Curtis v. Loether

415 U.S. 189 (1974)


  • ¶, a black woman, alleges that r did not rent an apartment to her on the basis of race.

Procedural History:

  • ¶ filed a claim for injunctive relief and compensatory & punitive damages.
  • DC granted preliminary injunctive relief (not to rent the apt to someone else), which dissolved when ¶ found another apartment.
  • r requested a jury trial, DC held that neither Title VIII nor the 7th Amendment authorized a jury trial
  • After trail district judge found that the jury had discriminated against ¶ and awarded her $250 in punitive damages
  • CA reversed on the jury trial issue


Contentions of parties:

¶: Violation of Title 8 of the Civil Rights Act which forbids discrimination on basis of race. It has an express private right of action.


Whether the Civil Rights Act or the Seventh Amendment requires a jury trial on demand by one of the parties in an action for damages and injunctive relief §812.


The Civil Rights Act or the Seventh Amendment allows a jury trial on demand by one of the parties in an action for damages and injunctive relief under §812 because it deals with legal rather than equitable rights.


“When Congress provides for enforcement of statutory rights in an ordinary civil action in the district courts, where there is obviously no functional justification for denying the jury trail right, a jury trial must be available if the action involves rights and remedies of the sort typically enforced in an action at law.”

2-part test:

  1. Compare to causes of action under English law
  2. Type of remedies sought

Rule(s) of Law:

7th Amendment: right to jury trial

  • 812


Analogy with innkeepers, intentional torts,

The damages sought are compensation for an injury- sounds like a tort, which were heard in the law courts.

Case turns on the type of remedy sought- actual and punitive damages, available in a court of law.

If the only thing she had asked for was injunctive relief, she would not have a right to trial by jury because this type of relief could only be granted by an equity court.