United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA f/u/b/o AMERICAN COMBUSTION INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
HARTFORD ACCIDENT AND INDEMNITY CO., Defendant.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge
before me is a Motion to Stay (Doc. 39) filed by Defendant
Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company
(“Hartford”). For the reasons that follow,
Hartford's request for a stay will be denied.
American Combustion Industries, Inc. (“ACI”)
commenced this action against Hartford on April 8, 2013 for
payment on a subcontract pursuant to the Miller Act,
see 40 U.S.C. § 3131 et seq., or, in
the alternative, for quantum meruit. (See Doc. 1,
generally). Specifically, in 2008, the United States
Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) awarded
John C. Grimberg Co., Inc. (“Grimberg”) a
contract for work related to the construction of a new
central heating plant in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. (See
id. at ¶¶ 7-8). As the prime contractor on the
project, Grimberg applied for and obtained a Payment Bond
from Hartford in the sum of $19, 959, 706.00. (See
id. at ¶¶ 9-10).
ultimately solicited and selected a bid from ACI to
subcontract work relating to the installation of new boilers
and related equipment. (See id. at ¶ 11).
Grimberg and ACI entered into a subcontract for that work in
the amount of $5, 600, 000.00 in April 2009. (See
id. at ¶ 12). During the course of ACI's work on
the project, it alleges that a number of change orders were
authorized, increasing the total price of the subcontract to
$7, 539, 468.00. (See id. at ¶¶ 18-20).
avers that, despite demand, payments totaling $261, 775.50
remain due and owing from Grimberg regarding certain change
orders on the project. (See id. at ¶¶
26-29). These change orders included $156, 738.23 for worked
related to the Steam Bypass and $105, 017.50 in other
proposed change orders. (See Doc. 40, 10-11; Doc.
44, 9). As a result of Grimberg's nonpayment for this
work, ACI commenced this action against Hartford pursuant to
the obligations and responsibilities created by the Payment
Bond. (See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 36-38).
30, 2013, Hartford filed its Answer and Affirmative Defenses
to ACI's Complaint. (See Doc. 8,
generally). Thereafter, ACI and Hartford jointly
requested and obtained a stay of the matter for a 120 day
period. (See Doc. 23, generally). In
requesting the stay, the parties indicated that Grimberg and
ACI were “work[ing] together to pursue recovery from
the Corps on the ACI [proposed change orders] that are
pending with the Corps.” (See Doc. 22, ¶
5). At the joint request of the parties, the stay was
extended multiple times. (See Docs. 25, 27, 29, 31,
generally). Most recently, a 180 day stay was
granted on August 23, 2016. (See Doc. 31,
joint status report filed by the parties on March 30, 2017,
the parties indicated that the claim submitted relating to a
number of change orders completed by ACI had been denied by
the Corps. (See Doc. 33, ¶ 6). The parties also
stated that Grimberg filed a notice of appeal to the Armed
Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ABSCA”) on
January 31, 2017. (See id. at ¶ 7). In view of
that appeal, Hartford believes that the stay should be
continued, but ACI takes the position that the action sub
judice can proceed without a final resolution of the
ASBCA matter. (See id. at ¶¶ 8-9).
such, Hartford filed the instant motion to stay the action.
(See Doc. 39, generally). Hartford contends
that a continuation of the stay in this case is necessary to
allow for completion of the disputes process. (See
Doc. 40, 13-17). As set forth by Hartford, the only claim
submitted in the disputes process to the Corps relates to the
Steam Bypass change orders. (See id. at 10-11).
Thus, the remaining $105, 755.70 in change orders claimed by
ACI were not presented to the Corps. (See id. at 11,
23). According to Hartford, the disputes process for the
Steam Bypass change orders is mandatory under the
subcontract, and because this process has not yet been
completed, proceeding with this action is premature. (See
id. at 15). As a result, Hartford argues that all
relevant factors weigh in favor of staying ACI's Miller
Act claim while ACI exhausts this disputes process. (See
id. at 17-24).
opposes any further stay of the instant litigation.
(See Doc. 44, generally). ACI first claims
that Hartford is unable to satisfy its burden justifying the
grant of a stay. (See id. at 9-10). Second, ACI
disputes that the subcontract includes the terms and
conditions relating to the disputes process. (See
id. at 11). Additionally, ACI argues that even if the
subcontract includes the disputes process provisions cited by
Hartford, a stay should still be denied. (See id. at
in reply asserts that the disputes procedure is part of
ACI's subcontract with Grimbell. (See Doc. 45,
2-6). Hartford further responds that the Steam Bypass claim
is governed by the disputes process. (See id. at
7-9). Finally, Hartford maintains that ACI delayed the
disputes process and a stay is therefore appropriate under
the circumstances. (See id. at 11-14).
Hartford's motion for a stay is fully briefed and ripe
District Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings as an
incident to its power to control its own docket.”
Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997);
see United States v. Breyer, 41 F.3d 884,
893 (3d Cir. 1994). In exercising that discretion, a district
court is instructed to “weigh competing interests and
maintain an even balance.” Landis v. North American
Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). To that end, when
determining whether to grant a stay, a district court should
consider “(1) the length of the requested stay; (2) the
hardship or inequity that the movant would face in going
forward with the litigation; (3) the injury that a stay would
inflict upon the non-movant; and (4) whether a stay would
simplify issues and promote judicial economy.”
Rajput v. Synchrony, 221 F.Supp.3d 607, 609-10 (M.D.
Pa. 2016) (citing Barnard v. Lackawanna Cnty., No.
15-2220, 2016 WL 362424, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 29, 2016));
see also Structural Grp., Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins.
Co., No. 07-1793, 2008 WL 6416843, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Oct.
16, 2008) (citing Landis, 299 U.S. at 256). The
party requesting the stay “‘bears the burden of
showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that
discretion.'” Supinski v. United Parcel Serv.,
Inc., No. 06-793, 2012 WL 1622385, at *1 (M.D. Pa. May
9, 2012) (quoting Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418,
433-34, 129 S.Ct. 1749, 173 L.Ed.2d 550 (2009)).
request for a stay will be denied. For one, the stay sought
by Hartford is for an indefinite duration, and stays in such
circumstances are disfavored. See, e.g.,
Kegerise v. Susquehanna Twp. Sch. Dist., No. 14-747,
2017 WL 5070244, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 3, 2017); Clouser
v. Golden Gate Nat'l Senior Care, LLC, No. 15-33,
2016 WL 4254268, at *7 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 10, 2016); accord
Cheyney State Coll. Faculty v. Hufstedler, 703 F.2d 732,
738 (3d ...