The 7th amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial, but not for a long-term disability claim governed by a law known as ERISA. Perhaps a jury trial would help people receive benefits that are due, but the courts have not permitted a jury trial right. And now Congress has not acted to change this.
If you want some of the details as to how this came about, here it is: The 7th Circuit in Wardle v. Central States (1980) found there is no jury trial right under ERISA as the actions allowed were equitable in nature. Generally, the Constitution only protects legal claims and not equitable claims. Congress’ silence in the statute on the jury right underscored this status. Then the 5th Circuit in Calamia v. Spivey followed that reasoning, and thus, jury trials were eliminated in ERISA cases throughout the entire southeast.
After the 5th Circuit’s split, the 11th Circuit expressly adopted this reasoning in Chilton v. Savannah Foods (1987). So there it is… as of right now, ERISA Claims = No Jury Trial in Alabama, Mississippi and neighboring states.
If you’re curious about ERISA law, or need disability attorney services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our law firm.