United States District Court, D. Maryland
W. TITUS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or in
the Alternative to Stay. ECF No. 13. On October 15, 2015,
Defendant Assurance Media, LLC (“Assurance”)
filed a lawsuit against Plaintiff Concerted Care Baltimore,
LLC (“CCB”) in the Superior Court for the State
of Delaware (“Delaware Court”) alleging breach of
contract. See ECF No. 2 ¶ 19. Unhappy with the
progress of the proceedings in the Delaware Court, on June 8,
2017, CCB filed a lawsuit against Assurance in the Circuit
Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. See Id. at 1.
On June 30, 2017, Assurance removed that state court action
to this Court. ECF No. 1. On that same day, CCB filed an
Amended Complaint. See ECF No. 8.
7, 2017, Assurance filed its Motion to Dismiss or in the
Alternative to Stay. ECF No. 13. CCB responded in opposition
to the Motion on July 17, 2017, ECF No. 17, and Assurance
filed a reply brief in support of its Motion on July 28,
2017, ECF No. 20. Meanwhile, the underlying civil trial
appears set to begin in the Delaware Court on January 8,
2018. See Docket, Assurance Media, LLC v.
Concerted Care Group, N15C-10-061 (Del. Super. Ct.).
Complaint alleges four counts-of which, Counts I, III, and IV
directly stem from the underlying proceedings before the
Delaware Court. See ECF No. 8 ¶¶ 24-29
(pleading abuse of process as to an allegedly fraudulent
invoice upon which the Delaware proceedings are based),
¶¶ 34-37 (alleging the same under a theory of
unfair trade practices), ¶¶ 38-39 (alleging the
same under a theory of improper debt collection). The
remaining count-Count II-alleges defamation based on the
pleadings filed in the Delaware Court. See Id.
face, Count II appears to lack merit due to the
“absolute litigation privilege.” See,
e.g., McLeod v. McLeod, 93 A.3d 654 (Del.
2014); Carmax Auto Superstores, Inc. v. Sibley, 194
F.Supp.3d 392, 401 (D. Md. 2016). Regardless, all of the
counts seek discovery based on the pleadings made in another
court. Likely not by coincidence, this action was filed on
the same day that the Delaware Court denied a motion for
admission pro hac vice of CCB's attorney.
See ECF No. 13 at 2. By CCB's own words,
“[i]t is the existence of the Delaware Lawsuit and
Assurance's continued deception of the Delaware Court
that forms the basis of [this] action.” ECF No. 17 at
2. However, this Court is neither an appellate court in the
Delaware state court system, nor is it the proper forum for
parties to seek out when they are displeased with ongoing
proceedings in Delaware state courts.
circuit, “a federal court may abstain from deciding
non-frivolous, nondeclaratory claims in favor of a parallel
state suit for reasons of ‘wise judicial
administration'-but only in ‘exceptional'
circumstances.” VonRosenberg v. Lawrence, 781
F.3d 731, 734 (4th Cir. 2015), as amended
(Apr. 17, 2015) (quoting and analyzing Colorado River
Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800
(1976)). The Court must weigh six factors in deciding whether
abstention will apply; those factors are:
(1) whether the subject matter of the litigation involves
property where the first court may assume in rem
jurisdiction to the exclusion of others; (2) whether the
federal forum is an inconvenient one; (3) the desirability of
avoiding piecemeal litigation; (4) the relevant order in
which the courts obtained jurisdiction and the progress
achieved in each action; (5) whether state law or federal law
provides the rule of decision on the merits; and (6) the
adequacy of the state proceeding to protect the parties'
Chase Brexton Health Servs., Inc. v. Maryland, 411
F.3d 457, 463-64 (4th Cir. 2005) (noting that balancing
should be “heavily weighted in favor of the exercise of
rem jurisdiction and convenience do not-or only
slightly-apply. The remaining factors all favor abstention
given that this case includes only state law claims, which
aver foul-play in a lawsuit filed in the Delaware Court
more than a year and a half prior to the filing of
the present case. Furthermore, the Delaware Court is fully
capable of handling its own proceedings, determining if any
parties are defrauding it, and resolving any improprieties
accordingly. Federalism dictates that this Court should not
exercise jurisdiction over the merits of this case.
Therefore, it is, this 20th day of November, 2017, by the
United States District Court for the District of Maryland,
ORDERED, that Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss or in the Alternative to Stay [ECF No. 13] is hereby
GRANTED; and it is further
that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is hereby
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; and it is
that the motions hearing currently scheduled for December 7,
2017 at 1:00 p.m. is hereby CANCELLED; and
it is further
that the Clerk of this Court SHALL ...