United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge
the Court is Separate Defendant FCA U.S. LLC's
(“FCA US”) Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, to Transfer or Stay Proceedings. ECF No. 15.
Plaintiffs have filed a response. ECF No. 26. FCA U.S. has
filed a reply. ECF No. 36. The matter is fully briefed and
ripe for the Court's consideration.
products liability lawsuit arises out of an incident
involving a 2008 Dodge Caravan driven by Plaintiff Herbert
Smith. Mr. Smith alleges that he was driving the vehicle on
Interstate 20 in Louisiana when the airbag system
inadvertently deployed. He claims that he was injured as a
result of the incident.
13, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Louisiana state court
seeking recovery for personal injuries Mr. Smith allegedly
sustained in the airbag deployment incident. The complaint
alleges numerous causes of action for strict liability,
negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Plaintiffs named TRW Automotive U.S. LLC, TRW Vehicle Safety
Systems, Chrysler LLC, and FCA U.S. LLC as defendants in that
the same day, Plaintiffs filed a nearly identical lawsuit in
this Court against the same defendants but added claims for
fraud and punitive damages. On August 1, 2018, the Louisiana
state court defendants removed the case to federal court in
the Western District of Louisiana.
voluntarily dismissed the Arkansas lawsuit because they
failed to serve the defendants in time. On July 12, 2019,
Plaintiffs filed the instant case. Presently, there are two
separate and parallel proceedings, the Louisiana action and
the instant action, involving substantially the same claims
and the same parties.
present motion, FCA U.S. moves the Court to dismiss the
instant lawsuit pursuant to the “first-filed
rule.” Alternatively, FCA U.S. moves the Court to
transfer the instant lawsuit to the Western District of
Louisiana or stay the instant lawsuit. In order to conserve
judicial resources and avoid conflicting rulings, the
first-filed rule gives priority, for purposes of choosing
among possible venues when parallel litigation has been
instituted in separate courts, to the party who first
establishes jurisdiction. Nw. Airlines, Inc. v. Am.
Airlines, Inc., 989 F.2d 1002, 1006 (8th Cir. 1993). The
first-filed rule yields to the interests of justice and is
not applied when a court, in its discretion finds
“compelling circumstances” supporting the
rule's abrogation. Id.
U.S. argues that the present case should be dismissed because
a similar lawsuit-the Louisiana action-is still pending and
thus FCA U.S. is currently defending parallel lawsuits in
different forums. Plaintiffs argue in response that
compelling circumstances exist such that the Court should not
apply the first-filed rule. Plaintiffs maintain that TRW
Automotive US, LLC and TRW Vehicle Safety Systems could
escape liability should this Court dismiss the instant action
pursuant to the first-filed rule and then the Louisiana Court
decides that it does not have jurisdiction over the TRW
entities. According to Plaintiffs, the possibility
of TRW escaping liability is a compelling circumstance that
should lead the Court to ignore the first-filed rule.
However, the Court finds the proffered circumstance
chose to file the Louisiana action first. By applying the
first-filed rule in the instant case, the Court is honoring
Plaintiffs' choice, promoting the efficient use of
judicial resources, and avoiding duplicative litigation.
There is no reason for the Louisiana action and the instant
action to continue on parallel tracks in two different
federal district courts. Further, the first-filed rule gives
the federal district court in Louisiana the right to decide
whether the case should be heard in Louisiana. The Court,
however, is mindful that the TRW entities have filed a motion
requesting that the federal district court in Louisiana
dismiss the Louisiana case for want of jurisdiction. Thus,
the Court believes that the the prudent course of action is
not dismiss the instant action but to stay it pending further
resolution of jurisdictional issues in the Western District
the Court finds that Separate Defendant FCA U.S. LLC's
Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Transfer or Stay
Proceedings (ECF No. 15) should be and hereby is
GRANTED. The Court hereby stays this action
pending further resolution of jurisdictional issues in the
Western District of Louisiana. The Court directs the Clerk of
Court to administratively close this action pending further
communication from the parties. If any party seeks to lift
the stay and commence this litigation again at a later date,
that party should file a motion to do so in this Court
referencing this case number.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Plaintiffs do not deny that the
first-filed Louisiana action and the instant action involve
substantially the same ...