Legal Memorandum: Guarantee of a Jury Trial in OH

Issue: Under Ohio law, is there a guarantee of a jury trial in a personal injury action against the state?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Government Claims, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Jury trial; State as defendant; Personal injury action
Jurisdiction: Ohio
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

At common law, not only was a negligence suit against the state not triable to a jury but in fact no right to sue the sovereign existed at all.  Therefore, if the sovereign status of the defendant controls over the nature of her claims for money damages, plaintiff does not have a right under the Ohio Constitution to a trial by jury against the state.  See, e.g., Pitstick v. Potash Corp., 698 F. Supp. 131, 134-35 (S.D. Ohio 1988) (Seventh Amendment to U.S. Constitution “does not grant a right to trial by jury in a civil action against a foreign state because such an action was unavailable at common law prior to the Seventh Amendment’s adoption in 1791.”).  See also Universal Consolidated Cos. v. Bank of China, 35 F.3d 243, 245 (6th Cir. 1994) (argument that common law nature of Ohio company’s claim should control issue of right to jury trial, not sovereign status of the defendant, rejected on ground that federal statute granting jurisdiction over a foreign state is premised upon nonjury civil action).  The state of Ohio would no doubt argue as well that jurisdiction over it is premised upon, among other things, the denial of a right to a jury trial.


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