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Marseilles Hydro Power, LLC v. Marseilles Land and Water Company

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Marseilles Hydro Power, LLC sued Marseilles Land and Water Company for performance under a contract that rented Marseilles Land and Water Company’s canal for water supply to a plant owned by Marseilles Hydro Power, LLC.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A party who only makes a claim for equitable and declaratory relief has no right to a jury trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 38.

    Facts.

    Marseilles Hydro Power, LLC (Power) had a contract with Marseilles Land and Water Company (Canal) to rent the canal supplying water to its plant. When the plant fell to disuse, the parties stopped performing under the contract. When Power sought to operate the plant and asked Canal to repair the canal walls, they refused. Power sought to enforce the contract and the canal wall later collapsed. Power sought an injunction to enter Canal property to repair the wall, a lien against Canal for the repairs, and a declaratory judgment that they did not owe rent for the unmaintained canal. Judgment was granted to Power.

    Issue.

    Whether a party who only makes a claim for equitable and declaratory relief has the right to a jury trial?

    Held.

    No. The judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded. Power sought equitable relief seeking an injunction and a lien, not entitling Power to a trial by jury under FRCP 38(b). Power sought a declaratory judgment that does not entitle Power to a trial by jury under FRCP 57. Because the defendants filed a counterclaim demanding a jury within 10 days, their demand was timely.

    Discussion.

    FRCP 38(b) allows a party 10 days to demand a jury trial after “service of the last pleading related to the issue.” If a pleading only involves equitable relief then the suit is not entitled to a trial by jury.


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