United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JUSTIN. J. CARSTEN, Plaintiff,
CINDY A. BOYLAN and ANDREW F. BOYLAN, her husband, et al., Defendants
WASTE MANAGEMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA, INC. and BRANDON BOYINGTON, Additional Defendants.
F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
diversity action is before us on the motion for
reconsideration (Doc. 45) filed by additional defendants
Waste Management of Pennsylvania, Inc. and Brandon Boyington.
They seek reconsideration of our order (Doc. 44) denying
their motions to dismiss which sought abstention under
Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United
States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976). (Doc. 35; Doc. 36). For the
reasons set forth herein, we will deny the motion for
Statement of Facts
write solely for the parties, we incorporate our recitation
of the facts and applicable law set forth in our Memorandum
dated April 6, 2018. (Doc. 43). Carsten v. Boylan,
No. 3:17-cv-00733, 2018 WL 1696649 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 6, 2018).
In their motion for reconsideration, Waste Management and
Boyington contend that we erred as a matter of law in denying
their motions to dismiss, which had the practical effect of
creating a manifest injustice to the many parties involved in
three litigations arising from the same motor vehicle
accident. The three litigations include this action in
federal court, the action initiated by the Boylans in state
court, and the subrogation action initiated by Carsten's
insurer in state court against the Boylans. The subrogation
action is confined to state court regardless of our decision
as the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. As the
motion for reconsideration has been fully briefed, it is ripe
motion for reconsideration is a device of limited utility,
which serves to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to
present newly discovered evidence. See Harsco Corp. v.
Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985).
Accordingly, a party seeking reconsideration must demonstrate
at least one of the following grounds prior to the court
altering or amending a court's ruling: (1) "an
intervening change in the controlling law, " (2)
"the availability of new evidence, " or (3)
"the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to
prevent manifest injustice." Soto v. Sleet, 458
Fed.Appx. 89, 90 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Max's Seafood
Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)).
"It may not be used as a means to reargue unsuccessful
theories, or argue new facts or issues that were not
presented to the court in the context of the matter
previously decided." Snyder v. United States,
No. 07-450, 2013 WL 1730537, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 22, 2013)
(citing Drysdale v. Woerth, 153 F.Supp.2d 678, 682
(E.D. Pa. 2001)).
Management and Boyington argue that we made a manifest error
of law when we determined that abstention was not warranted
in this matter. Upon review of the additional defendants'
motion papers, their argument is a narrow one. They contend
that we erred in failing to address or follow Trent v.
Dial Medical of Florida, 33 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 1994),
which they maintain is "better suited for serving the
interests of 'wise judicial administration'"
than Ryan v. Johnson, 115 F.3d 193 (3d Cir. 1997), a
subsequent decision by the Third Circuit upon which we
principally relied in our previous decision. (Doc. 45, at
17). Under Trent, these defendants argue, the
"avoidance of piecemeal litigation" is the
paramount factor in considering whether to abstain under
Colorado River, particularly where state rather than
federal law is at issue. (Id.). The Ryan
approach, they argue, "simply ignores the reality of the
harms that piecemeal litigation will wreak, " and thus
"should not be followed." (Id.). They
suggest that we are presented with a choice between two
conflicting panel opinions by the Third Circuit, and that it
was clear error for us to follow Ryan instead of
Trent, which the additional defendants subjectively
find to be more persuasive.
no error in our reliance on Ryan, much less clear
error. Nor do we find any error in our failure to discuss
Trent in weighing the "avoidance of piecemeal
litigation" factor under Colorado River. As the
Third Circuit itself best explained in Ryan:
We cannot reconcile Trent with either the caselaw of
this circuit, or Colorado River and [Moses H.
Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corp.,
461 U.S. 1 (1983)] [N]either we nor the Supreme Court had
ever held, until our decision in Trent, that the
mere possibility of piecemeal litigation justifies
Colorado River abstention; rather, there must be a
strongly articulated congressional policy against
piecemeal litigation in the specific context of the case
under review. The presence of garden-variety state law issues
has not, in this circuit, been considered sufficient evidence
of a congressional policy to consolidate multiple lawsuits
for unified resolution in the state courts.
Indeed, if the mere possibility of concurrent state-federal
litigation satisfies Colorado Rivers "piecemeal
adjudication" test, the test becomes so broad that it
swallows up the century-old principle expressed in
University of Maryland [v. Peat Marwick Main
& Co., 923 F.2d 265 (3d Cir. 1991)], Colorado
River, McClellan [v. Carland, 217 U.S. 268
(1910), ] and [Chicot County v.] Sherwood[, 148 U.S.
529 (1893), ] 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[.]" If
this were the law, it is difficult to conceive of
any parallel state litigation that would not satisfy
the "piecemeal adjudication" factor and militate in
favor of Colorado River abstention. If that is true,
then the "virtually unflagging obligation of the federal
courts to exercise the jurisdiction given themG"
recognized in Colorado River and reiterated in
Cone would effectively be eviscerated, a result we
cannot presume either the Supreme Court or this court to have
] [u]nder Third Circuit Internal Operating Procedure 9.1,
when two decisions of this court conflict, we are bound by
the earlier decision. It is clear that, under our prior
caselaw, specifically University of Maryland, Kentucky
West Virginia Gas Co. [v. Pennsylvania Public
Utility Commission, 791 F.2d 1111 (3d Cir. 1986)],
Harris [v. Pernsley, 755 F.2d 338 (3d Cir.
1985), ] and Western Auto Supply [Co. v.
Anderson, 610 F.2d 1126 (3d Cir. 1979)], the
"piecemeal adjudication" factor would not have been
satisfied by the presence of a state law negligence action.
Thus, we will not apply Trent's pronouncement on
this point to decide the issue before us. Ryan, 115
F.3d at 198-99 (non-textual citations omitted) (emphasis in
original). If any room for doubt may be found in
Ryan's discourse, the Third Circuit later found
cause to revisit and underscore this holding in Spring
City Corp. v. American Buildings, Co., 193 F.3d 165 (3d
Spring City relies on this court's decision in
Trent.... We held in Ryan that under Third
Circuit Internal Operating Procedure 9.1, our prior case law
takes precedence over an inconsistent later case. We agree
and hold that Ryan represents the ...