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American Trucking and Transport Insurance Co. v. Nelson

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

July 27, 2018

AMERICAN TRUCKING AND TRANSPORTATION INSURANCE COMPANY, a Risk Retention Group, Plaintiff,
v.
RALPH NELSON, ROBERT GORMAN, SR., BOBBY J. GORMAN, DAN DOOLEY, and WESTCHESTER SURPLUS LINES INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Company's ("Westchester") Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Appeal of Decision on Motion to Compel Arbitration. (Doc. 71.) Plaintiff American Trucking and Transportation Insurance Company ("ATTIC") and Defendant Dan Dooley oppose the motion. (Docs. 84, 85.) For the reasons explained below, the Court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 29, 2016, ATTIC filed its Original Complaint against various officers and directors of Tango Transport and Gorman Group. Since that time, Defendants Ralph Nelson, Robert Gorman, and Bobby Gorman settled pursuant to a stipulated judgment (Docs. 22, 23), a Motion to Dismiss was filed by Defendant Dooley and judgment was issued on that motion (Docs. 4, 33), and Defendants Darrell Forman and Liz Cannon were dismissed because they reached a settlement with ATTIC (Docs. 25, 26). Following the stipulated judgment and dismissals, on July 26, 2017, ATTIC filed an Amended Complaint adding Westchester to this action (Doc. 32.).

         On September 8, 2017, Westchester moved to compel arbitration of ATTIC's claims against Westchester. Westchester also moved to dismiss Count XI of the Amended Complaint. The Court subsequently vacated the Preliminary Pretrial Conference in order to resolve the pending arbitration issue. The parties then stipulated to stay any briefing on the Motion to Dismiss Count XI until disposition on the Motion to Compel Arbitration. Thereafter, the Court denied the Motion to Compel Arbitration because it found that Westchester had lost the right to enforce the mandatory arbitration clause because Westchester had not defended the insureds nor commenced a declaratory action against the Insureds. (Doc. 64.) On May 15, 2018, Westchester appealed the Court's ruling on the Motion to Compel Arbitration to the Ninth Circuit pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 16. (Doc. 66.)

         Now, Westchester moves the Court to stay proceedings pending the outcome of its appeal. Due to the unique nature of the motions filed to date, the extensions of time given, and the amendments to pleadings, this case is still in its early stages and no Preliminary Pretrial Conference has occurred. Hence, trial has not been set. Essentially, this case has been in a holding pattern for over a year and a half.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         "District courts within the Ninth Circuit, unlike those in the majority of other circuits, are not required to automatically stay proceedings upon the appeal of an order denying a motion to compel arbitration." Murphy v. DirecTV, Inc., 2008 WL 8608808, *1 (CD. Cal. 2008) (citing Britton v. Co-op Banking Group, 916 F.2d 1405, 1411 (9th Cir. 1990)). The Ninth Circuit has explained that an automatic stay in this context "would allow a defendant to stall at trial simply by bringing a frivolous motion to compel arbitration." Britton, 916 F.2d at 1412. Instead, the decision whether to issue a stay remains squarely within the district court's discretion. Murphy at * 1.

         The moving party bears the burden of persuading the court that the circumstances of the case justify a stay. Cesca Therapeutics, Inc. v. SynGen Inc., 2017 WL 1174062, *2 (E.D. Cal. 2017). The district court must consider four factors in evaluating whether to issue a stay:

(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.

Leiva-Perez v. Holder, 640 F.3d 962, 964 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418 (2009); Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). The party moving for a stay must make a "threshold showing" as to each of these four prongs. Leiva-Perez, 640 F.3d at 965. Further, the first two factors are the most critical. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434.

         Moreover, a "stay will not issue simply because the necessary conditions are satisfied. Rather, sound equitable discretion will deny the stay when a decided balance of convenience weighs against it." Philip Morris USA v. Scott, 561 U.S. 1301, 1305 (2010) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Likelihood of Success on the Merits, or ...


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