In a 4-3 ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court held Thursday that there's no constitutional right to a jury trial in a small claims case.
The majority ruling went against Amber Schlauder, who had won a
lower court ruling that she had a right to a jury trial in her
small claims dispute with Amy Cheung. The two were involved in a
car accident in Las Vegas, and Cheung had sought $5,000 in medical
Justice Jim Hardesty, who wrote the majority ruling, said Nevada
small claims court law "demands a party be able to bring his case
to justice quickly and affordably. Therefore, we hold that a jury
trial right does not exist under our (state) constitution in
actions filed in small claims court."
Justices Bob Rose and Michael Douglas dissented, with Rose
writing that the majority opinion might be "both a practical and
politically popular solution. Unfortunately, it completely fails to
recognize the Nevada Constitution's unqualified guarantee that 'the
right of trial by jury shall be secured to all."'
Justice Bill Maupin wrote a separate dissent, saying the framers
of the Nevada Constitution "clearly intended to hold the right to
jury trial inviolate in justice court matters involving claims for
"Yes, small claims court did not exist at statehood," Maupin
added. "The subsequent creation of small claims courts as a
division of justice courts cannot circumvent the constitution."
The majority opinion restores an earlier award by a justice of
the peace of $5,000 plus court costs to Cheung. The award was
granted based on a review of Cheung's medical bills and Schlauder's
admission of liability.