Monday, May 22, 2023

court: there's no right to jury trial when seeking only injunction/disgorgement in false advertising case

Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, Inc. v. Timeshare Lawyers P.A., 2023 WL 3510374, No. 20-24681-Civ-Scola (S.D. Fla. May 17, 2023)

The court grants these timeshare plaintiffs’ motion for a bench trial, ruling that the Seventh Amendment doesn’t guarantee a jury trial in a false advertising case where the plaintiffs seek only equitable remedies. I presume that the defendants think that a jury might be more sympathetic to their unclean hands-type arguments, and they also argued they'd wasted a bunch of time and resources preparing for a jury; the court notes that “a significant portion of the Defendants’ opposition highlights what is perhaps best referred to as Bluegreen’s persistent gamesmanship in this and related cases.”

 The issue of “whether a right to a jury trial exists turns on whether the claims were historically cognizable at law or considered equitable.” This requires comparing the statutory action to 18th-century actions, then examining the remedy sought; the latter is the more important consideration. The Eleventh Circuit previously held that a plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit under the Lanham Act is not entitled to a jury trial when it seeks only disgorgement of the defendant’s profits in lieu of actual damages. Hard Candy, Ltd. Liab. Co. v. Anastasia Beverly Hills, Inc., 921 F.3d 1343, 1348 (11th Cir. 2019).

Although this was a false advertising case with no obvious 18th-century analogue, the court found Hard Candy dispositive. The nature of the relief requested—disgorgement and an injunction—was the determining factor. This also applied to plaintiffs’ tortious interference and civil conspiracy claims, even though both causes of action were traditionally cognizable at law.

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