The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay
Judge David Stewart Cercone
Presently before the court is a Motion to Stay pending Completion of a Parallel State Court Action, filed by the Plaintiff, Greenmoor, Inc. ("Greenmoor"). Dkt. . For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.
Because we write for the benefit of the parties who are familiar with all of the facts in this case, only a brief statement of the most pertinent facts is necessary here. Burchick Construction Company, Inc. ("Burchick") is the general contractor for renovations at the Moorhead Federal Building in Pittsburgh. Burchick contracted with Greenmoor to perform asbestos abatement work on the project, which was divided into five phases. Burchick terminated its contract(s) with Greenmoor during the second phase of the work, allegedly for deficient work.
Thereafter, on April 29, 2005, Greenmoor filed suit against Burchick in the Court of Common Pleas for Washington County, Pennsylvania, at GD No. 2005-2275, which proceeded to a hearing on Greenmoor's motion for a preliminary injunction. On September 20, 2005, the trial court judge granted Greenmoor's motion and ordered Burchick to reinstate Greenmoor to the third phase of the work. Burchick reinstated Greenmoor but also appealed the trial court's ruling.
While the state court suit was on appeal, Greenmoor instituted suit against Burchick's surety, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America ("Travelers") in federal district court pursuant to the Miller Act, 40 U.S.C. §§ 3133 , et seq., on February 21, 2006. Burchick intervened in this action and subsequently filed a counterclaim against Greenmoor on August 8, 2006.
On September 11, 2006, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed. Several weeks thereafter, Burchick again terminated the subcontract(s) with Greenmoor.
This court referred the case to arbitration and set discovery to close on July 5, 2007, followed by the arbitration proceeding after all pretrial statements are filed on July 25, 2007. On April 18, 2007, Burchick moved for a stay in the state court action. On June 18, 2007, Greenmoor moved for a stay in this action.
The prevailing standard governing the relief sought here was enunciated in Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817-819 (1976) and its progeny. The Colorado River abstention doctrine, also known as the "exceptional circumstances" test, authorizes a district court to stay a case where a duplicate or parallel state court case is pending. Id. at 818. Generally, 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." McClellan v. Carland, 217 U.S. 268, 282 (1910). This is so because there is a "virtually unflagging obligation of the federal courts to exercise the jurisdiction given them." Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817. Thus, abstention is an extraordinary and narrow exception to the general rule. Id. at 813.
When considering whether abstention in favor of parallel state proceedings is appropriate, the court may consider the following nonexclusive factors: (1) the preference accorded to the first court assuming jurisdiction over property; (2) the relative inconvenience of the federal forum; (3) the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation; (4) the relative order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forums; (5) whether a federal question is presented; and (6) whether either action was a contrived, defensive reaction to the other. Id. at 818-819; Moses H. Cone Memorial Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 17-18 n. 20 (1983). These factors are to be balanced, with no particular favor shown to any one factor, but generally weighted in favor of the exercise of federal jurisdiction. See id. at 16 ("[T]he decision whether to dismiss a federal action because of parallel state-court litigation 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. The weight to be given to any one factor may vary greatly from case to case, depending on the particular setting of the case."). Stated differently, the court's task "is to ascertain whether there exist 'exceptional' circumstances, the 'clearest of justifications,' that can suffice under Colorado River to justify the surrender of that jurisdiction." Id. at 25-26, quoting Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 818-819. On balance, there are no exceptional circumstances, nor the clearest justification, to grant the stay in this case.
Factor 1: The Preference Accorded to the First Court Assuming Jurisdiction Over Property
Neither the state court case nor the instant one concerns jurisdiction over any property. Therefore, factor one is of no ...