United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on the motion (Dkt. 26) of
Frederick Stanley (“Defendant”). The Court has
considered the motion and the remainder of the file and
hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.
April 9, 2014, T.K., G.G., B.G., T.A., A.A., J.A., K.W., and
P.W. (“Plaintiffs”) filed a complaint in
Tiffany Kelso, et al. v. Olympia School District, et
al., Thurston County Superior Court No. 14-2-00678-8
(“T.K. I”), against Defendant, Olympia
School District, Robert Hodges, William Lahmann, and Jennifer
Priddy. Dkt. 13-1. G.G., A.A., and P.W. are minors.
Id. The complaint stated a claim for negligence,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, and violations of
state mandatory reporting laws. Dkt. 13-1 at 16- 19.
21, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their present complaint against
Defendant. Dkt. 1. The complaint claims a “violation of
the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 USC §
1983.” Id. at 19. On July 15, 2016, the
Thurston County Superior Court entered summary judgment in
T.K. I dismissing the claims of the minor plaintiffs
G.G., A.A., and P.W. Dkt. 13-2. On August 11, 2016,
Plaintiffs filed a notice of discretionary review. Dkt. 15 at
25, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss “based
upon res judicata/claim-splitting.” Dkt. 12. On August
15, 2016, Plaintiffs responded. Dkt. 14. On August 19, 2016,
Defendant replied. Dkt. 16. On October 11, 2016, the Court
entered an order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss.
Dkt. 22. In its order, the Court explained that the State
Court proceedings were not yet final, and that
“numerous courts have determined that the proper
analysis to determine whether a concurrent state action bars
a related federal action is a matter appropriately considered
in the context of abstention, not claim splitting.”
Dkt. 22 at 9. Therefore, the Court concluded, “[a]bsent
any argument on [Colorado River] or some affirmative
defense that might bar recovery on the claims, the Court
denies Defendant's motion.” Id. at 10. On
October 21, 2016, Defendant moved for “clarification
and/or reconsideration, ” which the Court denied. Dkts.
March 22, 2017, Defendant filed the present motion, seeking
relief on the basis of the Colorado River doctrine.
Dkt. 26. On April 3, 2017, Plaintiffs responded. Dkt. 27. On
April 7, 2017, Defendant replied. Dkt. 29.
23, 2017, the Court entered an order requesting supplemental
briefing on the issue of whether parallel litigation exists
in state court. Dkt. 30. Specifically, the Court requested
that the parties address whether a state court action was
ever commenced against Defendant and how that fact would
affect the Court's analysis.
moves to stay or dismiss this action pursuant to the
Colorado River doctrine. Dkt. 26. Plaintiffs are
opposed to a stay or dismissal, but argue that a stay is the
appropriate remedy should the Court determine that the
Colorado River doctrine applies. Dkt. 27.
the Colorado River doctrine, federal courts must
exercise their discretion to determine whether they will hear
a case when a parallel action is pending in state court.
Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United
States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976) (“Colorado
River”). This decision is to be driven by
“considerations of wise judicial administration, giving
regard to conservation of judicial resources and
comprehensive disposition of litigation.” Colorado
River, 424 U.S. at 817 (quotation omitted). If the Court
determines that it should defer to parallel state court
proceedings, the appropriate remedy is to stay the federal
action pending the outcome of the state court litigation.
Attwood v. Mendocino Coast Dist. Hosp., 886 F.2d
241, 243 (9th Cir. 1989). This remedy “ensures that the
federal forum will remain open if for some unexpected reason
the state forum does turn out to be inadequate.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
first step in applying the Colorado River doctrine
is to determine whether there exists “parallel”
state court litigation. See Holder v. Holder, 305
F.3d 854, 868 (9th Cir. 2002); Intel Corp. v. Advanced
Micro Devices, Inc., 12 F.3d 908, 913 (9th Cir. 1993).
If this threshold inquiry is satisfied, the Court then
engages in a multi-factor balancing test to determine whether
staying the federal action pending the outcome of the state
court litigation serves the interest of “wise judicial
administration.” See Nakash v. Marciano, 882
F.2d 1411, 1415 (9th Cir. 1989).
can be no doubt that there exists a state court proceeding
that is closely related to this action. In T.K. I,
Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging claims of negligence,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, and a violation
of state mandatory reporting laws against Defendant, several
other individuals, and Defendant's employer. Dkt. 34-1 at
2. Those claims arose from the same nexus of facts
surrounding the alleged sexual abuse of the minor plaintiffs
by Gary Shafer, a bus driver for Defendant's employer,
Olympia School District. Id. at 2-20. However,
although this case and T.K. I ...