United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
OPINION & ORDER
M. HERLONG, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on the parties' joint motion
to stay the instant action. After review, the court denies
the parties' joint motion and dismisses this action
without prejudice pursuant to the doctrine of Colorado
Factual and Procedural Background
February 25, 2015, Plaintiff Paige Elizabeth Burrows
(“Burrows”) and Kyle Ryanwere involved in an
automobile collision in Oconee County, South Carolina.
(Compl. ¶¶ 12-14, ECF No. 1.) Burrows alleges that
the vehicle driven by Kyle Ryan was owned by Defendant
Anthony Ryan, Jr. (“Tony Ryan”), his father.
(Id. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1.)
filed the instant action on February 5, 2018, alleging
negligence and recklessness claims against Kyle Ryan and a
negligent entrustment claim against Tony Ryan. (Id.
¶¶ 16-23, ECF No. 1.) On March 15, 2018, Kyle and
Tony Ryan filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. (Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 5.) On April 23,
2018, the court granted the motion, dismissing Kyle Ryan as a
nondiverse defendant. (April 23, 2018 Order, ECF No. 13.) On
May 18, 2018, Burrows filed a motion for reconsideration, as
well as a voluntary dismissal of Kyle Ryan pursuant to Rule
41(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Mot.
Recons., ECF No. 15; Vol. Dismissal, ECF No. 15-1.) The court
granted Burrow's motion, vacated the April 23, 2018
order, and dismissed Kyle Ryan from this action without
prejudice in an order dated June 18, 2018. (June 18, 2018
Order, ECF No. 17.)
March 28, 2018, Burrows filed an action in South Carolina
state court (“state action”) in Oconee County,
South Carolina against Kyle Ryan regarding the same car
accident at issue in the instant action. (Mot. Stay 1, ECF
No. 36.) On April 25, 2018, following this court's April
23, 2018 order granting Kyle and Tony Ryan's motion to
dismiss, Burrows filed an amended complaint in the state
action, which added Tony Ryan as a defendant. (Id.
1-2, ECF No. 36.) In the state action, Burrows alleges the
same negligent entrustment claim against Tony Ryan as is
raised in the instant action. Burrows v. Ryan, C.A.
No. 2018-CP-37-00209 (Am. Summons &
Compl.). On March 1, 2019, Burrows and Tony Ryan
filed a joint motion to stay this action during the pendency
of the state action. (Mot. Stay, ECF No. 36.) This matter is
now ripe for consideration.
Discussion of the Law
parties submit that the court should stay the instant action
during the pendency of the state action based on the
interests of the parties and principles of judicial economy.
(Id., generally, ECF No. 36.) However, the court
finds that the Colorado River abstention doctrine is
applicable. See Bellotti v. Baird, 428 U.S. 132, 143
n.10 (1976) (“[I]t would appear that abstention may be
raised by the court Sua sponte.”); MLC Auto., LLC
v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 278, 284 (4th Cir.
2008) (affirming district court's sua sponte application
of abstention principles).
Colorado River abstention doctrine delineates when a
federal court may abstain from hearing a case in deference to
ongoing state proceedings. See Moses H. Cone Mem'l
Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Co., 460 U.S. 1, 13 (1983).
“Generally, as between state and federal courts, the
rule is that the pendency of an action in the state court is
no bar to proceedings concerning the same matter in the
Federal court having jurisdiction.” Colo.
River, 424 U.S. at 817 (internal quotation marks
abstention is only appropriate in certain limited
circumstances. “Colorado River, solely as a
matter of judicial administration, permits dismissal of a
duplicative federal action when ‘[w]ise
judicial administration, giving regard to conservation of
judicial resources and comprehensive disposition of
litigation' clearly favors abstention.” Chase
Brexton Health Servs., Inc. v. Maryland, 411 F.3d 457,
463 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Colo. River, 424 U.S.
at 817). Before a court may abstain, it must first determine
whether parallel state and federal proceedings exist.
Id. “Suits are parallel if substantially the
same parties litigate substantially the same issues in
different forums.” Id. at 464 (quoting New
Beckley Min. Corp. v. Int'l Union, United Mine
Workers of Am., 946 F.2d 1072, 1073 (4th Cir. 1991)).
parallel state and federal proceedings exist, a district
court may abstain under the Colorado River doctrine
if exceptional circumstances exist. Id. at 463. In
determining this issue, a court must weigh several factors,
“with the balance heavily weighted in favor of the
exercise of jurisdiction.” Id. (quoting
Moses H.Cone, 460 U.S. at 16). These factors
(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'
Id. at 463-64. “No one factor is necessarily
determinative; a carefully considered judgment taking into
account both the obligation to exercise jurisdiction and the
combination of factors counseling against that exercise is
required.” Colo. River, 424 U.S. at 818-19.
the state action unquestionably parallels the action pending
in this court. Burrows is the plaintiff in both actions, Tony
Ryan is a defendant in both actions, and Kyle Ryan is a
defendant in the state action. As noted in the joint motion
to stay, the factual allegations are identical, and the same
cause of action is alleged against Tony Ryan in both cases.
(Mot. Stay 2, ECF No. 36.) In fact, the amended complaint in
the state action is almost identical to the complaint filed
in this action. Moreover, it appears that the state action
was filed in order to preserve Burrows' causes of action
against Kyle and Tony Ryan due to statute of limitations
concerns, which the state court appears to have resolved in
favor of Burrows. See (Mot. ...