CARLINI v. GLENN O. HAWBAKER, INC.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 24 Errata re: 20 Motion to Stay. The case shall be stayed until the final resolution of the damages issue in the state court case. The parties are directed to file a motion to lift the stay when the state court reaches a final disposition of the damages issue, and as more fully stated in said Memorandum Opinion and Order. Signed by Judge Kim R. Gibson on 3/8/2018. (dlg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
Case No. 3:17-cv-65
JUDGE KIM R. GIBSON
GLENN 0. HAWBAKER, INC,
Pending before the Court is the Motion to Stay filed by Defendant Glenn 0.
Hawbaker, Inc. ("Hawbaker") (ECF No. 20). The Motion has been fully briefed (see ECF
Nos. 21, 26) and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant
Hawbaker' s Motion.
The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28
U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367. Venue is proper under 28U.S.C.§1391(b) because a substantial portion of the events
giving rise to the claims occurred in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
This employment dispute centers around Hawbaker's termination of Plaintiff's
employment. Plaintiff claims that Hawbaker terminated her employment because of her
disability. (See ECF No. 1.) Hawbaker asserts that it terminated Plaintiff's employment
because of insubordination. (See id. at 'iI 26.)
On March 2, 2017, Plaintiff sued Hawbaker in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre
County. (ECF No. 21-2.) Plaintiff asserted two claims against Hawbaker: wrongful
discharge and invasion of privacy. (Id.)
On April 18, 2017, Plaintiff sued Hawbaker in this Court. (See ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff
asserts three claims against Hawbaker in this action: a claim for violation of the Equal Pay
Act for receiving lower pay than similarly situated male employees, an Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA") claim for disability discrimination, and a failure to accommodate
claim under the ADA. (Id.) Plaintiff's ADA claims center around the allegation that
Hawbaker discriminated against Plaintiff by terminating her employment. (See, generally,
id.) Plaintiff seeks back wages on her Equal Pay Act Claim and "compensatory and punitive
damages in an amount in excess of One Hundred Fifty Thousand ($150,000) Dollars, plus
costs ... back pay ... [and] front pay" on each of her ADA claims. (ECF No. 1at7-10.)
Plaintiff's state court case proceeded to trial. On December 20, 2017, a jury returned
a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on both of her state law claims and awarded Plaintiff
$260,095.68 in compensatory damages and $2,000,000 in punitive damages. (ECF No. 21 at
3; see also ECF No. 26 at 2 (noting that the state court jury awarded Plaintiff "compensatory
damages ... due to her wrongful termination"); ECF No. 26-1 at 2 (noting that the jury
awarded Plaintiff $260,059.68 in "compensatory damages" to "fairly compensate" Plaintiff
for "the harm and/or damages she sustained due to Glenn 0. Hawbaker, Inc.'s wrongful
Hawbaker filed a Motion for Post-Trial Relief. (ECF No. 25-4.) Hawbaker argues,
among other things, that the jury's compensatory damage award went against the weight
of the evidence because of errors in Plaintiff's expert's calculations and that the damage
award should have been reduced to reflect Plaintiff's settling her worker's compensation
claim. (Id.) Hawbaker requests a new trial on damages and rernittitur. (Id.) Hawbaker plans
on appealing the state court verdict and damage award if it fails to obtain the post-trial
relief that it seeks. (See ECF No. 21 at 5.)
On February 21, 2018, Hawbaker filed the pending Motion to Stay the federal action
until the state courts resolve Hawbaker' s post-trial motion and possible appeal.
"[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court
to control the disposition of the cases on its docket with economy of time and effort for
itself, for counsel, and for litigants." Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936); see also
Commw. Ins. Co. v. Underwriters, Inc., 846 F.2d 196, 199 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Landis, 299
U.S. at 254). As such, "the power to stay an action, in non-mandatory stay cases, is firmly
within the discretion of the court." First Am. Title Ins. Co. v. Maclaren, L.L.C., No. 10-CV-363,
2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31508, at *13 (D. Del. Mar. 9, 2012) (citing Cost Bros., Inc. v. Travelers
Indem. Co., 760 F.2d 58, 60 (3d Cir. 1985)).
In determining whether a stay of the litigation is appropriate, a court must balance
the interests favoring a stay against the interests frustrated by the granting of a stay. Id.
(citing Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma v. United States, 124 F.3d 1413, 1416 (Fed. Cir. 1997)). In
doing so, a court should consider the following factors: (1) whether a stay would unduly
prejudice or present a clear tactical disadvantage to the non-moving party; (2) whether
denial of the stay would create a clear case of hardship or inequity for the moving party; (3)
whether a stay would simplify the issues and the trial of the case; and (4) whether discovery
is complete and whether a trial date has been set. Akishev v. Kapustin, 23 F. Supp. 3d 440,
446 (D. N.J. 2014). A court may also consider (5) the length of the requested stay. Structural
Group, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No. 1:07-CV-1793, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82266, at *13
(M.D. Pa. Oct. 16, 2008).
The "party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances
justify an exercise" of the Court's discretion to issue a stay. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 43334 (2009).
The Court will analyze each of the five factors listed above. After weighing the
competing interests presented in this case, the Court concludes that Hawbaker satisfied its
burden of showing that the circumstances justify a stay.
Undue Prejudice to Non-Moving Party
The Court finds that a stay would not unduly prejudice Plaintiff or place her at a
tactical disadvantage. Plaintiff's state and federal cases contain nearly overlapping factual
issues-indeed, the central allegations in Plaintiff's state and federal cases are that she was
wrongfully terminated from her employment with Hawbaker. 1 Given that the cases present
similar factual issues and Plaintiff has already received a large jury verdict in her state case,
Plaintiff cannot convincingly contend that staying the federal case would cause her to suffer
undue prejudice. Therefore, this factor weighs towards granting Hawbaker's Motion to
Plaintiff asserts that she will suffer undue prejudice if the Court stays her federal
case because she might not actually receive any award for several years as her state court
case navigates through the appellate process. (ECF No. 26 at 4-5.) While the Court is not
insensitive to Plaintiff's predicament, the Court finds that the potential delay in Plaintiff's
recovery does not constitute undue prejudice.
Hardship or Inequity to the Moving Party
Hawbaker would suffer undue hardship if the Court denied its Motion to Stay.
Hawbaker would be required to expend time, energy, and resources to litigate issues before
this Court-such as the proper methodology of calculating compensatory damages related
to Plaintiff's wrongful termination-that are currently the subject of a post-trial motion in
state court and that may be raised on appeal. Thus, Denying Hawbaker' s Motion to Stay
would unnecessarily permit simultaneous litigation of overlapping issues in multiple
forums. Accordingly, this factor weighs towards granting Hawbaker's Motion to Stay.
The Court notes that Plaintiff's federal case asserts a violation of the Equal Pay Act, which likely
involves distinct factual issues that do not overlap with Plaintiff's state court claims. However, for
the reasons explained in this Memorandum Opinion, the Court finds that the inclusion of the Equal
Pay Act claim in Plaintiff's case before this Court does not tilt the scales in favor of denying
Hawbaker's Motion to Stay.
Simplification of Issues
With respect to the third factor, the Court must consider "'whether a stay would
simplify the issues and the trial of the case."' Akishev, 23 F. Supp. 3d at 448 (quoting
Actelion Pharms., Ltd. v. Apotex Inc., No. 12-CV-5743, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135524, at *15
(D. N.J. Sept. 6, 2013)).
A stay would simplify the issues for trial. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages
for her ADA claims. As Hawbaker argues, Plaintiff cannot recover twice for injuries
sustained as a result of her improper termination. Therefore, the ultimate resolution of
Plaintiff's compensatory damage award in her state court case will influence the amount
of damages that Plaintiff may recover before this Court.
Furthermore, the amount of compensatory damages available to a plaintiff
informs the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded under the Due Process
Clause. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 425 (2003) (holding that
"few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages,
to a significant degree, will satisfy due process.") Plaintiff seeks compensatory and
punitive damages for her ADA claims before this Court. (ECF No. 1 at 7-10.) Because
resolution of the issue of compensatory damages in the state court action will have an
impact on the amount of compensatory damages Plaintiff may receive in her federal
action, it will also necessarily guide the amount of punitive damages that Plaintiff may
receive consistent with the Due Process Clause.
The Court additionally notes that granting Hawbaker's Motion to Stay could
simplify the issues because res judicata may bar some of Plaintiff's claims.2
In sum, this factor weighs strongly towards granting Hawbaker' s Motion to Stay.
Status of the Litigation
With respect to the fourth factor, "the Court evaluates Defendant['s] motion for a
stay in accordance with the scope of presently completed discovery and the scheduling of
a trial date." Akishev, 23 F. Supp. 3d at 448. "Courts are most likely to grant a stay when a
case is in an early stage of litigation." Destination Maternity Corp. v. Target Corp., 12 F.
"The doctrine of res judicata provides that a final judgment rendered by a court of competent
jurisdiction, on the merits, is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and as to
them constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same cause of action." Bush v.
Wexford Health Prof'l Servs., No. CIV.A. 13-1576, 2014 WL 295067, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2014)
(Schwab, J.) (citing In re Weisbrod & Hess Corp., 129 F.2d 114 (3d Cir. 1942)). Courts "may dismiss,
sua sponte, claims barred by res judicata or claim preclusion." Preston v. Vanguard Inv. Firm, No. CV
17-820, 2017 WL 2664139, at *3 (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2017); see Coulter v. Forrest, No. 1:12-CV-02050,
2013 WL 11327113, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 26, 2013) ("A court may raise the doctrine of res judicata sua
When federal courts are faced with the question of whether to give preclusive effect to a
prior state court judgment, "[t]he governing law in such cases is the state law of claim preclusion
from the state of the prior state court judgment." Bush, 2014 WL 295067, at *3 (citing 28 U.S.C. §
Under Pennsylvania law, "[a]pplication of the doctrine of res judicata requires that the two
actions possess the following common elements: (1) identity of the thing sued upon; (2) identity of
the cause of action; (3) identity of the parties; (4) identity of the capacity of the parties." Dempsey v.
Cessna Aircraft Co., 439 Pa. Super. 172, 176 (1995). (internal citations omitted.) Courts determine the
second factor-identity of the causes of action-"by considering the similarity in the acts
complained of and the demand for recovery as well as the identity of the witnesses, documents
and facts alleged." Id. at 177. Courts also consider "whether the factual allegations of both actions
are the same, whether the same evidence is necessary to prove each action and whether both
actions seek compensation for the same damages." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks
Without deciding the issue, the Court observes that res judicata may preclude some of
Plaintiff's claims before this Court. In fact, Plaintiff concedes that her state and federal cases
involve "factually related" issues. (ECF No. 26 at 9.) Accordingly, a stay is warranted because
resolution of the issues before the state court may preclude Plaintiff from raising certain of her
claims before this Court, which would further narrow the issues before this Court.
Supp. 3d 762, 770 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (internal citation omitted). However, "[a] case need not
be in its infancy to warrant a stay. Courts often find the stage of litigation weighs in favor
of a stay if there remains a significant amount of work ahead for the parties and the court,
even when the parties and/or the court have already devoted substantial resources to the
litigation." Id. (internal citations omitted).
The status of litigation factor is neutral. On the one hand, this factor seems to
disfavor a stay because fact discovery has been completed. (ECF No. 26 at 8-9.) However,
on the other hand, Plaintiff concedes that the "extensive fact discovery" was completed in
the state case that "directly impacts, and is inextricably intertwined with, Plaintiff's
ADA and PHRA claims in this case," (id. at 9), which corroborates Hawbaker's
contention that "[t]here has been minimal case-specific discovery in this matter." (ECF
No. 21 at 8.) Furthermore, while fact discovery has been completed, a significant amount
of work remains for the parties and the Court because the case has yet to proceed to trial.
In conclusion, this factor is neutral and does not clearly weigh towards or against
granting Hawbaker's Motion for a Stay.
Duration of the Stay
This final factor weighs in favor of granting Hawbaker's Motion to Stay. Contrary
to Plaintiff's assertion, the requested stay is not indefinite; it aligns with the state court's
final resolution of the overlapping issues that will have a direct impact on the federal case.
As this Court recently stated, "[t]he length of the stay is appropriate because it lasts no
longer than the state court's prompt resolution of the same factual and legal issues .... "
Golden Gate Nat'l Senior Care, LLC v. Spoone for Estate of Spoone, No. 3:17-CV-180, 2018 WL
502734, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 19, 2018) (Gibson, J.). Because the stay will last only as long as
required for the state court to resolve the overlapping issues, the length of the requested
stay is appropriate.
After examining the unique circumstances of this case and weighing the
competing interests, the Court finds that a stay is warranted. Four of the five factors favor
granting a stay. Most significantly, granting a stay will simplify the issues for trial given
that the damage award that Plaintiff obtains in the state case will have a direct impact on
the compensatory and punitive damages that Plaintiff may obtain before this Court.
Accordingly, the Court will grant Hawbaker's Motion to Stay.
An appropriate order follows.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
Case No. 3:17-cv-65
JUDGE KIM R. GIBSON
GLENN 0. HAWBAKER, INC,
day of March, 2018, upon consideration of Hawbaker' s Motion to Stay
(ECF No. 20), and for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is
HEREBY ORDERED that said motion is GRANTED.
The case shall be stayed until the final resolution of the damages issue in the state court
The parties are directed to file a motion to lift the stay when the state court reaches a final
disposition of the damages issue.
BY THE COURT:
KIM R. GIBSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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