Mason et al v. Lafayette et al
ORDER granting 105 Motion Trial by Jury. Signed by Magistrate Judge Carol B Whitehurst on 3/31/2017. (crt,Chicola, C)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
Brenda Mason, et al.
Civil Action No. 6:12-CV-2939
Judge Rebecca F. Doherty
Martin Faul, et al.
Magistrate Judge Carol B. Whitehurst
Pending before the Court is a Motion for Trial by Jury (Doc. 105), filed by
Plaintiffs Brenda Mason and Billy C. Mason, individually and on behalf of the
deceased Quamaine Dwayne Mason. This action arises in connection with the
shooting death of Plaintiffs’ adult son, Quamaine Mason. For the following reasons,
Plaintiffs’ motion will be GRANTED.
On December 9, 2011, Officer Martin Faul fatally shot Quamaine Mason while
responding to a reported armed robbery. Plaintiffs subsequently filed this action
against Faul, Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (“LCG”), and Chief
James P. Craft (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiffs asserted claims against Officer
Faul under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. They also asserted
claims pursuant to Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) against Officer
Faul’s employers, LCG and Chief Craft. Plaintiffs included state law claims against
all three Defendants.
On December 10, 2013, the district court granted Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment and dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice. (Doc. 72.)
On appeal, however, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment
as to Faul on Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment and related state law claims. Mason v.
Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Gov’t, 806 F.3d 268, 277 (5th Cir. 2015).
Specifically, the Fifth Circuit: (1) reversed the granting of qualified immunity in favor
of Officer Faul with regard to the last two shots fired by him at Quamaine Mason; and
(2) remanded the case to this Court for a ruling on whether Officer Faul is entitled to
qualified immunity with respect to the first five shots fired at Quamaine Mason. Id.
at 277, 282. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling in all other respects.
Id. at 282.
On March 14, 2016, the undersigned conducted a telephone status conference
to address the issues remaining after the Fifth Circuit’s decision. (Doc. 103.) While
the case was set for a bench trial, Plaintiffs represented for the first time that they
intended to move for a jury trial. (Doc 103 at p. 1.) Defendants indicated, in turn,
that they would oppose any such motion. (Doc. 103 at p. 1) A Scheduling Order was
issued on April 5, 2016, setting this case for a bench trial on May 1, 2017. (Doc.
The district court recently granted the parties’ joint motion to continue the May
1, 2017 trial date. (Doc. 115). At a telephone conference conducted by the
undersigned on March 29, 2017, the parties agreed that the matter is ripe for a ruling
on the qualified immunity issue remanded from the Fifth Circuit and that it was
unnecessary to set a new trial date at this time. (Doc. 119).
II. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Trial by Jury
On October 13, 2016, Plaintiffs submitted their Motion for Trial by Jury as to
all issues in these proceedings. (Doc. 105.) They ask the Court to exercise its
discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(b) and grant them a jury trial.
(Doc. 105 at p. 1, n.1.) Plaintiffs contend that recent discovery in this case has “led
[them] to believe that their son’s treatment at the hands of the defendants is so callous
that they deserve to have their case heard by a jury.” (Doc. 118 at p. 2.)
Defendants oppose Plaintiffs’ motion, asserting that Plaintiffs’ demand for a
jury trial is untimely filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38(b)(1).
(Doc. 108 at p. 4.) Defendants contend that the granting of Plaintiffs’ motion “would
be substantially unfair and prejudicial to Defendants.” (Doc. 108 at p. 4-5.)
Defendants further contend that Plaintiffs’ delay in seeking a jury trial can, at best,
be attributable to mere inadvertence, which is insufficient to relieve Plaintiffs from
waiving their right to a jury trial. (Doc. 108 at p. 5.)
Rule 38(b) entitles a party to a jury trial on any issue triable by a jury if a
demand is made “no later than 14 days after the last pleading directed to the issue is
served.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 38(b)(1). Under Rule 38(d), a party’s failure to timely
request a trial by jury constitutes a waiver of that party’s right to a trial by jury. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 38(d); Breaux v. Mastermind Shipmanagement Ltd., No. 15-1387, 2016
WL 4761559, at *2 (E.D. La. Sep. 13, 2016). It is undisputed that Plaintiffs have
made their demand for a jury trial in an untimely fashion and are, therefore, subject
to a waiver of such right.
The Court must now consider whether it may permit the untimely jury trial
demand pursuant to Rule 39(b), which “grants a district court discretion to order a
jury trial despite a party’s failure to comply with the fourteen-day requirement in Rule
38.” Breaux, 2016 WL 4761559, at *2 (citing Daniel International Corp. v.
Fischbach & Moore, Inc., 916 F.2d 1061, 1064 (5th Cir. 1990)). “In exercising its
discretion, a district court should grant an untimely request for a jury trial ‘in the
absence of strong and compelling reasons to the contrary.’” Breaux, 2016 WL
4761559, at *2 (citing Daniel International Corp., 916 F.2d at 1064). In other words,
“[a] motion for trial by jury under this rule ‘should be favorably received unless there
are persuasive reasons to deny it.’” Daniel International Corp., 916 F.2d at 1064
(quoting United States v. Unum, Inc., 658 F.2d 300, 303 (5th Cir. 1981)).
The Fifth Circuit in Daniel International Corp. has articulated five factors that
a district court should consider when determining whether to exercise its Rule 39(b)
whether the case involves issues which are best tried to a jury;
whether granting the motion would result in a disruption of the
court's schedule or that of an adverse party;
the degree of prejudice to the adverse party;
the length of the delay in having requested a jury trial; and
the reason for the movant's tardiness in requesting a jury trial.
Daniel International Corp., 916 F.2d at 1064.
In this case, consideration of these five factors militates in Plaintiffs’ favor.
With regard to the first factor, the issues to be decided at trial consist of related
Fourth Amendment excessive force and state law claims against Officer Faul.
Plaintiffs’ fate on these claims will hinge largely on whether the fact-finder believes
Plaintiffs’ version of the pertinent events occurring on December 9, 2011, or whether
they believe the Defendants’ version of those same events. “Such credibility
determinations are particularly appropriate for a jury to decide.” Teas v. Ferguson,
608 F. Supp. 2d 1070, 1072 (W.D. Ark. Mar. 19, 2009). But see Ohlssson v.
Normand, No. 11-1805, 2012 WL 2564937, at *1 (E.D. La. Jul. 2, 2012) (finding that
an excessive force claim is the “type of claim which is routinely decided at a bench
trial”).1 Consideration of this factor weighs in favor of granting Plaintiffs’ motion.
As to the second factor, the change from a bench trial to a jury trial will not
disrupt the Court’s calendar, especially since: (1) the Court must consider the
qualified immunity issue remanded from the Fifth Circuit before a trial can take
place; and (2) a new trial date has not even been set. Accordingly, consideration of
the second factor weighs in favor of granting Plaintiffs’ motion.
Turning to the third factor, Defendants argue that the granting of Plaintiffs’
motion “would be substantially unfair and prejudicial to Defendants” as it would
extend the duration of the trial. (Doc. 108 at p. 4-5.) However, given the fact that the
trial date has been continued indefinitely, Defendants will have ample time to prepare
appropriately for a jury trial. Because the prejudice to Defendants is relatively
minimal, the Court finds hat the third factor weighs in favor of granting Plaintiffs’
In reversing summary judgment on the Fourth Amendment and related state law
excessive force claims against Officer Faul, the Fifth Circuit’s repeated references to
what a “reasonable jury could conclude” suggest that a jury would be the appropriate factfinder to resolve these important credibility determinations. See Mason, 806 F.3d at 27778.
With regard to the fourth and fifth factors, the Court is concerned that Plaintiffs
waited nearly seven months after the March 14, 2016 telephone conference to make
their jury trial demand. Plaintiffs’ motion, nevertheless, was submitted more than six
months before the scheduled bench trial was to take place. They explain that the
motion was filed in light of recent discovery which caused them to reexamine their
initial decision to opt for a bench trial. (Doc. 118 at p. 2.) Because Plaintiffs’
explanation falls somewhat short in justifying such a lengthy delay, consideration of
the fourth and fifth factors mitigates slightly in favor of Defendants.
Overall, in light of the first three factors which weigh strongly in favor of
Plaintiffs, the Court concludes that Defendants have not sufficiently set forth “strong
and compelling reasons” to deny Plaintiffs’ jury demand pursuant to Rule 39(b).
Breaux, 2016 WL 4761559, at *2 (citing Daniel International Corp., 916 F.2d at
1064). Defendants have more than sufficient time to prepare for a jury trial on the
Fourth Amendment excessive force and related state law claims, which are claims
best tried in front of a jury in light of the necessary credibility determinations.
Based on the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for
Trial by Jury (Doc. 105) is GRANTED.
THUS DONE AND SIGNED at Lafayette, Louisiana, this 31st day of March,
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