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Mason v. Faul

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

March 31, 2017

Brenda Mason, et al.
Martin Faul, et al.

          Rebecca F. Doherty Judge


          Carol B. Whitehurst Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court is a Motion for Trial by Jury (Doc. 105), filed by Plaintiffs Brenda Mason and Billy C. Mason, individually and on behalf of the deceased Quamaine Dwayne Mason. This action arises in connection with the shooting death of Plaintiffs' adult son, Quamaine Mason. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion will be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         On December 9, 2011, Officer Martin Faul fatally shot Quamaine Mason while responding to a reported armed robbery. Plaintiffs subsequently filed this action against Faul, Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (“LCG”), and Chief James P. Craft (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiffs asserted claims against Officer Faul under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. They also asserted claims pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) against Officer Faul's employers, LCG and Chief Craft. Plaintiffs included state law claims against all three Defendants.

         On December 10, 2013, the district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of Plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. (Doc. 72.) On appeal, however, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment as to Faul on Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment and related state law claims. Mason v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Gov't, 806 F.3d 268, 277 (5th Cir. 2015). Specifically, the Fifth Circuit: (1) reversed the granting of qualified immunity in favor of Officer Faul with regard to the last two shots fired by him at Quamaine Mason; and (2) remanded the case to this Court for a ruling on whether Officer Faul is entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the first five shots fired at Quamaine Mason. Id. at 277, 282. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling in all other respects. Id. at 282.

         On March 14, 2016, the undersigned conducted a telephone status conference to address the issues remaining after the Fifth Circuit's decision. (Doc. 103.) While the case was set for a bench trial, Plaintiffs represented for the first time that they intended to move for a jury trial. (Doc 103 at p. 1.) Defendants indicated, in turn, that they would oppose any such motion. (Doc. 103 at p. 1) A Scheduling Order was issued on April 5, 2016, setting this case for a bench trial on May 1, 2017. (Doc. 104.)

         The district court recently granted the parties' joint motion to continue the May 1, 2017 trial date. (Doc. 115). At a telephone conference conducted by the undersigned on March 29, 2017, the parties agreed that the matter is ripe for a ruling on the qualified immunity issue remanded from the Fifth Circuit and that it was unnecessary to set a new trial date at this time. (Doc. 119).

         II. Plaintiffs' Motion for Trial by Jury

         On October 13, 2016, Plaintiffs submitted their Motion for Trial by Jury as to all issues in these proceedings. (Doc. 105.) They ask the Court to exercise its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(b) and grant them a jury trial. (Doc. 105 at p. 1, n.1.) Plaintiffs contend that recent discovery in this case has “led [them] to believe that their son's treatment at the hands of the defendants is so callous that they deserve to have their case heard by a jury.” (Doc. 118 at p. 2.)

         Defendants oppose Plaintiffs' motion, asserting that Plaintiffs' demand for a jury trial is untimely filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38(b)(1). (Doc. 108 at p. 4.) Defendants contend that the granting of Plaintiffs' motion “would be substantially unfair and prejudicial to Defendants.” (Doc. 108 at p. 4-5.) Defendants further contend that Plaintiffs' delay in seeking a jury trial can, at best, be attributable to mere inadvertence, which is insufficient to relieve Plaintiffs from waiving their right to a jury trial. (Doc. 108 at p. 5.)

         III. Discussion

         Rule 38(b) entitles a party to a jury trial on any issue triable by a jury if a demand is made “no later than 14 days after the last pleading directed to the issue is served.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(b)(1). Under Rule 38(d), a party's failure to timely request a trial by jury constitutes a waiver of that party's right to a trial by jury. Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(d); Breaux v. Mastermind Shipmanagement Ltd., No. 15-1387, 2016 WL 4761559, at *2 (E.D. La. Sep. 13, 2016). It is undisputed that Plaintiffs have made their demand for a jury trial in an untimely fashion and are, therefore, subject to a waiver of such right.

         The Court must now consider whether it may permit the untimely jury trial demand pursuant to Rule 39(b), which “grants a district court discretion to order a jury trial despite a party's failure to comply with the fourteen-day requirement in Rule 38.” Breaux, 2016 WL 4761559, at *2 (citing Daniel International Corp. v. Fischbach & Moore, Inc., 916 F.2d 1061, 1064 (5th Cir. 1990)). “In exercising its discretion, a district court should grant an untimely request for a jury trial ‘in the absence of strong and compelling reasons to the contrary.'” Breaux, 2016 WL 4761559, at *2 (citing Daniel International Corp., 916 F.2d at 1064). In other words, “[a] motion for trial by jury under this rule ‘should be ...

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