2.16.2007

N.D. Ohio Notes Circuit Split Re: Whether Jury Trial Applies to Both Claims Where Admiralty Claim Joined with Non-Admiralty Claim

Per Bartel v. A-C Product Liability Trust, 461 F. Supp. 2d 600 (N.D. Ohio Nov. 13, 2006):

One major difference between admiralty jurisdiction and admiralty rules of procedure, and jurisdiction in law and equity is the right to a trial by jury. A claim in law can be tried to a jury; admiralty claims historically have been tried without a jury. When an admiralty claim is joined with a non-admiralty claim, circuits are divided as to whether a jury trial applies to both claims. The seminal case of Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Co. held that, in certain situations, admiralty and civil claims must both be tried together by a jury. 374 U.S. 16, 21 (1963). The opinion in Fitzgerald is a reminder that, even if historically admiralty cases have been tried to the bench, neither the Constitution nor "any statute of Congress or Rule of Procedure, Civil or Admiralty, forbid[s] jury trials in maritime cases." Id. at 20. . . . The sea-based count, under admiralty jurisdiction and subject to federal substantive maritime law, will also be tried by the same jury. This serves judicial economy, particularly where a plaintiff attributes his underlying injury to multiple product defendants. This decision is in line with liberal rules of joinder, Supreme Court case law in support of merger, and the congressional merger of admiralty and federal procedural rules in the 1966 Amendments.

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