On August 19, 2014, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that individuals bringing suit under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law have no right to a jury trial. Writing for the court, Judge Judith Olson explains that “the plain language of the statute makes clear that Appellant did not possess a statutory right to a jury trial.” Bensinger v. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center t/a/d/b/a Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 2014 Pa. Super. LEXIS 2861 (August 19, 2014). Because a whistleblower claim has no common law analogue that would give rise to a right to jury trial under the Pennsylvania Constitution, the court held that the trial court properly denied plaintiff John Bensinger’s jury demand.
The Bensinger decision is good news for Pennsylvania employers because it places decisions on liability and damages into the hands of judges who often are better qualified to decide complex employment cases, and who are usually less apt to be swayed by facts unrelated to the claims or defenses.