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Navarrete v. Jarrell

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

January 30, 2019

ROXANNE R. NAVARRETE WIFE OF/AND THOMAS P., HOITINGA
v.
CHERYL D. JARRELL, ANPAC LOUISIANA INSURANCE COMPANY AND GEICO CASUALTY COMPANY

          APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-12471, DIVISION "J" Honorable D. Nicole Sheppard

          ANTHONY L. GLORIOSO COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/RELATORS

          VALERIE THENG MATHERNE JAMES M. MATHERNE COLIN F. LOZES COURINGTON, KIEFER, & SOMMERS, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Edwin A. Lombard Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins, Judge Paula A. Brown

          SANDRA CABRINA JENKINS JUDGE

         Plaintiffs/relators, Roxanne A. Navarrette and Thomas P. Hoitinga, seek review of the trial court's December 17, 2018 judgment denying their second motion to strike the jury trial demand of defendant/respondent, ANPAC Louisiana Insurance Company ("ANPAC"). Plaintiffs argue that ANPAC is not entitled to a jury trial, pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1732, because plaintiffs' causes of action do not exceed fifty thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs. Upon review of the applicable law and jurisprudence, we find the trial court erred in denying plaintiffs' second motion to strike jury trial demand. Accordingly, we grant plaintiffs/relators' writ and reverse the trial court's judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 22, 2016, plaintiffs filed this suit for damages alleging injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on or about August 16, 2016. Plaintiffs named the following defendants: Cheryl D. Jarrell, as the driver of the vehicle allegedly causing the collision; ANPAC, as Jarrell's insurer; and GEICO Casualty Company ("GEICO"), as plaintiffs' uninsured motorist carrier. Subsequently, plaintiffs dismissed their claims against Jarrell with prejudice. In addition, on January 30, 2018, plaintiffs and ANPAC entered into a joint stipulation that ANPAC waived its defense of failure to join Jarrell under the Direct Action Statute following the dismissal of its insured, and that the amount of each plaintiff's cause of action against ANPAC does not exceed fifty thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs. Thereafter, plaintiffs proceeded with their suit against ANPAC and GEICO.

         On April 4, 2018, plaintiffs filed their second motion to strike jury trial demand of ANPAC.[1] The trial court conducted a hearing on November 16, 2018, and rendered judgment on December 17, 2018, denying plaintiffs' motion. Plaintiffs timely noticed their intent to seek supervisory review of the trial court's judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in its interpretation of La. C.C.P. article 1732 and denying their motion to strike jury trial.

         La. C.C.P. article 1732 provides, in pertinent part, that "[a] trial by jury shall not be available in: (1) A suit where the amount of no individual petitioner's cause of action exceeds fifty thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs, except as follows: …" In Benoit v. Allstate Ins. Co., 00-0424 (La. 11/28/00), 773 So.2d 702, the Louisiana Supreme Court recognized the change in the language of the statute enacted by La. Acts 1989, No. 107. "Prior to 1989, the statutory standard for determining the monetary threshold for a jury trial was the 'amount in dispute.' La. Acts 1989, No. 107, changed the standard to the amount of at least one 'individual petitioner's cause of action.'" Benoit, 00-0424, p.1, 773 So.2d at 703.

         The Benoit Court considered the statutory source and legislative intent behind the change in the wording of the statute.

La. Acts 1989, No. 107, began as a Senate bill that simply prohibited a trial by jury in "[a] suit where the amount of the cause of action does not exceed twenty thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs." In Senate Committee, the bill was amended to delete the words "the cause of action does not exceed" and to substitute the words "no individual petitioner's cause of action exceeds." At the Committee meeting, the author of the original bill explained that the present law denies a jury trial where the amount in dispute does not exceed $20, 000 and that "the intent [of the original bill] is that a person who has a claim of more than $20, 000 would be entitled to a jury trial, and if the claim is less than that, he would not be entitled to a jury trial." The senator who offered the ...

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