Jury Trials in Third-Party Action

The availability of a jury trial in a third party action in an admiralty case depends upon the jurisdiction.  For example, there will not be any jury trial in a third-party action in some courts if the principal action is based only upon admiralty jurisdiction.  Whereas, in some other courts, if the principal action is based upon both admiralty and nonadmiralty jurisdictional grounds and identified as admiralty jurisdiction, then courts can deny jury trial to the third-party action.

However, a third-party claim that lacks independent grounds of jurisdiction can be appended to an admiralty action and is cognizable in federal court under the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction.  Whereas, in some other jurisdictions, a third party civil action can be appended to an admiralty claim and the parties can demand a jury trial.[i]

In Fawcett v. Pacific Far East Lines, Inc., 76 F.R.D. 519 (N.D. Cal. 1977),the court observed that there is no right to jury trial in a third-party action in admiralty only because the original complaint is within the civil jurisdiction, even if the party demanded a jury trial.

If the principal action is based upon both alternative ground of jurisdiction and admiralty, then either party in the third-party action can demand a jury trial unless the third-party plaintiff makes admiralty identification.[ii] However, in a third party action, if an issue that has to be tried by a jury is connected with nonjury issues, then the jury that tries the jury issues can also try the nonjury issues or serve as an advisory jury.

[i] Fawcett v. Pacific Far East Lines, Inc., 76 F.R.D. 519 (N.D. Cal. 1977)

[ii] Emerson G.M. Diesel, Inc. v. Alaskan Enterprise, 732 F.2d 1468 (9th Cir. Wash. 1984)


Inside Jury Trials in Third-Party Action