Employers Mutual Casualty Company v. West et al
ORDER denying 72 Motion to Stay. Signed by District Judge Sharion Aycock on 1/9/2017. (adm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CASE NO. 1:16CV00004-SA-DAS
BRYTNI WEST, et al.
ORDER ON MOTION TO STAY CASE
This matter comes before the Court on Littrell Construction Company, LLC, and Jason
Littrell’s Motion to Stay Case .
Factual and Procedural Background
Several complaints were filed against Defendants Littrell Construction Company, LLC
and Jason Littrell in multiple civil actions in the Circuit Court of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi
regarding faulty construction of multifamily dwellings. In this federal action, Plaintiff Employers
Mutual Casualty Company seeks both a declaration of its rights and liabilities under insurance
policies issued to Defendants, as well as injunctive relief against Defendants. Defendants assert
that they are immune from any liability for damages which allegedly occurred, and therefore ask
the court to stay any federal claims pending a decision from the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.
Analysis and Discussion
Staying district court proceedings pending the resolution of related state-court litigation is
effectively a decision to defer to the state court proceedings, and it is inappropriate in the
absence of a finding that abstention is warranted. Saucier v. Aviva Life & Annuity Co., 701 F.3d
458, 465 (5th Cir. 2012). When a party seeks both coercive and declaratory relief, as Plaintiff
does, the appropriateness of abstention must be assessed according to the “exceptional
circumstances” doctrine set forth in Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States,
424 U.S. 800, 801, 96 S. Ct. 1236, 47 L. Ed. 2d 483 (1976). See also Black Sea Inv., Ltd. v.
United Heritage Corp., 204 F.3d 647, 652 (5th Cir. 2000) (considering injunctive relief
“coercive relief” for abstention purposes under Colorado River). The Colorado River standard
“represents an ‘extraordinary and narrow exception’ to the ‘virtually unflagging obligation of the
federal courts to exercise the jurisdiction given them.’” Black Sea, 204 F.3d at 650 (quoting
Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 813, 96 S. Ct. 1236). Colorado River discretion to stay is available
only where the state and federal proceedings are parallel—i.e., where the two suits involve the
same parties and the same issues. Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co. v. Anco Insulations, Inc., 408
F.3d 248, 251 (5th Cir. 2005).
In the case at bar, there are eleven (11) underlying cases in which Plaintiff is currently
providing Defendants with a defense based on its insurance policy, but Plaintiff is not a party to
any of those underlying cases. Though the issues are related, they are not parallel and the court
lacks the obligation to entertain Defendants’ Motion to Stay. Even if the cases were truly
parallel, “only the clearest of justifications will warrant” the federal court’s staying its hand.
Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 819, 96 S. Ct. 1236. Defendants have not proposed justifications
under any of the six factors commonly considered in determining whether exceptional
circumstances exist that would permit a district court to decline exercising jurisdiction.1
Therefore, while the Court notes Defendants’ practical and equitable arguments regarding this
issue, a stay of the proceedings is not necessary in this circumstance. Defendants’ Motion to Stay
Case is DENIED.
The Supreme Court has not prescribed a “hard and fast rule” governing the appropriateness of Colorado River
abstention, but it has set forth six relevant factors (1) assumption by either court of jurisdiction over a res; (2) the
relative inconvenience of the forums; (3) the avoidance of piecemeal litigation; (4) the order in which jurisdiction
was obtained by the concurrent forums; (5) whether and to what extent federal law provides the rules of decision on
the merits; and (6) the adequacy of the state proceedings in protecting the rights of the party invoking federal
jurisdiction. Colorado River, 424 U.S. 800, 96 S. Ct.1236.
SO ORDERED this 9th day of January, 2017.
/s/ Sharion Aycock
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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