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BARNES v. AMERICAN TOBACCO CO.

October 17, 1997

WILLIAM BARNES, et al.
v.
THE AMERICAN TOBACCO COMPANY, INC., et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

 Presently before this Court are Defendants' Motion to Enforce Jury Demand, and plaintiffs' response thereto, and defendants' reply thereto. For the following reasons, this Court will grant defendants' Motion.

 Plaintiffs, *fn1" proceeding as the named representatives of a class of approximately one to two million Pennsylvania residents who smoke cigarettes, *fn2" have filed suit against defendants, *fn3" seeking the establishment of a medical monitoring fund. In their Second Amended Complaint, the plaintiffs have only asserted one claim against defendants -- a claim for medical monitoring. Plaintiffs have requested a jury trial in their complaint. The defendants have likewise filed demands for a jury trial. Despite their demand for a jury trial, plaintiffs contend that this case should be tried to the Court because their medical monitoring claim is an equitable, injunctive claim.

 In response to plaintiffs' request to have this case tried to the Court, the defendants have filed a motion to enforce their demands for a jury trial. In general, defendants argue that they are entitled to a trial by jury because (1) the injury for which plaintiffs seek relief -- alleged increased risk of latent diseases -- is one for which an adequate remedy at law exists and (2) the remedy that plaintiffs seek is money. Plaintiffs rejoin that defendants have no right, nor do they, to a jury trial because they assert an equitable claim and request equitable relief.

 II. Discussion

 The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "in Suits at common law, where the value exceeds twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved." U.S. Const. Amend. VII. The phrase "Suits at common law" refers to "'suits in which legal rights [are] to be ascertained and determined, in contradistinction to those where equitable rights alone [are] recognized, and equitable remedies [are] administered.'" Chauffeurs, Teamsters & Helpers, Local No. 391 v. Terry, 494 U.S. 558, 564, 108 L. Ed. 2d 519, 110 S. Ct. 1339 (1990) (quoting Parsons v. Bedford, 28 U.S. 433, 3 Pet. 433, 447, 7 L. Ed. 732 (1830)). Since the merger of law and equity under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 2, the Supreme Court of the United States has carefully preserved the right to trial by jury where legal rights are at stake. Indeed, the Supreme Court noted, in Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, that "'maintenance of the jury as a fact finding body is of such importance and occupies so firm a place in our history and jurisprudence that any seeming curtailment of the right to a jury trial should be scrutinized with the utmost care.'" 359 U.S. 500, 501, 79 S. Ct. 948, 3 L. Ed. 2d 988 (1959) (quoting Dimick v. Schiedt, 293 U.S. 474, 486, 79 L. Ed. 603, 55 S. Ct. 296 (1935)).

 "To determine whether a particular action will resolve legal rights, [the Court must] examine both the nature of the issues involved and the remedy sought." Terry, 494 U.S. at 565. "'First, [the Court must compare] the [] action to 18th-century actions brought in the courts of England prior to the merger of the courts of law and equity. Second, [the Court must also] examine the remedy sought and determine whether it is legal or equitable in nature.'" Id. (quoting Tull v. United States, 481 U.S. 412, 417-18, 95 L. Ed. 2d 365, 107 S. Ct. 1831 (1987)). The Supreme Court has explained that the "second inquiry is the more important [prong] of [a court's] analysis." Id. (citation omitted).

 Upon careful consideration of the possible analogous suits, the Court concludes, in agreement with defendants, that the most analogous cause of action is a negligence action for future medical expenses. As explained by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the basis for a medical monitoring claim is negligence *fn5" on the part of the defendant in exposing the plaintiff to a hazardous substance. Redland, 548 Pa. 178, 696 A.2d 137. A negligence-based claim for future medical expenses was an action at law for personal injury in the 18th century, and today, a negligence-based claim for future medical expenses is also an action at law. Based on this observation, it clearly would not be inappropriate for this Court to conclude that plaintiffs' medical monitoring claim, which is extremely similar to a negligence-based claim for future medical expenses, raises primarily legal issues. Although this reasoning is facially appealing, the Court must explore the issues that are raised in a suit for medical monitoring more deeply in order to properly dispose of the instant issue before the bar.

 Defendants are not wrong to argue that the modern common law claim of medical monitoring closely resembles a negligence-based claim for future medical expense. In order to prove your entitlement to medical monitoring, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs to demonstrate that they were exposed to hazardous substances due to the defendants' negligence. Thus, the underlying theory of liability for a medical monitoring claim is the legal claim of negligence. Plaintiffs do not refute that negligence is an underlying theory of liability for a medical monitoring claim; indeed, they argue that strict products liability and intentional exposure to a hazardous substance can also act as theories of liability for medical monitoring -- two theories of liability which implicate legal rights.

 It is under the second line of inquiry, which is the more important inquiry in this Court's Seventh Amendment analysis, that plaintiffs make their most persuasive argument that their medical monitoring claim is an equitable claim for which there exists no right to a jury trial. To begin, plaintiffs argue that the relief they seek, in the form of a court-supervised medical monitoring program, is equitable in nature. In contrast, defendants, rehashing an argument advanced in their opposition to plaintiffs' first motion for class certification, argue that plaintiffs' medical monitoring program "is a request for the payment of money for future medical damages." (Defs.' Mem. Enforce Jury Demand at 5). In essence, defendants, once again, argue that a medical monitoring claim can never be characterized as injunctive. This Court, however, has already addressed this issue and has concluded otherwise. In this Court's first class certification opinion, this Court distinguished between medical monitoring claims which can be characterized as pursuing monetary damages, and those which can be characterized as seeking only injunctive relief:

 
The Court finds that it may properly certify a medical monitoring claim under Rule 23(b)(2) when the plaintiffs seek such specific relief which can be properly characterized as invoking the court's equitable powers. See Day, 144 F.R.D. 330 at 336; see also Fried v. Sungard Recovery Serv., Inc., 925 F. Supp. 372 (E.D. Pa. 1996). In reaching this decision, the Court perforce ...

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