United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
YAMILET CASTANEDA, and other similarly situated non-exempt employees Plaintiff,
REINALDO MARTINEZ, Defendant.
MIRANDO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon review of Defendant
Reinaldo Martinez's Motion to Stay Proceedings!!, ] or in
the Alternative Motion for Protective Order that Discovery
Not Be Had Pending Resolution of Parallel Proceedings in
State Court (Doc. 9) filed on October 5, 2017. Plaintiff
opposes the requested relief. Doc. 14. For the reasons
discussed below, the motion is due to be granted.
brought this action for violation of the Fair Labor Standards
Act ("FLSA") against Reinaldo Martinez
("Defendant") on August 31, 2017. Doc. 1. Defendant
is alleged to be Plaintiffs employer as defined by the FLSA.
Doc. 9-1 ¶¶ 27-30. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
acted directly in the interests of Rei Martinez Enterprises,
Inc. d/b/a Paloma Blanca ("REI") and maintained
operational control of the business. Id.
to filing suit in this Court, Plaintiff first brought an
action, Castaneda v. Rei Martinez Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a
Paloma Blanca and Reinaldo Martinez, 11-2015- CA-694
("State Court Action") in the Circuit Court for the
Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Collier County, Florida
("State Court") on April 16, 2015. Doc. 9-1. In the
State Court Action, Plaintiff alleges that REI and Defendant
violated the FLSA and seeks to recover unpaid overtime wages
and obtain other relief. Id. at 1. On September 14,
2016, the State Court entered an order dismissing without
prejudice all counts of Plaintiffs suit with the exception of
Count One, an FLSA claim against REI. Doc. 14 at V, see
also Doc. 9-1 at 3-5. Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint in the State Court, which was subsequently
dismissed without prejudice. Doc. 14 at 1-2; see
also Docs. 9-7, 9-8. Plaintiff then filed a Motion to
Amend the Complaint, which was denied with prejudice. Doc. 14
at 2; see also Docs. 9-9, 9-10. As such, Plaintiff
currently is foreclosed from pleading against Defendant in
the State Court Action. Doc. 14 at 2. Plaintiff has pending
in the State Court Action a Motion for
Rehearing/Reconsideration of the order denying with prejudice
Plaintiffs Motion to Amend. Doc. 9 at 3. Because of the
pending State Court Action, Defendant has requested that this
Court either stay these proceedings, or in the alternative,
issue a protective order preventing discovery until such time
as the State Court Action is resolved. See
generally, Doc. 9.
exceptional circumstances warrant the stay of an action due
to parallel state court litigation. Johnson & Johnson
Vision Care, Inc. v. Kenneth Crosby New York, LLC, No.
3:09-cv-874-J-34MCR, 2010 WL 1030121, at *3 (M.D. Fla. March
17, 2010) ("Johnson & Johnson"). In making the
determination as to whether exceptional circumstances exist,
the Court should consider the following: "(1) whether
one of the courts has assumed jurisdiction over property! (2)
the inconvenience of the federal forum; (3) the potential for
piecemeal litigation; ... (4) the order in which the forums
obtained jurisdiction ... (5) whether state or federal law
will be applied; and (6) the adequacy of the state court to
protect the parties' rights." Id.', see also
Moses H. Cone Mem'] Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp,
460 U.S. 1 (1983) ("Moses"); Colorado River
Water Conservation Dist. v. U.S., 424 U.S. 800 (1976)
("Colorado River")). "The weight to be given
any one factor may vary greatly depending on the case;
however, the balance is 'heavily weighted' in favor
of the federal court exercising jurisdiction."
Id. (quoting Am. Bankers Ins. Co. of Fla. v.
First State Ins. Co., 891 F.2d 882, 884 (llth Cir.
1990)). The analysis of each factor, however, is a pragmatic
one, and the Court should analyze the factors with a view
towards "the realities of the case at hand."
Leaderstat, LLC v. Abisellan, 252 F.R.D. 698, 701
(M.D. Fla. 2007) (citing Moses, 460 U.S. at 21). A
single factor may be sufficient to give the Court cause to
neither the State Court nor this Court have assumed
jurisdiction over any property. See generally, Docs.
1-16. Nor has any party suggested that the federal forum is
inconvenient. See generally, Docs. 9, 14. Thus,
these factors are neutral. The sole factor that militates
against a stay is whether state or federal law will be
applied. See Johnson & Johnson, 2010 WL 1030121
at *3. Because Plaintiffs claims arise under the FLSA,
federal law predominates this case. See generally,
Doc. 1. Accordingly, the federal forum is preferable, which
weighs against a stay. See Johnson & Johnson,
2010 WL 1030121 at *3.
contrast, the other factors favor a stay. Looking first at
the potential for piecemeal litigation, the Court notes that
"[s]uits are parallel if substantially the same parties
litigate substantially the same issues in different
forums." Leaderstat, 252 F.R.D. at 701 (citing
LaDuke v. Burlington Northern Railroad, 89 F.2d
1556, 1559 (7th Cir. 1989)). This case arises out of the same
factual circumstances present in the State Court Action and
involves substantially the same claims. Compare Doc.
1 with Doc. 9-1. Moreover, the State Court Action is
filed against an entity related to Defendant, although at
present Defendant is no longer a party to the State Court
Action. Id. However, Plaintiff has filed a Motion
for Reconsideration in the State Court Action which, if
granted, would reinstate Defendant as a party in that action.
See Doc. 9 at 3. As such, the Court agrees that the
potential for piecemeal litigation is strong, because the
Defendant would be required to defend two parallel lawsuits
in two different forums, causing Defendant unnecessary
inconvenience and expense. See Leaderstat, LLC, 252
F.R.D. at 701.
regard to which forum first obtained jurisdiction, the State
Court undisputedly was the first court to obtain jurisdiction
in this matter. See Doc. 9 at 3; Doc. 14 at 2.
Finally, examining whether the State Court provides adequate
protection for the parties' rights, the Court finds that
it does. See Johnson & Johnson, 2010 WL 1030121
at *3. Plaintiff selected the State Court to pursue her
claims prior to filing her action in this Court, which
indicates that Plaintiff considered the State Court not only
to be adequate, but her preferred forum. See Doc. 9
at 3; Doc. 14 at 2. Moreover, depending on the outcome of
Plaintiffs Motion for Rehearing/Reconsideration, Plaintiff
may be able to pursue her claims against Defendant in the
State Court. SeeT)oc. 9 at 3. Thus, at least until
such time as the State Court rules on Plaintiffs Motion for
Rehearing/Reconsideration, the Court finds that the State
Court provides adequate protection for the parties'
rights. See Johnson & Johnson, 2010 WL 1030121
the Court finds that exceptional circumstances exist to
justify a temporary stay. See Am. Bankers Ins. Co. of
Fla, 891 F.2d at 884. Taking a pragmatic a view towards
"the realities of the case at hand, " the Court
will stay this case until such time as the State Court rules
on Plaintiffs Motion for Rehearing/Reconsideration. See
Leaderstat, LLC, 252 F.R.D. at 701.
it is hereby
Defendant Reinaldo Martinez's Motion to Stay
Proceedings!!, ] or in the Alternative Motion for Protective
Order that Discovery Not Be Had Pending Resolution of
Parallel Proceedings in State Court (Doc. 9) is
GRANTED. The matter is
STAYED, and the Clerk is directed to add a
stay flag to the case.
stay shall remain in effect until such time as the Circuit
Court for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Collier
County, Florida rules on Plaintiffs Motion for
Rehearing/Reconsideration in Case No. 11-2015-CA-694.
Plaintiff shall file a status report with the Court advising
the Court of the status of the State Court Action every ...