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Luat D. Duckett, M.D., et al. v. Raenora Riley

August 29, 2012

LUAT D. DUCKETT, M.D., ET AL.
v.
RAENORA RILEY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bell, C.J.,

Luat D. Duckett, M.D.., et al. v. Raenora Riley,

No. 61, September Term 2007

CIVIL PROCEDURE > TRIALS > JURY TRIALS > RIGHT TO JURY TRIALS > A case information report form, being neither a "paper" nor a "pleading" and having not been served on the opposing party, is neither a proper nor timely means of demanding a civil jury trial pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-325 (a) and (b).

*fn1 Raker Harrell Battaglia Greene Wilner, Alan M. (Retired, Specially Assigned) Cathell, Dale R. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Bell, C.J.

The respondent, Raenora Riley, filed, in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, a medical negligence action against the petitioner, Luat D. Duckett, M.D. The issue we must resolve is essentially a procedural one: whether a completed case information report, on which an election of a jury trial is noted and which is filed with the complaint, but not served on the opposing party, is a proper vehicle for demanding a jury trial. The Court of Special Appeals held that it was and, therefore, reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court, which had reached the opposite result. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that a case information report form, being neither a "paper" nor a "pleading" and, in any event, having not been served on the opposing party, is neither a proper nor timely means of demanding a civil jury trial pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-325 (a) and (b).*fn2 Accordingly, we shall reverse the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

I. FACTS

The respondent filed her complaint on November 12, 2003. The complaint did not contain a prayer for jury trial - there was no separately titled demand in the conclusion of the complaint immediately preceding the required certificate of service. Contemporaneously with the complaint, she filed a civil non-domestic case information sheet, a pre-printed form, which she completed. On that form was a section for jury demand and boxes, indicating "yes" and "no", in which trial preference, jury or non-jury, could be noted. The respondent placed an x mark in the "yes" box indicating she was electing a jury trial. A photocopy of the respondent's completed case information sheet was not included with the summons, which the Clerk of the Circuit Court delivered to the respondent, to be served, with her complaint, on the petitioner. As a result, the respondent served the petitioner with the summons and complaint only; the petitioner was unaware of the choice of trial mode that the respondent made on the information report.

Nearly four months after the respondent filed her complaint, the Clerk sent a scheduling order to the parties. That order indicated that the trial was to be a jury trial. Unaware, because it had not been served on him, that the jury-trial box on the case information sheet had been checked when it was filed with the court, the petitioner moved to amend the scheduling order to reflect that the trial would be a bench trial. The respondent filed a written opposition to the motion, in which she pointed out that she had opted for a jury trial by checking the "yes" box in the jury demand section of the case information report. After a hearing, the judge denied the petitioner's motion to amend the scheduling order, concluding that the respondent had properly demanded a jury trial, notwithstanding that the case information report on which the election was made had not been served on the petitioner. He reasoned:

"In this case the Defendants urge because the 'separate paper' requesting Trial by Jury was not served upon them, the Jury Demand is waived. The Court does not agree. Plaintiff's counsel complied with the Rules by signing the Information Report and making a Demand for Jury Trial on a separate paper. The Clerk failed to comply with the mandatory duty to include a copy of that paper with the process the Clerk issued. This does not, standing alone, constitute a waiver of the Plaintiff's constitutional right to a Trial by Jury."

The case was called for trial before a different judge. The petitioner renewed his objection to the case being tried by a jury and to the respondent's jury demand, to which the respondent again objected. The trial judge agreed with the petitioner. Overruling the hearing judge, he explained:

"Rule 2-325 (a) states that any party may elect a trial by jury of any issue triable of right by a jury by filing a demand therefor in writing either as a separate paper or separately titled at the conclusion of a pleading and immediately preceding any required certificate of service.

"Defendant focuses on the second alternative. Plaintiff focuses on the first alternative.

"Clearly, the civil information report is not a pleading as defined by the rules. The question is whether it qualifies ...


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