Are Contractual Jury Trial Waivers Valid?

On April 16, 2015, in the case of County of Orange vs. Tata Consultancy Services, Ltd. et al, Case #14-72343, the United States Court of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit granted a Petition For Writ of Mandamus from the U.S. District Court (Southern District), and in the facts of this case held unenforceable a jury waiver provision in a contract that was not expressly authorized by statute under California law even though a voluntary and knowing pre-dispute contractual waiver is valid under Federal law.

Since it is not uncommon because of economic factors for lawyers who draft contracts to provide for a waiver of the right to a jury otherwise guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 6 of the California Constitution, this opinion will likely have a significant impact when a party waives a right to a jury trial that is not otherwise authorized by Civil Code section 631.

In general, contracts that provide for arbitration in lieu of a jury trial, however, are enforceable as long as a legally proper and complete waiver is set forth therein.