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Woody's Rest., LLC v. Travelers Cas. Ins. Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division

October 1, 2013

WOODY'S RESTAURANT, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TRAVELERS CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant

For Woody's Restaurant, LLC, Jeff Carver, David Durham, Plaintiffs: M. Austin Mehr, Philip G. Fairbanks, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Mehr Fairbanks Trial Lawyers, PLLC, Lexington, KY.

For Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of America, Defendant: Margaret Jane Brannon, Robert Franklin Duncan, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Jackson Kelly PLLC - LEXINGTON, Lexington, KY.

OPINION

Joseph M. Hood, Senior United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Page 786

This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. [D.E. 13]. Defendant has filed a Response [D.E. 20] and Plaintiffs filed a Reply. [D.E. 22]. This matter being fully briefed, and the Court being otherwise sufficiently advised, Plaintiffs' Motion is ripe for review.

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs originally filed this suit in the Boyle County Circuit Court, seeking monetary damages. [D.E. 1-1]. Defendant removed the action to this Court. [D.E. 1]. Plaintiff now asks the Court to remand this matter back to the Boyle County Circuit Court based on the Colorado River abstention doctrine. [D.E. 13].

Plaintiffs claim Colorado River abstention is appropriate in this matter because of a parallel proceeding ongoing in Boyle County Circuit Court. The alleged parallel proceeding was filed by Coast United Advertising Co., Inc. (hereinafter " Coast United" ) against Plaintiffs and Defendant. Plaintiffs aver that this action is parallel because Coast United has asserted identical claims against Defendant as Plaintiffs have asserted against Defendant in this Court. [D.E. 13-1 at 2]. Furthermore, the claims arise out of the lack of payment on an insurance policy for the same damage to the same piece of property. [D.E. 13]. In other words, Plaintiffs and Coast United are both seeking to recover from Travelers for damage sustained to the same building. The only difference is that Plaintiffs' claims are before this Court and Coast United's are before the Boyle County Circuit Court.

The Court construes Plaintiffs' Motion as a motion to abstain, requesting remand as the form of relief. However, " federal courts have the power to dismiss or remand cases based on abstention principles only where the relief being sought is equitable or otherwise discretionary." Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 731, 116 S.Ct. 1712, 135 L.Ed.2d 1 (1996). Plaintiffs have requested monetary damages; therefore, this Court may not remand based on abstention principles. Nonetheless, the Court will analyze whether it should stay the action under the Colorado River abstention doctrine.

II. Standard of Review

" Abstention from the exercise of federal jurisdiction is the exception, not the rule." Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 47 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). " Despite the 'virtually unflagging obligation of the federal courts to exercise the jurisdiction given them,' considerations of judicial economy and federal-state comity may justify abstention in situations involving the contemporaneous exercise of jurisdiction by state and federal courts." Romine v. Compuserve Corp., 160 F.3d 337, 339 (6th Cir. 1998) (quoting Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817).

For Colorado River abstention to apply, there must first be a parallel state proceeding. Crawley v. Hamilton Cnty. Comm'rs, 744 F.2d 28, 31 (6th Cir. 1984). If there is a parallel proceeding, there are eight factors that must be considered: (1) whether the state court has assumed jurisdiction over any res or property; (2) whether the federal forum is less convenient to the parties; (3) avoidance of piecemeal litigation; (4) the order in which jurisdiction was obtained; (5) whether the source of governing law is state or federal; (6) the adequacy of the state court action to protect the federal plaintiff's rights; (7) the relative progress of the state and federal proceedings; and (8) the presence or absence of concurrent jurisdiction. Romine, 160 F.3d at 340-41 (citing Colorado River, 424 U.S. ...


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