Maintenance and cure claims fall under general maritime law. Under general maritime law, neither party has the right to a trial by jury. However, the answer does not end there.
If you join your maritime claim for maintenance and cure with another basis for a jury trial, very often you can obtain the right to a jury trial in regard to your maintenance and cure claim. For example, if you also file a Jones Act claim under the federal statute known as the Jones Act, you do have the right to a jury trial in regard to your Jones Act claim. Courts have ruled that as long as your maritime law maintenance and cure claim is joined with and filed with a Jones Act claim you also obtain the right to a jury in regard to your maritime maintenance and cure claim. In such situations, a jury will hear both cases and decide both cases at the same time.
However, if for some reason you cannot successfully pursue a Jones Act claim and your only rights fall under maritime law against your employer, then you will not have the right to a jury trial in regard to your maintenance and cure claim. Examples could be if an individual is on shore leave and becomes injured through no fault of his employer. Under such circumstances, his injury may technically fall under maintenance and cure law, but because his employer played no role whatsoever in causing his injury, there would not be a valid Jones Act claim to pursue along with the maintenance and cure claim, leaving only a non-jury maritime law claim.
It should be remembered that often a trial by judge is preferred to a jury trial. This is especially true in regard to a maintenance and cure claim without a Jones Act claim. In such situations, many judges understand that all doubt and ambiguities are to be resolved in favor of the seaman in regard to the maintenance and cure claim. It is often possible to receive a more favorable ruling from a judge in regard to a maintenance and cure claim than you may receive from a jury. It simply depends upon the facts of your case and the judge assigned to your case.
How many jurors are you entitled to in your maritime injury or Jones Act case? Well, the answer depends on whether you’re in state court or whether you’re in federal court.
In state court especially Louisiana you’re going to have 12 jurors; 9 of those 12 have to agree on your verdict. In federal court, typically you’re going to have 6 or 7, usually 7 jurors but the verdict has to be unanimous. So in state court even though you need more jurors on your jury actually as a smaller percentage of them have to agree in order for you to win your case. In federal court, you’re going to have fewer jurors but the verdict has to be unanimous.
Lastly, if you have any questions, you can always feel free to call us: toll-free at 504-680-4100.
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