United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
DAVID C. BRADEEN, and SUSAN A. BRADEEN, Plaintiffs,
THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON TRUST COMPANY, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, as successor to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas f/k/a Bankers Trust Corporation, as trustee for Residential Asset Securities Corporation, Home Equity Mortgage Asset-Backed Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2002-KS1; BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON CORPORATION; DEUTSCHE BANK TRUST COMPANY AMERICAS, f/k/a BANKERS TRUST CORPORATION, as Trustee for Residential Asset Securities Corporation, Home Equity Mortgage Asset-Backed Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2002-KS1; DEUTSCHE BANK, A.G.; ALLY FINANCIAL, INC.; GMAC MORTGAGE GROUP, LLC; RESIDENTIAL CAPITAL, LLC; GMAC-RFC HOLDING COMPANY, LLC; RESIDENTIAL ASSET SECURITIES CORPORATION; and MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a dispute concerning a home mortgage foreclosure. In November
2001, plaintiffs David and Susan Bradeen obtained a loan
secured by a mortgage on their residence at 91 Higgins Road,
Framingham, Massachusetts. At some point, the Bradeens fell
behind on their mortgage payments. Defendant The Bank of New
York Mellon Trust Company, National Association, as successor
to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas f/k/a Bankers Trust
Corporation, as Trustee for Residential Asset Securities
Corporation, Home Equity Mortgage Asset-Backed Pass-Through
Certificates, Series 2002-KS1 (“BNY Mellon
Trustee”) foreclosed on the property on May 19, 2015,
and purchased the property as the highest bidder.
January 19, 2016, BNY Mellon Trustee filed a summary-process
eviction action against the Bradeens in Framingham District
Court, seeking possession of the property. The Bradeens
answered the complaint and filed counterclaims on February 1,
2016. The case proceeded to a bench trial on July 24, 2018.
The judge found the 2015 foreclosure void, and entered
judgment for possession in favor of the Bradeens on August 8,
2018. BNY Mellon Trustee has appealed that judgment.
present action arises from a complaint the Bradeens filed
against defendants in Middlesex Superior Court on May 29,
2018. The complaint alleges 17 violations of
Massachusetts state law, primarily consumer-protection,
foreclosure, and contract claims, as well as two federal
claims: one under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and one
under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National
Commerce Act. On August 17, 2018, defendants removed the
action to federal court.
have moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that this
Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the
prior-pending-action doctrine or the Colorado River
following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted.
contend that this action should be dismissed on two grounds:
the prior-pending-action doctrine and the Colorado
River abstention doctrine.
the prior-pending-action doctrine, “the pendency of a
prior action, in a court of competent jurisdiction, between
the same parties, predicated upon the same cause of action
and growing out of the same transaction, and in which
identical relief is sought, constitutes good ground for
abatement of the later suit.” O'Reilly v.
Curtis Pub. Co., 31 F.Supp. 364, 364-65 (D. Mass. 1940).
As a general rule, the suit filed first should have priority
“absent the showing of balance of convenience in favor
of the second action.” Adam v. Jacobs, 950
F.2d 89, 93-94 (2d Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). The doctrine arises out of concerns about
judicial efficiency and avoiding inconsistent judgments.
Curcio v. Hartford Fin. Servs. Grp., 472 F.Supp.2d
239, 243 (D. Conn. 2007).
a court may stay or dismiss a later-filed action under the
doctrine if two conditions are met: (1) there exists an
identity of issues between the two actions and (2) the
controlling issues in the later-filed action will be
determined in the earlier-filed action. 5C Charles A. Wright
& Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure,
§ 1360, at 89 (3d ed. 2004). The parties in the two
suits need not be identical; they need only share sufficient
congruence of interests. See Whitten Ranch, Inc. v.
Premier Alfalfa, Inc., 2009 WL 1844482, at *2 (D. Neb.
June 18, 2009) (finding “congruent, if not
identical” interests of individual and company owned by
him satisfied doctrinal requirement); Andy Stroud, Inc.
v. Brown, 2009 WL 539863, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2009)
(finding sufficient commonality between individual and two
companies wholly owned by him); see also Samuels Grp.,
Inc. v. Hatch Grading & Contracting, Inc., 697
F.Supp.2d 1042, 1049 (N.D. Iowa 2010) (collecting cases).
Moreover, “[w]hen it is possible that, through
amendment, each action may contain all of the issues and
parties presently contained in either action, the
continuation of the first action to be filed is
favored.” Holliday v. City of Newington, 2004
WL 717160, at *1 (D. Conn. Mar. 19, 2004) (citing Hammett
v. Warner Bros. Pictures, 176 F.2d 145, 150 (2d Cir.
the federal and state actions are sufficiently similar for
purposes of the doctrine. The parties are not all literally
identical, because only plaintiffs and BNY Mellon Trustee are
parties to both actions. Nonetheless, the additional
defendants in this action are “all purported
predecessors-in-interest to BNY Mellon Trustee or purported
related companies.” (Docket No. 7 at 9 n.6). Their
interests therefore are entirely congruent. That fact is
further evidenced by their sharing of the same counsel.
See Samuels Grp., 697 F.Supp.2d at 1051 (finding
relatedness of interests “highlighted by the fact that
they are represented in the State Proceedings by the same
counsel” as in the federal proceedings); Whitten
Ranch, 2009 WL 1844482, at *2 (same). Furthermore, both
actions raise the issues of the validity of the 2015
foreclosure under Massachusetts consumer-protection law,
rightful possession of the property at 91 Higgins Road, and
plaintiffs' claims under the SCRA. The state and federal
complaints arise out of the same transactions, the parties
seek essentially the same relief in each suit, and resolution
of the two cases will involve the same evidence.
contend that their state counterclaims were filed by checking
off pro forma responses on a court-provided form
that included only a limited list of possible claims. They
further contend that the parties agreed to limit their
arguments at the state hearing and trial to only those issues
concerning the eviction itself and the underlying
foreclosure. But if they had additional claims to make, those
claims should have been raised in the state court by
amendment, not by filing a duplicative federal complaint that
attempts to split their claims against defendants. Any causes
of action in the federal complaint that are not directly
related to the foreclosure and eviction nonetheless clearly
arise out of the validity of the underlying foreclosure. In
short, plaintiffs are not entitled to split their claims
between state and federal court, and the prior-pending-action
doctrine applies to this duplicative, later-filed proceeding.
though the doctrine therefore applies, it is not mandatory
that this Court defer to the state-court action. The
prior-pending-action doctrine derives from a court's
inherent power to control its docket. Ellison Framing,
Inc. v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 805 F.Supp.2d 1006, 1012
(E.D. Cal. 2011) (“The court's authority to hear
‘motions to stay and motions to dismiss because another
action is pending' lies in the ‘inherent power of a
court to regulate actions pending before it.'”
(quoting Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure, § 1360 (3d ed. & Supp.
2010))); Universal Gypsum of Georgia, Inc. v. American
Cyanamid Co., 390 F.Supp. 824, 825 (S.D.N.Y. 1975);
cf. Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248,
254-55 (1936) (“[T]he power to stay proceedings is
incidental to the power inherent in every court to control
the disposition of the cases on its docket with economy of
time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.
How this can best be done calls for the exercise of judgment,
which must weigh competing interests and maintain an even
balance.”). Thus, whether to apply the doctrine in a
particular instance is a matter for the court's
discretion. SeeHighway Ins. Underwriters v.
Nichols, 85 F.Supp. 527, 529-30 (E.D. Okl. 1949). Courts
in this district have applied the doctrine on multiple
occasions to stay or dismiss a case in the interests of
judicial efficiency and avoiding inconsistent judgments.
See Qutab v. Kyani, Inc., 2018 WL 3849873, at ...