Right to Jury Trial; Jury Trial Waiver
Both the Missouri Constitution and US Constitution guarantee the right to trial by jury in certain cases. In Missouri, the right to a jury trial is “implied in all cases in which an issue of fact, in an action for the recovery of money only, is inolved, whether the right is one at common law or is one created by statute.” State ex rel. Diehl v. O’Malley, 95 S.W.3d 82, 86 (Mo. 2003). In short, then, most suits in which a plaintiff is seeking money damages against another party (e.g., breach of contract, personal injury, property damages, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud), there’s a right to trial by jury. There are also statutes which expressly state that other types of claims which do not involve direct claims for money may go to a jury. For instance, there’s a separate Missouri statute creating a right to trial by jury in cases contesting the validity of a last will and testament. The decision whether to have a case be tried to a judge or jury is very important and should be discussed closely with counsel. Some cases, factually and legally, may be better to go to a judge versus a jury (or vice-versa).
Because of the importance of this decision, it is also important to realize that the right to trial by jury may be waived in Missouri. Under Rule 69.01(b), there are four ways to waive a jury trial in Missouri: (1) by failing to appear at the trial; (2) by filing with the clerk written consent in person or by attorney; (3) by oral consent in court, entered on the minutes; or (4) by entering into trial before the court without objection. Care should be given to ensure that a waiver does not occur to preserve your rights until a final decision is made.
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