Shaw v. Atlantic Coast Life Ins. Co., No. 2488

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHEARN
PartiesPayden SHAW and Juanita Shaw, Respondents, v. ATLANTIC COAST LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY and Atlantic Coast Life Insurance Company Employment Benefit Plan, Appellants. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 2488
Decision Date09 January 1996

Page 382

470 S.E.2d 382
322 S.C. 139
Payden SHAW and Juanita Shaw, Respondents,
v.
ATLANTIC COAST LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY and Atlantic Coast
Life Insurance Company Employment Benefit Plan, Appellants.
No. 2488.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard Jan. 9, 1996.
Decided March 18, 1996.
Rehearing Denied May 23, 1996.
Certiorari Denied Nov. 8, 1996.

D. Cravens Ravenel, of Baker, Barwick, Ravenel & Bender, Columbia; and Peyre T. Lumpkin, of Hinds, Cowan, Strange, Greer & Lumpkin, Georgetown, for appellants.

Lisa Poe Davis, of Kelaher, Connell & Connor, Surfside Beach, for respondents.

[322 S.C. 140] HEARN, Judge:

Atlantic Coast Life Insurance Company (Atlantic Coast) and Atlantic Coast Life Insurance Company Employee Benefit Plan (the Plan) appeal the trial judge's Order denying their motions to transfer this case to the non-jury roster. We affirm.

Payden Shaw and his wife, Juanita Shaw, filed a complaint seeking damages from Atlantic Coast for breach of contract for failure to pay benefits for Juanita Shaw's medical expenses, incurred after receiving pre-operative approval under the Atlantic Coast Life Employee Group Health Insurance. Payden Shaw's employer, Atlantic Coast, provided a group insurance plan for its employees and their family members. This Plan is an employer-sponsored, self-funded health insurance policy which is part of a qualified plan under the terms of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C.A. § 1001, et seq.

Thereafter, the Shaws filed an amended complaint which named the Plan as an additional defendant. Both defendants moved to transfer the case to the non-jury roster on the ground, inter alia, that an action to recover ERISA benefits is equitable and there is no right to a jury trial. The trial judge denied the defendants' motions. Both defendants appeal.

I.

Appellants assert the trial judge erred in finding that the Shaws requested a jury trial in that no jury request was made in the Amended Complaint. We disagree.

The trial judge's Order denying Appellants' motions to transfer the case to the non-jury docket stated in part, "[a]fter Plaintiffs requested a jury trial, Defendants moved to transfer the case to the non-jury docket." Appellants argue that although the original Complaint filed contained the word "jury," the Amended Complaint contained no such designation. Furthermore, Appellants argue that pursuant to Rule 38(d), SCRCP, the Shaws failed to serve a demand for a jury trial, which constituted a waiver of a jury trial.

Page 384

[322 S.C. 141] The method for demanding a jury trial is set forth inRule 38(b), SCRCP, which states:

Any party may demand a trial by jury of any issue triable of right by a jury by serving upon the other parties a demand therefor in writing at any time after the commencement of the action and not later than 10 days after the service of the last pleading directed to such issue. Such demand may be endorsed upon a pleading of the party.

The failure to serve and file a timely demand is governed by Rule 38(d), SCRCP, which provides:

The failure of a party to serve a demand as required by this rule and to file it as required by Rule 5(d) constitutes a waiver by him of trial by jury. A demand for trial by jury made as herein provided may not be withdrawn without the consent of the parties, except where an opposing party is in default under Rule 55(a).

Once a jury trial is properly demanded it may only be waived based on the provisions of Rule 39(a), SCRCP, which states:

When a trial by jury has been demanded as provided in Rule 38, the action shall be designated upon the calendar and the clerk's filebook as a jury action. The trial of all issues so demanded shall be by jury, unless (1) the parties or their attorneys of record, by written stipulation filed with the court or by an oral stipulation made in open court and entered in the record, consent to trial by the court sitting without a jury or (2) the court upon motion or its own initiative finds that a right of trial by jury of some or all of those issues does not exist.

Pursuant to Rules 38(d) and 39(a), SCRCP, we find the Shaws properly demanded a jury trial and did not waive this right. Although the Amended Complaint did not designate the case as "jury," the initial Complaint properly made this designation on its face. The Amended Complaint only added the Plan as a defendant and did not add additional causes of action which would have affected the "jury" designation. Furthermore, neither the Shaws nor their attorney stipulated in writing that a jury trial was waived.

[322 S.C. 142] II.

Appellants assert the trial judge erred in denying their motions to transfer the case to the non-jury roster. The key issue in this appeal is whether the Shaws, seeking recovery of benefits pursuant to 29 U.S.C.A. § 1132(a)(1)(B), are entitled to a jury trial. We hold the trial judge correctly ordered a jury trial.

Most federal courts have denied a jury trial for benefits-due lawsuits under ERISA. These courts have cast employee benefit plans as trusts, subject to equitable jurisdiction. See, e.g., Wardle v. Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, 627 F.2d 820 (7th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1112, 101 S.Ct. 922, 66 L.Ed.2d 841 (1981); accord In re Vorpahl, 695 F.2d 318 (8th Cir.1982); Calamia v. Spivey, 632 F.2d 1235 (5th Cir.1980); Berry v. Ciba-Geigy Corp., 761 F.2d 1003 (4th Cir.1985); Blake v. Unionmutual Stock Life Ins. of America, 906 F.2d 1525 (11th Cir.1990); Bair v. General Motors Corp., 895 F.2d 1094 (6th Cir.1990); Cox v. Keystone Carbon Co., 894 F.2d 647 (3d Cir.1990) cert. denied, 498 U.S. 811, 111 S.Ct. 47, 112 L.Ed.2d 23; Kirk v. Provident Life and Accident Ins. Co., 942 F.2d 504 (8th Cir.1991); Connors v. Ryan's Coal Co., 923 F.2d 1461 (11th Cir.1991); Biggers v. Wittek Indus. Inc., 4 F.3d 291 (4th Cir.1993); Spinelli v. Gaughan, 12 F.3d 853 (9th Cir.1993). 1

Since ERISA grants concurrent jurisdiction to the states in benefits-due actions, the jury trial issue also has been considered by state courts. ERISA is silent on...

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2 practice notes
  • Parker v. Shecut, No. 3167.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 22, 2000
    ...v. Fisher Agro, Inc., 301 S.C. 229, 391 S.E.2d 538 (1989). Actions for breach of contract are legal. Shaw v. Atlantic Coast Life Ins. Co., 322 S.C. 139, 470 S.E.2d 382 (Ct.App. 1996). When legal and equitable causes of action are maintained in one suit, each retains its own identity as lega......
  • Midwest Sec. Life Ins. Co. v. Stroup, No. 06S05-0006-CV-364.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 13, 2000
    ...P.2d 735, 741 (1993); Fuller v. INA Life Ins. Co., 141 Misc.2d 464, 533 N.Y.S.2d 215, 218 (1988); Shaw v. Atlantic Coast Life Ins. Co., 322 S.C. 139, 470 S.E.2d 382, 387 (App.1996); see also Ex parte Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 679 So.2d 686, 689 (Ala.1996) (concurring opinion). There also ......
2 cases
  • Parker v. Shecut, No. 3167.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 22, 2000
    ...v. Fisher Agro, Inc., 301 S.C. 229, 391 S.E.2d 538 (1989). Actions for breach of contract are legal. Shaw v. Atlantic Coast Life Ins. Co., 322 S.C. 139, 470 S.E.2d 382 (Ct.App. 1996). When legal and equitable causes of action are maintained in one suit, each retains its own identity as lega......
  • Midwest Sec. Life Ins. Co. v. Stroup, No. 06S05-0006-CV-364.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 13, 2000
    ...P.2d 735, 741 (1993); Fuller v. INA Life Ins. Co., 141 Misc.2d 464, 533 N.Y.S.2d 215, 218 (1988); Shaw v. Atlantic Coast Life Ins. Co., 322 S.C. 139, 470 S.E.2d 382, 387 (App.1996); see also Ex parte Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 679 So.2d 686, 689 (Ala.1996) (concurring opinion). There also ......

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