County of Orange v. U.S. Dist. Court for Cent. Dist. of Cal., No. 14-72343 (9th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
The County of Orange, California (County) filed a breach of contract action in federal district court against Tata American International Corporation after Tata America did not perform its obligations under the contract to the County’s satisfaction. The complaint included a jury trial demand. Tata America moved to strike the County’s jury demand, arguing that the County waived its right to a jury trial by signing the contract, which contained a jury trial waiver. The district court granted Tata America’s motion to strike, concluding (1) federal law, rather than California law, governed the question of whether the County waived its right to a jury trial in federal court; and (2) the County knowingly and voluntarily waived its right to a jury trial. The Ninth Circuit granted the County’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding (1) the federalism principle announced in Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins requires federal courts sitting in diversity to import state law governing jury trial waivers where, as here, state law is more protective than federal law of the jury trial right; and (2) under California law, the parties’ contractual jury trial waiver was unenforceable, and therefore, the district court erroneously deprived the County of a jury trial when it granted Tata America’s motion to strike.