)

         Plaintiffs, however, argue that their jury demand is timely under the second scenario, which is expressed in the second sentence of Rule 81(c)(3)(A). (See Mot. at 9-10; Reply at 2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(3)(A). The second sentence of Rule 81(c)(3)(A) reads: “If the state law did not require an express demand for a jury trial, a party need not make one after removal unless the court orders the parties to do so within a specified time.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(c)(3)(A) (emphasis added). The parties do not dispute that Washington law requires an express jury demand “at or prior to the time the case is called to be set for trial.” (See Resp. at 6; Reply at 2); see also Wash. State Court Civil Rules CR 38(b); id. CR 38(d) (stating that the failure to pay the jury fee and serve and file a jury demand as required by the rule constitutes a waiver of trial by jury). According to Plaintiffs, the language of Rule 81(c)(3)(A) means that, because state law “did ...


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