The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Candy W. Dale Chief United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Stay (Dkt. 19) requesting a stay of this action in favor of resolving identical litigation pending in the Superior Court of California, in Orange County.*fn1 Defendants oppose the motion and wish to litigate this case here in the District of Idaho. After the motion was filed, the parties notified the Court that the California state court denied an identical motion filed by Defendants to stay the state court proceedings in favor of allowing the Federal case to continue here. (Dkt. 71-1.) The California state court case has been set for trial to commence on April 9, 2012. (Dkt. 71-1.) This matter is set for trial as well, to commence on October 29, 2012. (Dkt. 57.)
The parties agree that the parties and claims asserted in the two actions are identical. The Complaint seeks recovery of damages based upon products liability arising out of a single vehicle rollover accident that occurred on October 24, 2008, in Minidoka County, Idaho. Although Plaintiffs assert their preferred choice of venue is in California state court, Plaintiffs represent they filed this identical action "out of an abundance of caution" to toll the applicable Idaho statute of limitations in the event the California state court action could not proceed or failed on other procedural grounds. (Mot. at 2, Dkt. 19; Mem. at 3, Dkt. 19-1.) Beyond deciding the motion to stay, neither court has made any substantive rulings. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, which if decided would not be dispositive of all claims asserted in the complaint, is pending before this Court. (Dkt. 42.)
Plaintiffs argue that their choice of forum should be given deference. Plaintiffs represent that they "intend to pursue this matter in California," (Dkt. 70), and that if they were allowed to proceed in California state court they would either stipulate to a stay of this action or file a motion to dismiss. (Decl. of Chase ¶ 5, Dkt. 66-3.) Plaintiffs have filed neither a stipulation for stay, or a motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the Court will proceed to determine if a stay is appropriate.
The parties argue their respective positions advocating for or against a stay under Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976). Colorado River sets forth several factors relevant when deciding whether "exceptional circumstances" exist to stay a federal court action on the grounds that there is a similar action pending in state court in which the controversy can be resolved. See 20 Charles Alan Wright & Mary Kay Kane, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: FEDERAL PRACTICE DESK BOOK § 54 at 456--58 (6th ed. 2002). No such exceptional circumstances exist in this case weighing in favor of granting a stay.)*fn2
The mere pendency of an action in state court does not require a federal court to refuse to hear an action or stay an action, and both actions may go forward until one results in a judgment. Id. See also Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817. Federal courts have an "unflagging obligation . . . to exercise the jurisdiction given them," which in this case is based upon diversity of citizenship. Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817. The circumstances permitting dismissal of a federal suit because a concurrent state proceeding exists are "considerably more limited" than circumstances appropriate for abstention. Id. at 818.
The United States Supreme Court set forth several factors for federal courts to consider, including (1) which court first assumed jurisdiction over property; (2) the inconvenience of the federal forum; (3) the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation; and (4) the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forums. Id. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has recognized additional considerations added by Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 28 (1983). Those are whether federal law provides the rule of decision on the merits and whether the state court proceedings are inadequate to protect the federal litigant's rights. Travelers Indem. Co. v. Madonna, 914 F.3d 1364, 1367 (9th Cir. 1990). Finally, the Court is to consider whether the litigants are forum shopping. Travelers Indem. Co., 914 F.3d at 1367.
No one factor is determinative, and the Court must take into account both the obligation to exercise jurisdiction and the combination of factors counseling against that exercise. Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 818. Additionally, the balance is "heavily weighted in favor of the exercise of jurisdiction." Travelers Indem. Co., 914 F.3d at 1367. "Only the clearest of justifications will warrant dismissal." Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 819. Within these parameters, an order staying the litigation is just as much a refusal to exercise federal jurisdiction as a dismissal. Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp., 460 U.S. at 28.
The first factor, jurisdiction over the property, is not helpful because money damages are not the sort of tangible physical property referenced in Colorado River. Travelers Indem. Co., 914 F.2d at 1368.
The inconvenience of the federal forum is similarly unhelpful. While Defendants argue that all witnesses and documents in this case are in Idaho, a closer look reveals that, in this products liability case, only one Idaho witness appears necessary. The facts of the case do not hinge upon the crash itself, but rather upon the product-the seatbelt-that allegedly failed.
Plaintiffs argue that the inconvenience of the federal forum supports granting a stay, because in fact the documents and evidence they will be relying upon can be obtained in California at Defendants' headquarters. However, in this day of mobile computing, electronic document submission, video conferencing, and e-mail, this factor is not sufficiently great such that a stay is warranted.
The next factor, the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation, also is unhelpful. Although Defendants suggest that the proceedings will be unnecessarily duplicative, the correct evaluation of this factor involves considering whether "exceptional circumstances exist" that justify special concern about piecemeal litigation. Travelers Indem. Co., 914 F.2d at 1369. In Colorado River, this factor tipped in favor of dismissal out of the desire to avoid piecemeal litigation over state ...