The Value of a Checked Box
January 4, 2016 By Kira E. Zuber
The recently issued opinion of Lisy Corp. v. McCormick & Co., Inc., No. 8, Sept. Term, 2010 (filed Nov. 23 2015) was a warning to all attorneys seeking a jury trial: a checked box is a checked box, and nothing more.
When filing a Complaint, a plaintiff must file a Case Information Report, pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-111. The Case Information Report, sometimes referred to as the “CIR,” is a preprinted, court-produced, administrative form, containing a series of boxes to be checked regarding the basic details of the case, including what type of case (tort, contract, etc.), the amount of money the plaintiff is seeking, and so forth. One of the subsections of the CIR states, “Jury Demand:” and then lists two boxes, a box for “yes” and a box for “no.”
In the above named case, Lisy Corp. filed a complaint with a completed CIR as required by the rules. Within the CIR, Lisy Corp. checked the “yes” box in the Jury Demand Section. A year later Lisy Corp. filed an Amended Complaint. There was nothing within the text of the original Complaint, nor the Amended Complaint, that asserted the right to trial by jury. When the trial date neared, a trial notice was sent out to the parties. The defendant, McCormick & Co., Inc., objected to the trial by jury and moved to confirm a bench trial, arguing that Lisy Corp. did not properly assert their right to trial by jury and were therefore not entitled to a jury trial. The trial court granted McCormick’s motion.
After the conclusion of the bench trial, in which a judgment was entered in favor of McCormick & Co. Inc., Lisy Corp. appealed to the Court of Special Appeals on the sole question of whether they were entitled to a jury trial. The intermediate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, and the Court of Appeals subsequently granted certiori.
The Court of Appeals, in the opinion written by the Honorable Judge Greene, examined whether the checked box of the CIR constituted a separate “paper” within the meaning of Maryland Rule 2-325, and further, whether Lisy Corp. waived their right to a jury trial by failing to assert the right in a separate paper. Maryland Rule 2-325 requires that a party elect a trial by jury by filing a demand, “in writing either as a separate paper or separately titled at the conclusion of a pleading and immediately preceding any required certificate of service.” The Court answered both questions affirmatively, and laid out a bright line rule for all practitioners, “A CIR does not constitute a separate “paper” within the meaning of Rule 2-325(a). Attorneys and parties, which may include self-represented litigants, are all held to the same standard and are required to comply with the Maryland Rules… non-compliance with the Rule will result in a waiver, which is the case here.”
TAKE AWAY: The CIR is for the clerk’s office for case management. The checked box on the subsection regarding jury demand is NOT a separate paper or part of a pleading, and creates no legal assertion of the right to a jury trial. Most importantly, if either an attorney or a self-represented litigant does not properly assert the right to a jury trial, the right is waived.