United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
PREFERRED CARE, INC., et al. Plaintiffs,
JUDY BARNETT, as administrator of Donald Shelton's estate, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the plaintiffs' motion to
compel arbitration (DE 9) and the defendant's motion to
dismiss (DE 6). For the following reasons, the Court will
grant the motion to dismiss and deny the motion to compel.
Shelton died after residing at the Stanton Nursing and
Rehabilitation Center located in Stanton, Kentucky. The
administrator of his estate, Judy Barnett (the
“Estate”), filed suit in Powell Circuit Court
against the nursing center and multiple other companies that
the Estate alleged owned or operated the center. The Estate
also named the center administrator and the director of
nursing at the center as defendants in the state-court
action. (DE 1-2, State Court Action.)
center and three of the companies named as defendants in the
state-court action (collectively, the “Center”)
then filed this action, asking this Court to order the Estate
to arbitrate the claims filed in the state court action and
to enjoin the Estate from pursuing the state-court action.
The Estate moves to dismiss this federal action.
Court must, of course, first address any challenges to its
jurisdiction. The Estate concedes that this Court has
diversity jurisdiction over this action but argues that the
Court should abstain from exercising it under the
Colorado River doctrine. Under that doctrine,
“[i]n certain ‘exceptional' circumstances, [
] a federal district court may abstain from exercising its
subject matter jurisdiction due to the existence of a
concurrent state court proceeding, based on
‘considerations of wise judicial administration, giving
regard to conservation of judicial resources and
comprehensive disposition of litigation.'”
Paine Webber, Inc. v. Cohen, 276 F.3d 197, 200 (6th
Cir.2001) (quoting Colorado River Water Conservation
District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976)). But
“[a]bstention from the exercise of federal jurisdiction
is the exception, not the rule, ” and this
“extraordinary and narrow exception” is only
justified when it “would clearly serve an important
countervailing interest.” Colorado River, 424
U.S. at 813.
party addresses it but the first issue on the abstention
analysis is whether there is, in fact, a parallel state court
proceeding. While for purposes of Colorado River
abstention, the state and federal proceedings need only be
“substantially similar, ” Romine v.
Compuserve Corp., 160 F.3d 337, 340 (6th Cir. 1998), the
two actions cannot be said to be parallel if the claims
presented in this Court are not presented in the state court
action at all. There is no evidence in the record before this
Court that either party has moved to compel arbitration in
the state-court action. Nor is there any evidence indicating
that either party has actually asked the state court to
determine whether the arbitration agreement is valid and, if
so, whether the agreement requires that the Estate's
state-court claims be arbitrated. Nothing in the record
before this Court indicates that any of the parties to this
action have requested the state court to make any
determinations regarding the arbitration agreement or the
arbitrability of the Estate's state-law claims.
Accordingly, the Court cannot find that this action and the
state-court action are parallel.
even if a party had moved the state court to compel
arbitration, the Court could not find abstention warranted.
“[T]he decision to dismiss a federal action because of
a parallel state-court action rests ‘on a careful
balancing of the important factors as they apply in a given
case, with the balance heavily weighted in favor of the
exercise of jurisdiction.'” Great Earth Cos.,
Inc. v. Simons, 288 F.3d 878, 886 (6th Cir.2002)
(quoting Moses H. Cone Memorial Hosp. v. Mercury Const.
Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 16 (1983)).
consider roughly eight factors when determining whether
abstention under Colorado River is necessary.
PaineWebber, 276 F.3d at 206 (citing
Romine, 160 F.3d at 340-41). These factors are:
(1) whether the state court has assumed jurisdiction over any
res or property;
(2) whether the federal forum is less convenient to the