Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

FISCHER & PORTER CO. v. MOORCO INTL. INC.

November 25, 1994

FISCHER & PORTER COMPANY, and ELSAG BAILEY PROCESS AUTOMATION N.V.
v.
MOORCO INTERNATIONAL INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ANITA B. BRODY

 November 25, 1994

 MEMORANDUM

 Background

 Defendant ("Moorco") filed motions to dismiss the declaratory judgment and the tortious interference counts and to stay or transfer the defamation count of plaintiffs' complaint. I must decide the following issues: 1) whether a plaintiff who has filed an action for declaratory judgment in a state with substantial contacts to the transaction and whose law is applicable under the terms of the contract falls within the "exceptional circumstances" exception to the first-filed rule; I find that such a plaintiff does not fall within the exception to the first-filed rule; 2) whether in exercising my discretion to hear a declaratory judgment action in Pennsylvania I should look primarily to federal or state law; I decide that under Hanna v. Plumer I should look primarily to federal law; 3) whether under the facts of this case the plaintiff has met the four pronged test set out by the Third Circuit to determine when an action for declaratory judgment is proper; I find that it has; 4) whether a claim for tortious interference under the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 766A can go forward in Pennsylvania; I decide not to resolve this issue until after discovery; and 5) whether a defamation claim based on, among other things, the bad faith filing of a Texas complaint should be transferred to Texas or stayed until the after the outcome of the Texas suit is decided; I decide that this claim should be determined with the other claims in the Pennsylvania suit.

 The following material facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff Fischer & Porter Company, ("Fischer & Porter") is a corporation with its assets and headquarters located in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Fischer & Porter was interested in arranging for its own sale and merger with another company. To this end it held an auction at which other companies submitted bids. After the bids were submitted the Fischer & Porter Board decided to accept the bid submitted by Moorco. Fischer & Porter and Moorco then negotiated and entered into a merger agreement ("the Moorco merger agreement") in Pennsylvania. A second, higher bid was later submitted by plaintiff Elsag Bailey under conditions now in dispute. Thereafter the Fischer & Porter Board decided to terminate its agreement with Moorco and to merge with Elsag Bailey. Again the negotiations for the merger agreement ("the Elsag merger agreement") were held in Pennsylvania. Both merger agreements are, by their terms, governed by Pennsylvania law.

 The Moorco merger agreement contained a clause which provided that should Fischer & Porter decide to terminate the agreement a termination fee would be paid to Moorco for a sum to be decided by reference to a formula. Fischer & Porter and Moorco differed as to the amount of the fee. On April 26, 1994, plaintiffs Fischer & Porter and Elsag Bailey filed an action for declaratory judgment in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas to resolve the amount of the termination fee due to Moorco under the Moorco merger agreement, and to determine whether the payment of the fee absolved it from any further liability to Moorco. Three days later, on April 29, 1994, Moorco filed suit against Fischer & Porter in the Southern District of Texas. Moorco then filed a separate suit against Elsag Bailey in the Southern District of Texas on June 2, 1994. Subsequently on July 20, 1994, Moorco filed a notice of removal removing this action to Federal Court based upon diversity.

 I. First Filed Rule

 Where, as here, two or more cases covering the same subject matter are filed in different jurisdictions the first filed rule states that "... the court which has first possession of the subject must decide it." Smith v. M'Iver, 22 U.S. 532, 535, 6 L. Ed. 152 (1824). One of the purposes of the first-filed rule is to ensure that litigants receive a single determination of their controversy, rather than multiple decisions, which may conflict and require several appeals to different circuit courts of appeal. Furthermore, the first-filed rule helps to avoid the waste involved in duplicative suits, and the delay in providing prompt administration of justice. Crosley v. Hazeltine, 122 F.2d 925, 929-930 (3d Cir. 1941) cert. denied, 315 U.S. 813, 86 L. Ed. 1211, 62 S. Ct. 798 (1942); E.E.O.C. v. University of Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d 969, 974 (3d. Cir. 1988). The Third Circuit later rearticulated this rationale when it held, in an action for declaratory judgment, that subsequent litigation in other district courts over the same subject matter should be enjoined. Crosley v. Hazeltine, 122 F.2d 925 (3d Cir. 1941). The first-filed rule has routinely been applied when the first-filed suit is an action for declaratory judgment. See Peregrine Corp. v. Peregrine Industries, Inc., 769 F. Supp. 169 (E.D.Pa. 1991); Viacom International v. Melvin Simon Productions, 774 F. Supp. 858 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). Defendant seems to question the status of the declaratory judgment as a valid tool for resolving contract disputes compared to an action for damages to resolve the same issues. I conclude that there is no reason to make such a differentiation, especially in the contract arena. Therefore there is no justification for giving some sort of preferential treatment to the action for damages in Texas so as to immunize it from first filed treatment.

 Courts should deviate from the first-filed rule only in exceptional circumstances. E.E.O.C. v. University of Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d 969 (3d Cir. 1988). The Third Circuit has held that

 
Invocation of the first-filed rule is the norm not the exception. Courts must be presented with exceptional circumstances before exercising their discretion to depart from the first-filed rule. E.E.O.C. v. University of Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d at 979 (3d Cir. 1988).

 Although holding that the "exceptional circumstances" standard had not been met, the Third Circuit mentioned bad faith filing as a possible ground for departing from the first-filed rule, Crosley Co. v. Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co., 130 F.2d 474, 476 (3d Cir. 1942)(holding that declaratory judgment action was brought in good faith and applying the first-filed rule) and also when forum shopping is the sole reason for the choice of the situs in the first suit, Mattel, Inc. v. Louis Marx & Co., 353 F.2d 421, at 424 n.4 (2d. Cir. 1965)(upholding the first-filed rule, and staying second action at law until first-filed declaratory judgment action is resolved)(citing Rayco Mfg. Co. v. Chicopee Mfg. Co., 148 F. Supp. 588, 592-594 (S.D.N.Y. 1957)). The "exceptional circumstance" standard was deemed met when the first-filing party filed suit in another forum in anticipation of suit by the opposing party in an obvious attempt to circumvent applicable Third Circuit law. E.E.O.C. v. University of Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d 969 (3d Cir. 1988).

 I do not find that there are any exceptional circumstances present here that warrant departure from the first-filed rule. There is no evidence that plaintiffs' declaratory judgment action was brought in bad faith. Furthermore, forum shopping cannot be the sole reason for the choice of Pennsylvania as the situs for the litigation because it is the logical and proper place for it to go forward. Pennsylvania is the logical forum because Fischer & Porter is a Pennsylvania corporation with its headquarters in Pennsylvania, and negotiations for both merger agreements took place in Pennsylvania. Therefore it seems likely that much of the evidence and many witnesses are in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, all of the parties are subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. Finally, under the terms of the agreement the merger between Fischer & Porter and Moorco ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.