United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
October 7, 2005.
REGINALD R. WOODS and CHARLOTTE M. WOODS, his wife, Plaintiffs,
CHI-CHI'S, INC., Defendant, v. CASTELLINI COMPANY, LLC, Third-Party Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: TERRENCE McVERRY, District Judge
Presently before the Court are the following:
MOTION TO DISMISS filed by Third Party Defendant Castellini
Company, LLC, with brief in support (Document Nos. 9 and 10),
and the brief in opposition filed by Third-Party Plaintiff
Chi-Chi's, Inc. (Document No. 17). For the reasons that follow,
the Motion will be granted.
Since its adoption in Crosley Corp. v. Hazeltine Corp.,
122 F.2d 925 (3d Cir. 1941), the first-filed rule has been employed
by the courts in the Third Circuit to enjoin, where appropriate,
"the subsequent prosecution of `similar cases . . . in different
federal district courts.'" EEOC v. University of Pennsylvania,
850 F.2d 969, 971 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Compagnie Des Bauxites
De Guinea v. Insurance Co. of North America, 651 F.2d 877, 887
n. 10 (3d Cir. 1981)). The first-filed rule simply dictates that,
in cases of federal concurrent jurisdiction involving the same
parties and issues, the court of first-filing must proceed to decide the matter. EEOC, 850 F.2d at 971. Although district
courts do have discretion in applying the first-filed rule,
district courts have adopted a policy which requires the
existence of unusual or exceptional circumstances before a court
may choose to depart from the rule. See Berkshire International
Corp. v. Marquez, 69 F.R.D. 583, 586 (E.D. Pa.1976).
Circumstances which may justify a departure from the
first-filed rule include: 1) bad faith on the part of plaintiff
in the first-filed action; 2) forum shopping being a motivation
for the filing of the first action; 3) the second filed action
being further developed than the first at the time the motion is
made; and 4) the filing of the first suit in one forum to preempt
the opponent's imminent filing of a suit in a different, less
favorable forum. See EEOC, 850 F.2d at 976 (declining to apply
the first-filed rule after concluding that defendant had filed
its prior action in the District of Columbia in order to avoid
unfavorable precedent in the Third Circuit).
In its response to the present motion, Third-Party Plaintiff
Chi-Chi's, Inc. ("Chi-Chi's") attempts to persuade the Court
that, due to the existence of several special circumstances, the
first-filed rule should not be enforced to enjoin it from
prosecuting its third party action against Castellini Company,
LLC in this district.
First, Chi-Chi's argues that although the Delaware bankruptcy
action has been brought in the name of "Chi-Chi's," that claim
was brought by one of the Company's insurance companies whereas
the instant case was brought by the attorneys retained directly
by Chi-Chi's. Therefore, according to this argument, the parties
in the two actions are not identical.
Second, Chi-Chi's argues that the balance of convenience
"overwhelmingly favor the exercise of jurisdiction by this
Court." Br. at 12. Third, Chi-Chi's argues that this "Court's
familiarity with the subject matter of this action provides an
additional basis for denial of Castellini's motion." Last, Chi-Chi's argues that "this action is
likely to proceed more rapidly than Empire's Delaware Action."
Id. at. 15.
Chi-Chi's, however, has failed to persuade the Court that any
circumstances exist in this matter which would justify a
departure from the first-filed rule. EEOC, 850 F.2d at 976. In
addition to both claims being brought solely in the name of
Chi-Chi's, Inc., both assert the "same rights" through the same
six contractually based theories of recovery, both assert the
"same facts" and claim the same harm, and both demand the same
"relief" from Castellini. The Court, therefore, concludes that
pursuant to the first-filed rule, the Third-Party Complaint filed
against Castellini in this Court should be dismissed.
AND NOW, this 7th day of October, 2005, it is hereby
ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that pursuant to the first-filed
ruled the Third-Party Complaint of Defendant/Third-Party
Plaintiff Chi-Chi's, Inc. against Castellini Company is hereby
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