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Spector v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 22, 2019

MATTHEW SPECTOR
v.
USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

         SECTION: D (1)

          ORDER

          WENDY B. VITTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is USAA General Indemnity Company's Motion to Strike Jury Demand.[1] The Motion is unopposed. For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On or about August 3, 2018, Matthew Spector (“Plaintiff”) filed a Petition for Damages and Jury Demand in Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, for the damages sustained by his home as a result of the August 2017 flood event in New Orleans and a city construction project on his street.[2] Plaintiff named as defendants USAA Casualty Insurance Company, USAA General Indemnity Company (“USAA GIC”), the City of New Orleans, Wallace C. Drennan, Inc., and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. The Petition specifically includes a jury demand.[3]

         On September 20, 2018, USAA GIC removed the case to this Court based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal question jurisdiction, and the National Flood Insurance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4001, et seq.

         USAA GIC filed the instant Motion to Strike Jury Demand on November 9, 2018.[4] USAA GIC asserts that Plaintiff is not entitled to a jury trial on his claims against USAA GIC in its capacity as a Write-Your-Own flood insurance provider because: (1) the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial does not apply, since the funds at issue are United States Treasury funds and not the funds of USAA GIC; and (2) the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 does not allow for jury trials involving the National Flood Insurance Program.[5] No. opposition to the Motion has been filed.[6]

         On November 13, 2018, the Court issued a Scheduling Order and fixed the matter for a jury trial to begin on December 2, 2019.[7]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for the right to trial by jury in civil suits at common law where the amount in controversy exceeds twenty dollars.[8] However, it is well settled that the right to a jury trial does not apply in actions to recover funds from the United States Treasury.[9]

         The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) operates the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”), and in doing so, uses private insurance companies known as Write-Your-Own (“WYO”) carriers to issue flood insurance policies.[10] “The federal government, however, funds the NFIP, covering the ‘cost incurred in the adjustment and payment of any claims for losses.'”[11] The Fifth Circuit has recognized that, “WYO carriers are fiscal, not general, agents of the United States.”[12] The Fifth Circuit has further acknowledged that, “[A] suit against a WYO company is the functional equivalent of a suit against FEMA.'”[13] The Fifth Circuit has further held that a judgment against a WYO Program carrier constitutes a direct charge on the public treasury.[14]

         This Court has consistently held that jury trials are unavailable in matters involving WYO Program carriers.[15] Because Plaintiff sued USAA GIC in its capacity as a WYO Program carrier, it is a fiscal agent of the United States and there is no right to trial by jury on Plaintiffs flood claims in this case. Plaintiff, however, does retain the right to a jury trial for other matters not related to the flood claims.[16]

         Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that USAA General Indemnity Company's Motion to Strike Jury Demand[17] is GRANTED. Trial will commence on December 2, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. with a jury. The jury ...


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