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JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 7, 2017

JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
v.
LARRY J. WINGET and the LARRY J. WINGET LIVING TRUST, Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs.

          ORDER GRANTING CHASE'S MOTION TO STRIKE JURY DEMAND (DOC. 755) [1]

          AVERN COHN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This is a commercial dispute. J. P. Morgan Chase (Chase) is the administrative agent for a group of lenders that extended credit to Venture Holdings Company, LLC (Venture) under a credit agreement. In 2008, Chase sued Larry J. Winget (Winget) and the Larry J. Winget Living Trust (Winget Trust) to enforce a Guaranty and two Pledge Agreements entered into by Winget and signed by Winget and the Winget Trust in 2002, guaranteeing the obligations of Venture. After years of litigation and multiple appeals, on July 28, 2015, the Court entered an Amended Judgment in favor of Chase and against Winget and the Winget Trust that enforced the Guaranty and Pledge Agreements against Winget and the Winget Trust. Specifically, the judgment against the Winget Trust was in the amount of $425, 113.115.59. The judgment against against Winget was limited to $50 million. (Doc. 568).

         Before the Court is Chase's motion to strike jury demand. The motion was the subject of a phone conference on November 21, 2017 during which the Court permitted the parties to file additional papers. Chase filed a reply brief (Doc. 767) and Winget filed a Supplemental Submission (Doc. 768). The matter is ready for decision. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         II. Background

         A.

         Following entry of the Amended Judgment, and after Winget satisfied his portion of the judgment, Chase began collection efforts against the Winget Trust. This included including issuing writs of garnishment and serving discovery on the Winget Trust. During these post-judgment proceedings, Chase learned that in January of 2014, Winget revoked the Winget Trust.

         Following the revocation, in early 2015, Winget filed an action for declaratory relief, 15-13469, seeking a declaration that Chase has no further recourse against Winget, including assets that were once part of the Winget Trust. Chase filed a counterclaim, asserting several claims which essentially boil down to the contention that Winget's revocation of the Winget Trust was a fraudulent transfer or conveyance. Because Chase's counterclaim was the functional equivalent of post-judgment proceedings in the 2008 case, the Court consolidated the 2015 and 2008 cases and directed all filings under the 2008 case. (Doc. 686). In response to Chase's counterclaims, Winget demanded a jury. (Doc. 691).

         B.

         The Guaranty contains an explicit jury waiver:

SECTION 19. GOVERNING LAW; SUBMISSION TO JURISDICTION; WAIVER OF JURY TRIAL. … THE GUARANTOR, AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT AND THE LENDERS ACCEPTING THIS GUARANTY, HEREBY IRREVOCABLY WAIVES ANY AND ALL RIGHT TO TRIAL BY JURY IN ANY LEGAL PROCEEDING ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THE GUARANTY OR THE TRANSACTIONS CONTEMPLATED HEREBY.

         In 2009, Winget and Winget Trust demanded a jury on Chase's claims to enforce the Guaranty. (Doc. 41 at 30.) Chase moved to strike the jury demand based on the unambiguous waiver. (Doc. 44.) Winget responded that the jury waiver was unenforceable, relying in part on Winget's position that the Winget Trust and Winget had coextensive liability under Section 3 of the Guaranty. (Doc. 45 at 4-6.) The Court rejected this argument, recognizing that “[b]y virtue of [S]ection 19 of the Guaranty, Defendants clearly, knowingly, and voluntarily waived their right to a jury trial.” (Doc. 48 at p. 10.[2]

         In the present posture of the case, noted above, Chase is pursuing claims against Winget due to Winget's revocation of the Winget Trust, an action which has prevented Chase ...


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