ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District has ruled in favor of a tenant on the issue of a right to jury trial in a rent and possession action.
The appeals court panel found that the St. Louis Circuit Court, presided over by Circuit Judge Michael Noble, should have interpreted a state statute to give Stephanie Cameron a jury trial in a case brought against her by Brainchild Holdings LLC.
The panel reversed Noble's ruling and remanded the case for a jury trial for the money damages incurred by Brainchild Holdings.
It also noted the "general importance" of the issues presented and transferred the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court for the purpose of clarifying the law with respect to a right to a jury trial in rent and possession actions.
According to the ruling, Brainchild Holdings sought judgment “for rent and restitution” of premises, as well as the amount of the rent “due and owing up to the time (the) matter is heard.”
The ruling notes that Brainchild Holdings had sought both legal and equitable relief from the courts, although details regarding when court proceedings took place in the lower court were not provided in the court document.
"However, seeking both (types of relief) does not preclude the right to a jury trial," court records states.
The ruling issued on April 25 was authored by Judge Lisa Van Amburg. Special concurrences were offered by Judges Angela Quigless and Robert Dowd.
"The trial court has discretion to try such cases in the most practical and efficient manner possible, consistent with Missouri's historical preference for a litigant’s right to a jury trial on claims at law," Van Amburg wrote. "Unless circumstances clearly demand otherwise, trials should be conducted to allow claims at law to be tried to a jury, with the court reserving for its own determination only equitable claims and defenses, which it should decide consistently with the factual findings made by the jury. Because Brainchild Holdings in its petition alleges claims in law and equity, Cameron should have been allowed a jury trial on the legal remedy being sought against her."
The ruling said that Brainchild Holdings had argued at the trial court that litigants don't have a right to a jury trial for rent and possession without "specific statutory authority." It claimed that the state legislature's amendments to "rent and possession" law no longer afforded her a right to a jury trial.
But Cameron effectively argued that those amendments violated her constitutional right to a jury trial.