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FLINT v. A.P. DESANNO & SONS

November 22, 2002

THEODORE FLINT AND DEBORAH FLINT
V.
A.P. DESANNO & SONS AND RADIAC ABRASIVES INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Baylson, United States District Judge

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The issue presented concerns abstention and whether a federal district court should stay or dismiss an action based on concurrent state court proceedings. Plaintiffs Theodore Flint and Deborah Flint ("Plaintiffs") first filed a case in state court. The claims in this federal court case are essentially the same as in the state court action. Federal jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, and the action is based on a Pennsylvania statute and common law claims. Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Stay Proceedings, by defendant Radiac Abrasives Inc. (formerly known as A.P. DeSanno & Sons)*fn1 ("Defendant"), an Illinois corporation, pending a resolution of the related case in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

Despite the natural temptation to prevent Plaintiffs from requiring Defendant to defend two essentially identical suits in two different courts, the Third Circuit has interpreted Supreme Court holdings to restrict significantly the discretion of district courts to dismiss or stay federal cases, even though they are duplicative of cases previously filed and pending in state court. Thus, Defendant's Motion must be denied. However, this Court intends to exercise thoroughly its power to control pretrial proceedings so as to minimize the burden on Defendant, and to require the parties to coordinate discovery and other pretrial proceedings between the federal and state actions.

I. Background

Plaintiffs, who are citizens of and reside in Pennsylvania, filed a civil action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on March 15, 2001, seeking legal and equitable relief for the alleged environmental contamination of their property in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The preliminary objection by the defendants*fn2 as to improper venue was granted, and the case was transferred to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiffs then filed an Amended Complaint.

One year later, on March 18, 2002, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Court, essentially pleading the same facts and causes of action as the state Amended Complaint.

There are few differences between the state and federal Complaints. The state Amended Complaint includes Polymeric Systems, Inc. as a plaintiff while the federal Complaint does not. The state Amended Complaint also names M&R Industries, ABC Corporation 1-10, and John Doe 1-10 as defendants, and the federal Complaint does not.*fn3

The state Complaint alleges the following five causes of action:

Count I: Hazardous Sites Clean-Up Act, 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6020 et seq.

Count II: Negligence

Count III: Breach of Contract

Count IV: Public Nuisance
Count V: Fraudulent Misrepresentation

(Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A)

The federal Complaint alleges the following five causes of action:

Count I: Hazardous Sites Clean-Up Act, 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6020 et seq.
Count II: Strict Liability, Abnormally Dangerous/Ultrahazardous Activity

Count III: Negligence

Count IV: Breach of Contract
Count V: Fraudulent Misrepresentation

(Compl. ¶ 17-46)

Count II of the federal Complaint was dismissed, Flint v. A.P. DeSanno & Sons, C.A. No. 02-1350, slip op. (E.D.Pa. July 31, 2002), leaving the federal and state causes of action the same except that a public nuisance claim has been alleged in state court.

II. Legal Standard and Jurisdiction

When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be granted only when it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved by the plaintiff. Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988).

This Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332(a) as the parties are citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Venue ...


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