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Marchky v. Motorists Mutual Insurance Co.


August 18, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge


Memorandum Order

This is a personal injury action. Plaintiffs seek underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage for a motorcycle accident and resulting injuries sustained by plaintiff-husband, Michael Marchky, and plaintiffs further allege a bad faith claim under 75 Pa. C. S. A. § 8371 for defendant's unreasonable evaluation of plaintiffs claim and defendant's unreasonable offer of settlement.

This action was originally filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and was removed by defendant on July 30, 2008. Currently pending before this Court is plaintiffs' motion to remand this action to state court (doc. no. 3).

In support on their motion, plaintiffs primarily argue that due to changes in insurance policies in Pennsylvania, as mandated by the Insurance Commissioner, civil actions with underinsured and uninsured motorists claims, which were traditionally handled by arbitration, are now being filed in state courts, and the defendant insurers most often opt to remove these cases to federal courts based upon diversity of citizenship and other tactical reasons. Plaintiffs essentially make a policy argument that whichever court assumes jurisdiction over these cases will see an exponential increase in claims in the very near future, and that this Court may decline to accept this case based upon principles of "forum non conveniens" and principles of sound judicial administration.

Plaintiffs argue, citing Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 47 L.Ed. 483 (1976), that this Court may decline to exercise its jurisdiction in "exceptional circumstances" and that this case constitutes one such exceptional circumstance.

In the Third Circuit, when a case does not fall within the traditional abstention doctrines,*fn1 the case may fall under the Colorado River Doctrine. Trent v. Dial Medical of Florida, Inc., 33 F.3d 217, 222 (3d Cir. 1994).

Among the factors to consider in determining whether the Court should abstain under the Colorado River Doctrine includes: (1) whether the state court assumed in rem jurisdiction over property; (2) the inconvenience of the federal forum; (3) the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation; and (4) the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forums." Ryan v. Johnson, 115 F.3d 193, 196 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. U.S., 424 U.S. 800, 818 (1976)).

However, as the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit emphasize in Ryan, the most important - - indeed "paramount"-- factor justifying abstention in Colorado River was the McCarran Amendment and its policy against piecemeal litigation. Ryan v. Johnson, 115 F.3d 193, 197 (3d Cir. 1997). In order for the Colorado River Doctrine to apply, there must be some concurrent or parallel proceeding. Here, there is no other action pending in state court, and thus, a critical factor justifying abstention under Colorado River, the need to avoid piecemeal litigation, does not exist here. Accordingly, after applying the factors of the Colorado River Doctrine, the Court will retain jurisdiction over this case.*fn2 For these reasons, plaintiffs' motion to remand (doc. no. 3) is DENIED.

SO ORDERED this 18th day of August, 2008.

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