to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss at 29. In light of plaintiffs' apparent interpretation of their own complaint as not requesting punitive damages on the first claim (or in the alternative their concession that punitive damages are not proper under ERISA) and my dismissal of the fraud claim, I grant defendants' motion to strike plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages.
D. Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Request for a Jury Trial
Finally, defendants move to strike plaintiffs' request for a jury trial. They assert that plaintiffs are seeking equitable relief, which does not entitle them to a jury trial, and they support their argument with the claim that every circuit court that has addressed the issue has found no right to a jury trial in ERISA actions, see e.g. Turner v. CF & I Steel Corp., 770 F.2d 43, 46-47 (3rd Cir. 1985). Our circuit court, however, has implied that although there is no right to a jury trial when an ERISA plaintiff seeks equitable relief, a request for "damages for wrongdoing or non-payment of benefits" may invoke a jury trial right. Katsaros v. Cody, 744 F.2d 270, 278 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1072, 105 S. Ct. 565, 83 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1984). Moreover, at least some of those courts who have denied jury trials in ERISA actions have done so because they believed the actions not to involve disputed factual matters, but instead to address whether plan administrators appropriately exercised their discretion, an issue that "does not lend itself comfortably to the traditional jury trial." Turner, 770 F.2d at 46.
In this case, a disputed factual matter -- whether or not defendants made the asserted promises and whether or not, if they did, plaintiffs can make a showing "tantamount to fraud" -- may ultimately form the heart of any trial on this matter. As such, to the extent that plaintiffs are not seeking equitable relief, they may be entitled to a jury trial. The complaint, however, does not clearly make out a claim for other than equitable relief. Instead, it appears to request declaratory and injunctive relief. And it indicates that plaintiffs' right to relief may flow from defendants' breaches of fiduciary duty -- a claim that may invoke equitable relief. As such, I am striking plaintiffs' request for a jury trial. I am so doing, however, without prejudice to plaintiffs' right to amend their complaint to make clear whether it is legal or equitable (or both legal and equitable) relief they are seeking.
Defendants' motion to dismiss the first count of the complaint entirely is denied. Defendants Devon's and Koch's motion to dismiss is granted without prejudice to amend the complaint. Defendants' motion to dismiss the second count of the complaint is granted, with prejudice, as is their motion to strike the complaint's demand for punitive damages. Defendants' motion to strike the complaint's demand for a jury trial is granted without prejudice. Plaintiffs may amend their complaint on the issues so indicated within 20 days of the issuance of this opinion and order. The parties shall make any additional motions no later than December 15, 1992. They shall complete discovery by December 21, 1992. They shall submit a pretrial order, requests to charge, and proposed voir dire no later than January 15, 1993, and shall be ready for trial on January 18, 1993.
DATED: New York, New York
October 15, 1992
Kimba M. Wood
United States District Judge