United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Respondent's motion to
dismiss Petitioner's complaint for declaratory relief
(Dkt. No. 10) and Respondent's motion for a speedy
hearing (Dkt. No. 11). Having thoroughly considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Respondent's motion to
dismiss (Dkt. No. 10) and DENIES Petitioner's motion for
a speedy hearing (Dkt. No. 11) for the reasons explained
injured his wrist in October 2016 while working on
Petitioners' fishing vessel and had surgery to repair it
in January 2017. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-3.) Thereafter,
Respondent's liver failed. (Id.) Respondent
alleges the failure, which is related to an underlying
condition (Wilson's disease), was triggered by the
anesthesia he received during surgery. (Id. at 4.)
Respondent is actively pursuing a liver transplant and seeks
payment from Petitioners for the cost of surgery and lifelong
maintenance medication. (Id.) He filed a complaint
in King County Superior Court on March 12, 2018 seeking these
and other damages. (Dkt. No. 10-1). The complaint brings
federal maritime claims for maintenance and cure, claims
under the Jones Act, and state law claims against
Petitioners. (Id. at 12-17.) Petitioners filed a
complaint for a declaratory judgment with this Court five
days before Respondent filed his complaint with the King
County Superior Court. (Dkt. No. 1.); see 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201. Petitioners allege that (a) Respondent's
liver failure predated his employment and is directly related
to Respondent's decision to stop taking medication for
Wilson's disease, and (b) had Respondent fully disclosed
his medical condition before his 2014 re-hire, Petitioners
would not have re-hired him. (Dkt. No. 14 at 3.) Petitioners
seek a declaration from this Court that they have no
obligation under the federal maritime doctrine of maintenance
and cure to pay for Respondent's liver transplant and
subsequent maintenance medication. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5.)
Respondent moves to dismiss Petitioner's complaint for
declaratory relief, asking the Court to decline to exercise
jurisdiction in this matter, given the pendency of
Respondent's state court proceeding. (Dkt. No. 10 at
declaratory judgment action, the Court has discretion to stay
a matter that is also pending in a state court proceeding.
Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 286 (1995).
In doing so, the Court "must balance concerns of
judicial administration, comity, and fairness to the
litigants." Chamberlain v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
931 F.2d 1361, 1367 (9th Cir. 1991). District courts
ordinarily consider the following factors: avoiding needless
state law determinations, ensuring parties are not forum
shopping, and avoiding duplicitous litigation. Id.
first factor favors Petitioners. They seek a declaratory
judgment solely on issues of federal maritime law-maintenance
and cure. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5.) The second factor is a closer
call. On the one hand, Petitioners filed their complaint with
this Court five days before Respondent filed their
complaint. See Fourth Shipmor Associates v. Lee,
1996 A.M.C. 1695, 1697 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 4, 1996) (finding that
such facts favored a petitioner). On the other hand,
Respondent has a right under the "saving to
suitors" clause to choose where he would like to bring a
federal admiralty action. 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1); see
St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Lago Canyon, Inc.,
561 F.3d 1181, 1195 n.5 (11th Cir. 2009) ("'by
virtue of the 'saving clause, ' plaintiff also may
sue at law in a state court or in a United States district
court'") (quoting In re: Chimenti, 79 F.3d
534, 537 (6th Cir. 1996)). It appears that Petitioners'
declaratory judgment action was an attempt to defeat
Respondent's right to the venue of his choosing.
Therefore, the Court concludes the second factor favors
Respondent. Finally, the third factor favors Respondent. A
declaratory judgment from this Court would not resolve this
matter. Respondent brings negligence claims in state court
unrelated to his liver condition. (Dkt. Nos. 10-1 at 17);
(see Dkt. No. 18-3 at 2-3) (medical records
describing ongoing issues related to his wrist).
foregoing reasons, Respondent's motion to dismiss (Dkt.
No. 10) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Court
exercises its discretion to STAY the matter pending
resolution of the state court proceeding. The Clerk is
DIRECTED to administratively close this case. The parties are
INSTRUCTED to advise the Court once the state court
proceeding is complete, should they wish to reopen this
matter. Petitioner's motion for a speedy hearing (Dkt.
No. 11) is DENIED as moot.
 Respondent fashioned his filing as a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1), but he provided no substantive basis to support
this request. (See generally Dkt. No. 10 at 3-4.)
However, Respondent provided substantive legal argument in
reply to Plaintiffs' opposition brief. (Dkt. No. 18 at
3-5.) While the Court need not consider Respondent's
untimely argument, the Court will in the interest of judicial
economy. See Zamani v. Carnes,491 F.3d 990, 997
(9th Cir. 2007). Further, Because Petitioners briefed this
issue in their ...