has urged economy in the use of judicial resources as an additional consideration in support of a stay.
Plaintiff Nigro's arguments in opposition to this motion are as follows:
FIRST: he claims that he has a right to be in this court because of our diversity jurisdiction and maintains that trial of the matter here will give him the advantages of notice pleading and liberal discovery; and
SECOND: he urges that a stay of proceedings by this court would deprive him of his right to have his cause adjudicated in a federal forum and in effect would constitute improper circumvention of the pertinent constitutional and statutory provisions which control diversity litigation.
When there is concurrent jurisdiction in state and federal courts, and "the action first brought is in personam and seeks only a personal judgment, another action for the same cause in another jurisdiction is not precluded." Kline v. Burke Construction Co., 260 U.S. 226, 230, 43 S. Ct. 79, 67 L. Ed. 226 (1922). Ordinarily, of course, both actions may proceed simultaneously until judgment is obtained in one of them, in which event recovery is barred in the other action. Penn General Casualty Co. v. Pennsylvania, 294 U.S. 189, 195, 55 S. Ct. 386, 79 L. Ed. 850 (1935); see Jennings v. Boenning & Co., 482 F.2d 1128 (3d Cir. 1973), cert. denied 414 U.S. 1025, 94 S. Ct. 450, 38 L. Ed. 2d 316.
It is also true generally that "the courts of the United States are bound to proceed to judgment, and to afford redress to suitors before them, in every case to which their jurisdiction extends; . . . [and] they cannot abdicate their authority or duty in any case in favor of another jurisdiction." Hyde v. Stone, 61 U.S. (20 How.) 170, 175, 15 L. Ed. 874, 876; cf. Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 404 5 L. Ed. 257 (1821); McClellan v. Carland, 217 U.S. 268, 30 S. Ct. 501, 54 L. Ed. 762 (1910). However, this principle has its exception. The right of litigants to have a cause adjudicated in a federal court is not absolute; the court may decline adjudication of a particular controversy pursuant to certain recognized public policy considerations and defined criteria which govern the exercise of the court's power.
Thus, while the power to proceed cannot be questioned, the issues before us for decision are: FIRST, the existence of the power to grant the motion for a stay of these proceedings, and, SECOND, the propriety of the exercise of that power in the instant case. Prior exercise of analogous discretion helps us to reach a conclusion in this matter.
It is clear that federal courts may stay actions, pending another federal court's adjudication, involving the same parties and issues. Kerotest Mfg. Co. v. C-O Two Fire Equipment Co., 342 U.S. 180, 72 S. Ct. 219, 96 L. Ed. 200 (1952). It is also clear that district courts have the power to stay suits for declaratory relief during the pendency of parallel state actions. Brillhart v. Excess Insurance Co., 316 U.S. 491, 62 S. Ct. 1173, 86 L. Ed. 1620 (1942); see also PPG Industries Inc. v. Continental Oil Co., 478 F.2d 674 (5th Cir 1973); Crosley Corp. v. Hazeltine Corp., 122 F.2d 925 (3d Cir. 1941).
While courts are not unanimous in discerning similar discretion in actions at law, because jurisdiction in such cases is not basically discretionary,
we are persuaded that even though the action before us is one at law, the inherent power and discretion to stay proceedings are lodged with this court.
We believe that public policy considerations and certain well-defined principles may justify the exercise of a federal court's discretion to stay proceedings, just as such considerations justify a federal court's abstention from the exercise of its jurisdiction in certain limited, but nevertheless recognized, circumstances. When the duty imposed upon us to proceed with a case over which we have jurisdiction conflicts with the best interests of the public, of the courts, and of all of the litigants involved in the matter, notwithstanding plaintiff's unconvincing plea to the contrary, we conclude that, under such circumstances, our power and discretion should be exercised in favor of granting a stay.
In the frequently cited case of Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 57 S. Ct. 163, 81 L. Ed. 153 (1936), Mr. Justice Cardozo in affirming a district court's stay of its proceedings in favor of similar proceedings in the same and other districts held that "the power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." 299 U.S. at 254, 57 S. Ct. at 166. While invoking this inherent power in Mottolese v. Kaufman, 176 F.2d 301, 303 (2d Cir. 1949), the leading case in the Second Circuit, Judge Learned Hand charted new ground in this area in looking to the principles of forum non conveniens as enunciated by the Supreme Court in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 67 S. Ct. 839, 91 L. Ed. 1055 (1947), in support of his conclusion that the district courts have the discretion to grant a stay of a federal action pending the outcome of a similar action instituted previously in a state court. This doctrine has been approved repeatedly by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
and has been adopted explicitly by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Amdur v. Lizars, 372 F.2d 103 (4th Cir. 1967). Cf. Aetna State Bank v. Altheimer, 430 F.2d 750 (7th Cir. 1970);
Thompson v. Boyle, 417 F.2d 1041 (5th Cir. 1969), cert. denied 397 U.S. 972, 90 S. Ct. 1088, 25 L. Ed. 2d 266; Ray v. Hasley, 214 F.2d 366 (5th Cir. 1954).
Although the law in this area has not been as clearly defined in decisions of this circuit as it has been in rulings by the Second and Fourth Circuits, we conclude that recent cases in this circuit are compatible with our finding that this court has the power and discretion to stay the proceedings in this action, particularly in light of the specific factual situation before us.
In an early decision in this circuit, the Court of Appeals upheld a district court's refusal to stay proceedings in an action of ejectment before it, even though there was a parallel proceeding involving the same parties in the state courts of New Jersey. Lamar v. Spalding, 154 F. 27 (3d Cir. 1907). Although a final determination had not yet been rendered by the United States Supreme Court on a writ of error to the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals (which had affirmed the issuance of a writ of assistance to dispossess Lamar, plaintiff-appellee in the federal court action), the Court of Appeals of this circuit held that the district court's refusal to stay its proceedings had been proper, because there was nothing in the second action "calculated to delay or impede the state courts in the exercise of their jurisdiction, nor to produce contention between courts. . . ." Id. at 31-32.
We do not find this decision dispositive with respect to the present discretion of a federal district court to grant a stay of its proceedings. Lamar precedes not only the explicit formulation of the doctrine of forum non conveniens, but also later decisions in this circuit which seem to approve our discretion to stay in favor of precedent and parallel litigation of the same cause of action in the state courts.
Although not directly confronting the question of the existence of this discretion, the Court of Appeals for this circuit has held that a district court's stay of proceedings is not equivalent to a dismissal or abandonment of jurisdiction, Arny v. Philadelphia Transportation Co., 266 F.2d 869 (3d Cir. 1959) (Biggs, C.J.); we believe that that decision, sub silentio, implies the existence of discretion under the circumstances of the instant case.
In Arny v. Philadelphia Transportation Co., 163 F. Supp. 953 (E.D. Pa. 1958); app. dismissed 266 F.2d 869 (3d Cir. 1959) (Biggs, C.J.), the district court granted defendant's motion to stay proceedings in a wrongful death action brought by the plaintiff as trustee ad litem on behalf of her sister and herself. Several days after plaintiff had filed the action in the federal court, her sister filed a similar wrongful death action in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. In that same court, on that same day, the executor of the father's estate brought a survival action arising out of the same accident. The district court found that the Pennsylvania requirement that death and survival actions be brought together in order to avoid duplication of damages, conferred upon the defendant substantive protection, available to him in a consolidated trial in state court.
Finding that all rights of the parties were comprehended in the state action, that no earlier adjudication was likely in the federal court, and that the plaintiff would not be prejudiced by a stay of the federal proceeding, the court granted a stay until a reasonable time should elapse for conclusion of the two actions in the state court.
On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the plaintiff argued that the order to stay was
"in substance a permanent stay since the conclusion of the State court litigations will in all probability render the suit at bar res judicata and that therefore the stay order is tantamount to a dismissal of the case at bar." 266 F.2d at 870.
Rejecting this argument, the Court stated:
"We cannot say that the order appealed from surely will result in the case becoming res judicata by reason of an adjudication of the case or cases now pending in the Court of Common Pleas. The cases in the Court of Common Pleas might, perhaps, be dismissed by that court for reasons not related to the merits of the actions. To treat the order appealed from as the equivalent of a dismissal would compel this court to speculate on the possible or probable course of the litigations in the Pennsylvania State tribunal. This we should not do."