The opinion of the court was delivered by: PARKER
The plaintiff, Reynold Fischmann ("Fischmann"), brings this diversity action against VisionTel, Inc. ("VisionTel"), seeking damages for breach of contract and relief under section 198(1) and 1(a) of New York's Labor Law. Presently before the Court is VisionTel's motion to dismiss based on the abstention doctrine of Colorado River Conservation District v. United States 424 U.S. 800, 47 L. Ed. 2d 483, 96 S. Ct. 1236 (1976).
VisionTel is a Delaware software corporation with its principal place of business located in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Fischmann is a New York resident. On December 21, 1993, the parties entered into a five-year employment agreement which provided that Fischmann would serve as the president of VisionTel. The agreement provided that VisionTel could terminate Fischmann for cause on fifteen days notice. According to the complaint, Fischmann was terminated on February 12th, 1996. The defendant, however, argues that Fischmann resigned on February 5th.
On April 10th, one day after receiving notice of the Montgomery County action, Fischmann filed this suit in the United States District Court for damages in the amount of $ 275,000.00. Additionally, he seeks an award of attorneys' fees, expenses, and liquidated damages pursuant to section 198(1) of the Labor Law of New York.
Before this Court is VisionTel's, motion to abstain based on the Colorado River abstention doctrine.
On a motion to dismiss, all factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true and construed favorably to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974); Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011, 1014-15 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 118 L. Ed. 2d 548, 112 S. Ct. 1943 (1992).
Courts are generally required to adjudicate claims that are properly presented and that are within their subject matter jurisdiction. Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817. However, a federal court may decline to hear a case: (1) if it poses a federal constitutional issue that may be mooted or altered by a state court ruling on state law, see Railroad Comm'n of Texas v. Pullman Co. 312 U.S. 496, 500-501, 85 L. Ed. 971, 61 S. Ct. 643 (1941), (2) if it involves complex questions of state law that bear on important state policy issues, see Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315, 317-334, 87 L. Ed. 1424, 63 S. Ct. 1098 (1943) (3) if it was filed to enjoin state court proceedings, see e.g., Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-57, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), or (4) when duplicative state court proceedings are pending, and exceptional 'reasons of wise judicial administration' counsel dismissal. Youell v. Exxon Corporation, 48 F.3d 105, 108-9 (2d Cir. 1995), vacated on other grounds, U.S. , 116 S. Ct. 43 (1995); see also Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817-18. The defendant argues that under Colorado River, this Court should abstain because of the pendancy of the state action and existence of exceptional circumstances.
The factors that the District Court should consider when deciding whether exceptional circumstances exist include: 1) which court first assumed jurisdiction over a res involved in the litigation; 2) the inconvenience of the federal forum; 3) the avoidance of piecemeal litigation; 4) the order in which the concurrent fora obtained jurisdiction; 5) the law (federal or state) that provides the rule of decision, and; 6) the protection of the federal plaintiff's rights. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corporation 460 U.S. 1, 23-28, 74 L. Ed. 2d 765, 103 S. Ct. 927 (1983). "The decision whether to dismiss a federal action because of parallel state-court litigation
does not rest on a mechanical checklist, but on a careful balancing of the important factors as they apply in a given case with the balance heavily weighted in favor of the exercise of jurisdiction . . . ." Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 2. Moreover, because federal courts have a "virtually unflagging obligation . . . to exercise the jurisdiction given them," Colorado River 424 U.S. at 817, abstention "is the exception, not the rule." Colorado River 424 U.S. at 813.
Applying these principles here, we find that VisionTel has not demonstrated exceptional circumstances sufficient to justify abstention. The first two factors weigh against abstention because there is no res involved and the location of the District Court is as inconvenient to VisionTel as the Pennsylvania forum is to Fischmann.
Youell, 48 F.3d at 113; De Cisneros v. Younger 871 F.2d 305, 307 (2d Cir. 1989); see Bethlehem Contracting Co. v. Lehrer/McGovern Inc. 800 F.2d 325, 327 (2d Cir. 1986).
We also find that avoidance of piecemeal litigation is not a concern in this case. Piecemeal litigation can sometimes result in inconsistent judgments that "cause friction between state and federal courts." Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company v. Connecticut Bank and Trust Co. 806 F.2d 411, 414 (2d Cir. 1986). In this circuit, abstention is more appropriate where the parties to both suits are not identical because there is the possibility that the parties who are not bound by the prior judgment may cause inconsistent judgments in subsequent lawsuits.
In this case, Fischmann and VisionTel are the only parties to both actions, and therefore, principles of issue preclusion and ...