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Donald Huffman and Carol Huffman v. Rockwell Freight Forwarding

February 9, 2011

DONALD HUFFMAN AND CAROL HUFFMAN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROCKWELL FREIGHT FORWARDING, LLC,: DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pratter, J.

MEMORANDUM

Introduction

This negligence action arises out of injuries allegedly sustained a year ago by Donald Huffman while at a facility said to be owned by Rockwell Freight Forwarding, LLC ("Rockwell Freight"). Mr. Huffman is a truck driver who, while standing on a loading dock at the Rockwell Freight facility and waiting for his trailer to be filled by Rockwell Freight employees, allegedly was told to move by one of these employees. Responding to this request, Mr. Huffman then tripped on a "dock plate" which caused him to fall through an "open, unguarded, and unprotected loading dock delivery bay door opening." Pls.' Br. at 1. Mr. Huffman allegedly suffered a number of injuries as a result of this accident.

The Huffmans filed a Complaint against Rockwell Freight in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on April 12, 2010. The matter was transferred on November 18, 2010 from Philadelphia to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, after discovery limited to the issue of appropriate venue supported this transfer. The referenced state court case remains open, and "Plaintiffs do not contest that the federal and state court actions are parallel actions." Pls.' Br. at 3.

Rockwell Freight moves the Court to stay or dismiss this action "in favor of the already-pending State Court litigation that has been proceeding for 9 months and is now poised to proceed in the proper venue of [Bucks County]." Mot. ¶ 12. The Huffmans, in opposition, contend that the matter has been proceeding in state court for nine months only because the preliminary objections filed in Philadelphia were not acted on for some time, and that the discovery permitted in Philadelphia was limited to the issue of whether defendant regularly does business in Philadelphia County. Pls.' Br. at 6-12. The Huffmans argue that neither a dismissal nor a stay is appropriate because Rockwell Freight has not demonstrated exceptional circumstances which would justify this Court surrendering its jurisdiction. Id. at 12.

Standard of Review

In reviewing a Motion to Dismiss, the Court "must only consider those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of those allegations as true." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007) (stating that courts must assume that "all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)"). The Court must also accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). The Court may consider the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record and records of which the Court may take judicial notice. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rts., 127 S. Ct. 2499, 2509 (2007); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Specifically, a court may take judicial notice of the record from a state court proceeding and consider it on a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Poli v. SEPTA, No. 97-6766, 1998 WL 405052, at *3, n.1 (E.D. Pa. Jul. 7, 1998).

Discussion

"Generally, as between state and federal courts, 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." Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976) (internal quotations omitted). "Where a party in federal court seeks a stay because of pending parallel litigation in state court, this Court is obliged to consider such a request as a motion for abstention. This is because while parallel state litigation is pending, a stay for even a limited period of time can end up foreclosing the federal courts as a forum in which a plaintiff may seek relief due to the doctrine of res judicata." Westport Ins. Corp. v. Law Offices of Marvin Lundy, No. 03-CV-3229, 2004 WL 555415, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 19, 2004). In considering whether to abstain in favor of a pending state court proceeding, the Court must analyze the following six factors:

1. which court first assumed jurisdiction over property;

2. the inconvenience of the federal forum;

3. the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation;

4. the order in which jurisdiction ...


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