United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on plaintiffs' second motion
to remand (#25). The matter is fully briefed and ready for
are the surviving relatives of a man who was killed as the
result of a train accident in Butler County, Missouri. In
2012, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Butler County and
Union Pacific Railroad Company for wrongful death and other
claims in the Circuit Court of Butler County, Missouri
(“2012 Case”). Plaintiffs settled with Butler
County but proceeded to trial against Union Pacific. On the
eve of trial, the court granted partial summary judgment to
Union Pacific. Plaintiffs wanted to appeal the decision
immediately, so they dismissed the remaining counts (Counts I
and II) without prejudice and appealed the summary judgment
to the Missouri Court of Appeals. In order to preserve the
claims they had dismissed, and recognizing that they might
not win on appeal and thus might not be able to add Counts I
and II back to the 2012 Case, plaintiffs re-filed the two
dismissed claims in a new action filed in Butler County
(“2016 Case”). Plaintiffs did not, however, serve
defendant Union Pacific with process as they waited for a
result in the 2012 Case appeal.
Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the Butler County trial
court's grant of summary judgment on October 18, 2016.
Plaintiffs thus sought to amend their 2012 Case petition to
include the previously-dismissed claims. While that motion
was pending, Union Pacific --- although not yet served with
the petition in the 2016 Case --- learned of the 2016 Case,
and its attorney entered an appearance and promptly removed
the case to this Court citing this Court's diversity
do not contest that the Court has jurisdiction over the case.
Rather, plaintiffs moved to remand this matter back to state
court citing the “Colorado River
Abstention” doctrine and the abatement doctrine (#12).
This Court denied that motion because there was at that time
no pending state court action that was substantially likely
to “fully dispose of the claims presented in the
federal court” (#19 at 3 (quoting Fru-Con Const.
Corp. v. Controlled Air, Inc., 574 F.3d 527, 535 (8th
Cir. 2009))). Defendant conceded that if plaintiffs were
granted leave to file the First Amended Petition in the 2012
Case, then plaintiffs may revisit the abstention issue with
the Court on a later motion. (#17 at 13; #19 at 4.)
19, 2017, the Circuit Court of Butler County granted
plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the 2012 Case to add Counts I
and II. Now that parallel proceedings exist in state and
federal courts, plaintiffs argue that the Court should remand
this matter to state court (#25).
general, federal courts have a “virtually unflagging
obligation to exercise the jurisdiction given them.”
Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United
States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976). In Colorado
River, however, the Supreme Court recognized a district
court's authority to abstain from exercising jurisdiction
over parallel state and federal proceedings because of
“considerations of ‘[w]ise judicial
administration, giving regard to conservation of judicial
resources, and comprehensive disposition of
litigation.'” Id. In carving out this
exception to a district court's usual obligation to
exercise jurisdiction, the Supreme Court cautioned that
“[o]nly the clearest of justifications will
warrant” abstention. Id. at 819. Specifically,
a district court may abstain if parallel state and federal
actions exist and exceptional circumstances warrant
abstention. See Id. at 817-819; Fru-Con Costr.
Corp., 574 F.3d at 534.
The doctrine of abstention, under which a District Court may
decline to exercise or postpone the exercise of its
jurisdiction, is an extraordinary and narrow exception to the
duty of a District Court to adjudicate a controversy properly
before it. Abdication of the obligation to decide cases can
be justified under this doctrine only in the exceptional
circumstances where the order to the parties to repair to the
state court would clearly serve an important countervailing
interest.” Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 813
(quoting County of Allegheny v. Frank Mashuda Co.,
360 U.S. 185, 188-189 (1959)).
Eighth Circuit recognizes that determining whether
exceptional circumstances exists requires evaluation of six
(1) whether there is a res over which one court has
(2) the inconvenience of the federal forum;
(3) whether maintaining separate actions may result in
piecemeal litigation, unless the relevant law would require
piecemeal litigation and the federal court issue is easily
(4) which case has priority-not necessarily which case was
filed first but a greater emphasis on the relative ...