United States District Court, D. Idaho
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Tobby Stoltz, Plaintiff: Andrew Seth Jorgensen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Matthew Owen Pappas, Anderson, Julian & Hull LLP, Boise, ID; Christine Reinert, LEAD ATTORNEY, MacMillan, Scholz and Marks P.C., Portland, OR.
For Fry Foods, Inc., an Ohio corporation, Defendant: David W Knotts, William Kendall Fletcher, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Carey Perkins, LLP, Boise, ID.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
B. Lynn Winmill, Chief United States District Judge.
Before the Court are two motions filed by the parties. In a somewhat unusual motion, Plaintiff Tobby Stoltz asks this Court to stay this case so that he may finish litigating a substantively identical suit he brought against Defendant Fry Foods, Inc. in Oregon state court. Pl.'s Motion to Stay, dkt. 12. Fry Foods opposes this motion, in part because Fry Foods moved to dismiss Stoltz's complaint in this suit as time barred before Stoltz asked for a stay. Def.'s Motion to Dismiss, dkt. 6. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Stoltz' motion and grant Fry Foods' motion.
Fry Foods hired Duane L. Bellows Construction, Inc. (" DLB Construction" ) to perform repair work at Fry Foods' Weiser, Idaho plant. Compl., dkt. 12-1, ex. A, ¶ 8. On November 14, 2011, Stoltz, an employee of DLB Construction, was repairing a truss in the attic of the plant when he fell approximately twenty feet through an area of unsupported sheetrock. Id. ¶ ¶ 8-9. Stoltz was seriously injured in the fall. Id. ¶ 10.
On November 8, 2013, Stoltz filed suit against Fry Foods in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Id. ¶ 7. Fry Foods moved to dismiss Stoltz's Oregon suit on the grounds that Oregon courts did not have personal jurisdiction over Fry Foods. The Oregon trial court granted that motion and initially ordered the case transferred to Idaho. Id. at 7. However, after additional briefing, the Oregon trial court vacated its transfer order and dismissed the suit without prejudice. Id.; Amended Order, dkt. 14-4, ex. B.
In response, Stoltz did two things. First, he appealed the dismissal of his Oregon suit to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Notice of Appeal, dkt. 14-5, ex. C. That appeal is currently pending. Second, Stoltz filed a parallel suit to his Oregon suit in Idaho's Third Judicial District Court. See Compl., dkt. 12-1, ex. A, ¶ 7. In his complaint, Stoltz alleged that Fry Foods negligently failed to maintain a safe working space for Stoltz, and that Fry Foods' negligence was the proximate cause of his injuries. Id. at 18-19. Stoltz also alleged that Fry Foods contracted with DLB Construction " to make the premises safe for DLB Construction employees to perform the repair work" at the Weiser plant, which Fry Foods allegedly breached.
Id. at 20, ¶ 24. Finally, Stoltz alleged that Fry Foods failure to support the sheetrock was a construction defect.
Fry Foods removed Stoltz's Idaho complaint to this Court, and moved to dismiss the complaint. Dkts. 1, 6. According to Fry Foods, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury action in Idaho is two years. Therefore, Fry Foods argues the time to file a complaint based on the November 14, 2011, accident expired on or about November 15, 2013. Stoltz opposed Fry Foods' motion to dismiss and filed a motion to stay this suit pending resolution of his Oregon suit. Both motions are fully briefed and suitable for decision without oral argument.
1. Motion to Stay
Stoltz asks the Court to stay these proceedings pending resolution of his case in Oregon. Although Stoltz primarily asks for a stay pursuant to Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 57 S.Ct. 163, 81 L.Ed. 153 (1936), he also suggests that some, but not all, of the factors enumerated in Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 47 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976), and its progeny support a stay. Stoltz argues, however, that, because he " does not ask for declination of jurisdiction or dismissal . .., [he] is not required to make a showing of 'exceptional circumstances,'" which is a normal requirement for full-blown Colorado River abstention. Pl.'s Stay Memo, dkt. 12-1, at 10. This argument raises the question: Which standard, Landis or Colorado River, controls the resolution of Stoltz's motion to stay?
The question is not purely academic. " In abstention cases, discretion must be exercised within the narrow and specific limits prescribed by the particular abstention doctrine involved." Travelers Indem. Co. v. Madonna, 914 F.2d 1364, 1367 (9th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted). And while both Landis and Colorado River allow federal courts to stay a case out of concern for " wise judicial administration," Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 818; Landis, 299 U.S. at 254, the two doctrines are not interchangeable. In the typical Landis stay case, a federal court postpones resolution of the case pending some related proceeding. However, the related proceeding typically serves only to narrow the factual or legal issues for the federal court. In Landis, for example, the Court considered the propriety of a stay to allow the attorney general to litigate in a separate test case the constitutionality of an S.E.C. regulation. 299 U.S. at 250-51. Although that was the primary issue in all of the cases, the Court recognized that resolution of the test case " may not settle every question of fact and law" in the remaining cases. Id. at 256; see also CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 269 (9th Cir. 1962) (upholding a stay because a related agency proceeding " provide[d] a means of developing comprehensive evidence bearing upon the highly technical tariff questions which [were] likely to arise in the district court case" ). Furthermore, a Landis stay is generally of a limited duration. See Landis,
299 U.S. at 256 (" [T]he individual may be required to submit to delay not immoderate in extent . . . ." ); id. at 255 (stating that a district court abuses its discretion by entering a " stay of indefinite duration in the absence of a pressing need" ); Belize Soc. Dev. Ltd v. Belize, 668 F.3d 724, 730, 399 U.S.App.D.C. 179 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (" The stay at issue may be sufficiently indefinite as to require a finding of pressing need [under Landis ], . . . but it is not so indefinite as ...