Key Decisions

September 2012 – Insured Was Entitled To Jury Trial

(filed under: Key Decisions Archive | September 26, 2012)

Other Cases Of Interest

An Insured Was Entitled To A Jury Trial In An Insurer’s Action For Declaratory Relief Regarding Coverage

Entin v. Superior Court
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed August 20, 2012

Allen Entin owned two disability income insurance policies. In 2009, Entin filed a claim asserting that migraine headaches had rendered him totally disabled. Entin’s insurer, Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company, agreed to pay Entin benefits while investigating his claim. At the conclusion of its investigation, Provident filed a declaratory relief action seeking a determination that Entin was not totally disabled within the meaning of his policies.

In its complaint, Provident stated that it would continue to pay Entin benefits during the pendency of the action and would not seek reimbursement of those payments.

Entin requested a jury trial. The trial court denied the request, concluding that Provident’s claim was equitable in nature because it sought only a declaration of rights and because Provident was continuing to pay Entin disability benefits during the pendency of the action.

The Court of Appeal issued writ of mandate directing the Superior Court to grant Entin’s request for a jury trial. It held that in the context of declaratory relief actions, the right to a jury trial depends on whether the issues raised in the complaint are legal or equitable in nature. It also held that Provident’s declaratory relief claim raised factual questions pertaining to contractual rights, which were legal in nature. Although Provident had elected to pay Entin benefits while pursuing the action, that did not transform the nature of the dispute into one arising in equity. Entin was therefore entitled to a jury trial.