Concerted Care Baltimore, LLC v. Assurance Media, LLC
ORDER granting 13 Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative to Stay; Dismissing without prejudice the Amended Complaint; Cancelling the motions hearing currently scheduled for December 7, 2017; Directing Clerk to Close Case. Signed by Judge Roger W Titus on 11/20/2017 (cags, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CONCERTED CARE BALTIMORE, LLC, *
* Case No. RWT-17-cv-1800
ASSURANCE MEDIA, LLC,
Pending before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative to Stay.
ECF No. 13. On October 15, 2015, Defendant Assurance Media, LLC (“Assurance”) filed a
lawsuit against Plaintiff Concerted Care Baltimore, LLC (“CCB”) in the Superior Court for the
State of Delaware (“Delaware Court”) alleging breach of contract.
See ECF No. 2 ¶ 19.
Unhappy with the progress of the proceedings in the Delaware Court, on June 8, 2017, CCB filed
a lawsuit against Assurance in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. See id. at 1.
On June 30, 2017, Assurance removed that state court action to this Court. ECF No. 1. On that
same day, CCB filed an Amended Complaint. See ECF No. 8.
On July 7, 2017, Assurance filed its Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative to Stay.
ECF No. 13. CCB responded in opposition to the Motion on July 17, 2017, ECF No. 17, and
Assurance filed a reply brief in support of its Motion on July 28, 2017, ECF No. 20. Meanwhile,
the underlying civil trial appears set to begin in the Delaware Court on January 8, 2018. See
Docket, Assurance Media, LLC v. Concerted Care Group, N15C-10-061 (Del. Super. Ct.).
CCB’s Complaint alleges four counts—of which, Counts I, III, and IV directly stem from
the underlying proceedings before the Delaware Court. See ECF No. 8 ¶¶ 24–29 (pleading abuse
of process as to an allegedly fraudulent invoice upon which the Delaware proceedings are
based), ¶¶ 34–37 (alleging the same under a theory of unfair trade practices), ¶¶ 38–39 (alleging
the same under a theory of improper debt collection). The remaining count—Count II—alleges
defamation based on the pleadings filed in the Delaware Court. See id. ¶¶ 30–33.
On its face, Count II appears to lack merit due to the “absolute litigation privilege.” See,
e.g., McLeod v. McLeod, 93 A.3d 654 (Del. 2014); Carmax Auto Superstores, Inc. v. Sibley,
194 F. Supp. 3d 392, 401 (D. Md. 2016). Regardless, all of the counts seek discovery based on
the pleadings made in another court. Likely not by coincidence, this action was filed on the
same day that the Delaware Court denied a motion for admission pro hac vice of CCB’s
attorney. See ECF No. 13 at 2. By CCB’s own words, “[i]t is the existence of the Delaware
Lawsuit and Assurance’s continued deception of the Delaware Court that forms the basis of
[this] action.” ECF No. 17 at 2. However, this Court is neither an appellate court in the
Delaware state court system, nor is it the proper forum for parties to seek out when they are
displeased with ongoing proceedings in Delaware state courts.
In this circuit, “a federal court may abstain from deciding non-frivolous, nondeclaratory
claims in favor of a parallel state suit for reasons of ‘wise judicial administration’—but only in
‘exceptional’ circumstances.” VonRosenberg v. Lawrence, 781 F.3d 731, 734 (4th Cir. 2015), as
amended (Apr. 17, 2015) (quoting and analyzing Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v.
United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976)). The Court must weigh six factors in deciding whether
abstention will apply; those factors are:
(1) whether the subject matter of the litigation involves property
where the first court may assume in rem jurisdiction to the
exclusion of others; (2) whether the federal forum is an
inconvenient one; (3) the desirability of avoiding piecemeal
litigation; (4) the relevant order in which the courts obtained
jurisdiction and the progress achieved in each action; (5) whether
state law or federal law provides the rule of decision on the merits;
and (6) the adequacy of the state proceeding to protect the parties’
Chase Brexton Health Servs., Inc. v. Maryland, 411 F.3d 457, 463–64 (4th Cir. 2005) (noting
that balancing should be “heavily weighted in favor of the exercise of [federal] jurisdiction”).
In rem jurisdiction and convenience do not—or only slightly—apply. The remaining
factors all favor abstention given that this case includes only state law claims, which aver
foul-play in a lawsuit filed in the Delaware Court more than a year and a half prior to the filing
of the present case. Furthermore, the Delaware Court is fully capable of handling its own
proceedings, determining if any parties are defrauding it, and resolving any improprieties
accordingly. Federalism dictates that this Court should not exercise jurisdiction over the merits
of this case. Therefore, it is, this 20th day of November, 2017, by the United States District
Court for the District of Maryland,
ORDERED, that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative to Stay
[ECF No. 13] is hereby GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED, that Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint is hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE; and it is further
ORDERED, that the motions hearing currently scheduled for December 7, 2017
at 1:00 p.m. is hereby CANCELLED; and it is further
ORDERED, that the Clerk of this Court SHALL CLOSE this case.
ROGER W. TITUS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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