Somyk v. City Personnel Inc.
ORDER denying 10 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction- So Ordered by District Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. on 10/11/2018 (Barletta, Barbara)
UNI'fED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND
CITY PERSONNEL, INC.,
C.A. No. 18-164-JJ:t\1:-PAS
JOHN J. MCCONNELL, JR., United States District Judge.
Defendant City Personnel, Inc. ("City"), has moved to dismiss Plaintiff Ashley
Somyk's Complaint for lack of jurisdiction or, alternatively, to stay the litigation
pending outcome of state court litigation, under the Col01·ado Rive1· doctrine. ECF
No. 10. For reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES City's motion in its entirety.
Ms. Somyk brought this action alleging City failed to pay wages and overtime
wages and unlawfully terminated Ms. Somyk for a discriminatory purpose. Following
termination at City, Ms. Somyk obtained employment with a personnel firm , the
Alpha Group. Based on Ms. Somyk's employment at Alpha Group, City sued Ms.
Somyk in Providence Superior Court, alleging violation of a non-compete agreement.
In the state court action, Ms. Somyk brought counterclaims related to the non·
compete clause in dispute on the same day she filed the present federal suit.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
City seeks to dismiss Ms. Somyk's federal action for lack of jurisdiction or,
alternatively, to stay the litigation pending outcome of state court litigation, under
the Col01-adoRiverdoctrine . ECF No. 10. Under
a federal court may
stay or dismiss a suit in federal court when a parallel state court proceeding is
underway, but only under exceptional circumstances and if it would promote "wise
judicial administration." Colorado River Water Conse1·vation Dist. v. U.S., 424 U.S.
800, 817·18 (1976).
For purposes of Col01·ado River analysis, state and federal
proceedings are parallel when "substantially the same parties are contemporaneously
litigating substantially the same issues in another forum." Fl·eed v. J.P Morgan
Chase Bank, NA., 756 F.3d 1013, 1018 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Bacardi Int'l Ltd. v.
V. Suarez & Co., Inc. , 719 F .3d 1, 14·15 (1st Cir. 2013) (recognizing state and federal
cases are parallel where proceedings involve the same legal issues, the claims are the
same, and arise from the same arbitration); Rojas·HeJ'llandez v. Puel'to Rico Elec.
Powm·Auth01ity, 925 F.2d 492,496 (1st Cir. 1991) (noting for ColoJ·adoRivel'analysis
that both actions derive from the same transaction and involve the same parties and
causes of action). If the federal and sta te court actions are not parallel, the Colorado
Riverdoctrine does not apply.
Indeed, a stay or dismissal under Col01·ado Rivel'is only appropriate when the
parties may obt ain complete relief in the state court proceedings. See Curn'e v. G1·oup
Ins. Com'n, 290 F .3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2002) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v.
M e1·cwy Constr. C01p., 460 U.S. 1, 28 (1983) ("When a court decides to dismiss or
stay unde1· Colorado
it presumably concludes that the parallel state-court
litigation will be an adequate vehicle for the complete and prompt resolution of the
issues between the parties")). If there is any substantial doubt about this, it would
be a serious abuse of discretion to grant the stay or dismissal at all. See Moses H
Cone, 460 U.S. at 28.
The Col01·ado Rivel'doctrine does not apply here because Ms. Somyk's federal
and state actions are not parallel. While City highlights that Ms. Somyk filed her
federal action on the same day as her state counterclaims, the factual allegations are
virtually identical, and the prayers for relief are virtually identical, the proceedings
do not involve the same or similar legal issues or claims to warrant a stay or dismissal
under Colorado River. See ECF No. 10.
Here, the claims involve events leading up to Ms. Somyk's termination as the
action arises from City's alleged failure to pay Ms. Somyk wages and overtime wages
and City's allegedly unlawful termination of Ms. Somyk. Ms. Somyk bt·ings claims
for unpaid wages under the Federal Labor Standards Act and the Rhode Island
Minimum Wage Act, and employment discrimination claims under the Rhode Island
Civil Rights Act, Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act, and Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964. See ECF No. 5 ,,,, 70-92. In contrast, the operative facts in
the state action are those following Ms. Somyk's termination and the claims involve
the non-compete clause at issue in that proceeding. Ms. Somyk's counterclaims in
the state action include breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,
tortious interference with business relations, tortious interference with contract,
defamation per se, and a claim of misappropriation made in bad faith. See ECF No.
10, Ex. 1 at 17·22.
The claims between the two actions involve different operative facts, different
causes of action, and require different elements to prove. Thus, Ms. Somyk would not
obtain complete relief in the state court action if the Court stayed or dismissed this
proceeding. This Court is unpersuaded that the ColOJ·ado Rivel'doctrine applies.
The Court DENIES the Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 10) in its entirety.
John J . McConnell, Jr.
United States District Judge
October 11, 2018
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