United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Stay. (Doc. # 5). In this
motion, Defendant requests that the court dismiss this action
without prejudice or stay it pending resolution of a parallel
state-court action, pursuant to the Colorado River
Doctrine. The parties have fully briefed the motion (Docs. #
7, 8), and it is under submission. After careful review,
Defendant's motion is due to be denied.
motion relates to two parallel lawsuits filed, one here and
the other in state court. In September 2016, Plaintiff's
vehicle was struck by a tractor trailer operated by
Defendant. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 9-12). James Benz was a
passenger in Plaintiff's vehicle. (Doc. # 7-1 at 3). In
November 2017, Benz filed suit against Defendant in the
Circuit Court for Shelby County, Alabama. (Id. at
1-6). Benz raised claims of negligence, wantonness,
underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, and negligent
entrustment, hiring, training, and supervision in his
state-court complaint. (Id. at 3-5).
February 2018, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant
in this court. (Doc. # 1). Plaintiff has brought his action
in this court asserting that the court has diversity
jurisdiction because (1) he is a resident of Alabama, and
Defendant is a resident of Georgia, and (2) the amount in
dispute exceeds $75, 000. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-2,
7). In his Complaint, Plaintiff raises claims of negligence
and wantonness. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-20).
The Colorado River Doctrine
the Colorado River Doctrine of “exceptional
circumstances, ” a federal district court may
“dismiss or stay an action when there is an ongoing
parallel action in state court.” Moorer v.
Demopolis Waterworks & Sewer Bd., 374 F.3d 994, 997
(11th Cir. 2004) (quoting LaDuke v. Burlington N. R.R.
Co., 879 F.2d 1556, 1558 (7th Cir. 1989)). The
principles of that Doctrine “rest on considerations of
wise judicial administration, giving regard to conservation
of judicial resources and comprehensive disposition of
litigation.” Ambrosia Coal & Constr. Co. v.
Pages Morales, 368 F.3d 1320, 1328 (11th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v.
United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976)).
as between state and federal courts, the rule is that the
pendency of an action in the state court is no bar to
proceedings concerning the same matter in the Federal court
having jurisdiction.” Colorado River, 424 U.S.
at 817 (internal quotation omitted). “Federal courts
have a ‘virtually unflagging obligation . . . to
exercise the jurisdiction given them.'”
Ambrosia Coal, 368 F.3d at 1328 (quoting
Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817). However, a federal
court may defer to a parallel state proceeding under
“limited” and “exceptional”
circumstances. Moorer, 374 F.3d at 997 (citing
Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817-18).
is no bright-line test for determining when an existing,
concurrent state case warrants federal court abstention in a
parallel federal case. Ambrosia Coal, 368 F.3d at
1328. Nonetheless, the Eleventh Circuit has indicated that a
district court may consider the following factors in
determining whether exceptional circumstances exist:
(1) the order in which the courts assumed jurisdiction over
property; (2) the relative inconvenience of the fora; (3) the
order in which jurisdiction was obtained and the relative
progress of the two actions; (4) the desire to avoid
piecemeal litigation; (5) whether federal law provides the
rule of decision; and (6) whether the state court will
adequately protect the rights of all parties.
Moorer 374 F.3d at 997 (quoting TranSouth Fin.
Corp. v. Bell, 149 F.3d 1292, 1294-95 (11th Cir. 1998)).
Of course, “[t]he decision whether to dismiss [or stay]
‘does not rest on a mechanical checklist, but on a
careful balancing of the important factors as they apply in a
given case, with the balance heavily weighted in favor of the
exercise of jurisdiction.'” Id. (quoting
Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr.
Co., 460 U.S. 1, 16 (1983)). The weight attributed to
each factor varies on a case-by-case basis, and depends on
the particularities of that case. Id. A single
factor alone can be the sole reason for abstention.
Id. After performing the analysis, if a federal
court determines the Colorado River Doctrine applies
and that it should defer to a parallel state-court
proceeding, the court must stay, and not dismiss, the federal
case. Moorer, 374 F.3d at 998 (citations omitted).
Thus, here, the court asks two questions: (1) whether there
is a state-court proceeding that is sufficiently parallel to
this action; and (2) if so, applying the factors discussed
above, do exceptional circumstances exist that counsel toward
staying this action.
order for the Colorado River Doctrine to apply,
there must be a state case parallel to the federal one.
Jackson-Platts v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 727 F.3d
1127, 1140 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). The federal
and state proceedings do not have to contain the same
parties, issues, and requests for relief to be identical.
Ambrosia Coal, 368 F.3d at 1329-30. “The
crucial question is whether the ‘similarity between the
two cases is sufficient to justify the conclusion that the
state court litigation will be an adequate vehicle for the
complete and prompt resolution of the issue between the
parties.'” Sini v. Citibank, N.A., 990
F.Supp.2d 1370, 1376 (S.D. Fla. 2014) (quoting Brown v.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., No.
11-80390-CIV, 2011 WL 11532078, at *8 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 8,
2011)). A district court may appropriately undertake the
Colorado River analysis when the “federal and
state proceedings involve substantially the same parties and
substantially the same issues.” Ambrosia Coal,
368 F.3d at 1330. Here, Plaintiff's action and Benz's
action arise from the same accident, the actions have been
brought against the same defendant, and the actions both
raise negligence and wantonness claims. Thus, the court
readily concludes that the two actions involve substantially
the same parties and issues, making them parallel actions
under the Colorado River Doctrine.
said that, the court finds that none of the Colorado
River factors compel abstention. Defendant concedes that
the first, second, fifth, and sixth factors discussed in
Moorer do not weigh in favor of abstention. (Doc. #
5 at 5, 8-9). The only factors relied upon by Defendant to
justify abstention are (1) the state court's prior
acquisition of jurisdiction and (2) the prejudice Defendant
would face from piecemeal litigation. (Id. at 6-8).
In response, Plaintiff argues that the sixth factor
(i.e., the state court's ability to protect the
rights of all parties) weighs against abstention because he
likely will need to obtain discovery materials from Georgia