Unqualified right to jury trial: KNIGHT V. HAZARD COAL CORP. (COA 9/5/2008)
By Michael Stevens
KNIGHT V. HAZARD COAL CORP.
CIVIL: Right to jury trial is unqualified
TO BE PUBLISHED: REVERSING AND REMANDING
PANEL: DIXON PRESIDING; LAMBERT, STUMBO CONCUR
DATE RENDERED: 9/5/2008
Appellants appeal from the Perry Circuit Court?s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment in this dispute over the use of a coal haul road.
The COA held that the Appellants were denied their right to a trial by jury abd
At issue was a ?coal haul road? that crosses the owner's? property and had been used by
the coal company to haul coal, mine supplies, equipment, coal refuse, and personnel.
The coal company responded that their right to access the coal haul road was established by the mineral severance deeds and was further permitted by prescriptive easement established by years of open, continuous and uninterrupted use.
All parties, except for Hazard Coal Corporation, demanded a jury trial in their initial pleading.
A jury trial was thereafter scheduled but during a pretrial conference, the trial court announced, on its own initiative, that it would conduct a bench trial on all issues except damages.
Because the trial court improperly denied Appellants a trial by jury, the COA
did not reach the merits of the easement issue.
CR 38.01 clearly states, ?The right of trial by jury as declared by the Constitution of Kentucky or as given by a statute of Kentucky shall be preserved to the parties inviolate.?
The civil rules further provide that any party may demand a trial by jury and that such demand ?may not be withdrawn without the consent of the parties.? CR 38.04.
The Kentucky Constitution, is contravened by Civil Rule 39.01(c), which permits a trial court to deny this right in an action at law for damages upon a determination that the case, because of the peculiar questions involved or because the action involves complicated accounts, or a great detail of facts, is impractical for a jury to intelligently try.
the Kentucky Constitution, in actions at law, gives the litigant an unqualified right to trial by jury. Section 7
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