United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
JOY GLOBAL CONVEYORS, INC.
RICHARD GOETTLE, INC.
L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge. 
Global Conveyors, Inc. (“JGCI”) contracted with
Richard Goettle, Inc. to perform work in connection with a
construction project in north Louisiana. Part of the project
handled by Goettle failed, and JGCI refused to pay Goettle
more than $300, 000 that had not yet been paid under their
contract. Goettle filed a breach of contract suit in Ohio,
and JGCI filed this similar suit the next day.
the court is Goettle's Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 10)
that invokes the first-to-file rule. Goettle asks the court
to transfer this case to the federal court in Ohio, where its
first-filed suit is pending. For the reasons that follow, the
court will instead stay this civil action pending a ruling by
the Ohio court on JGCI's motion to dismiss the Ohio suit
for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative,
transfer venue of that action to this court.
owner of the Dolet Hills lignite mining operation contracted
with JGCI's sister company to build an overland conveyor
and truck dump at the mine in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. JGCI
participated in the project and contracted with Goettle, an
Ohio company, to design and build a retaining wall structure
that was part of the project. Goettle was to receive
approximately $2, 000, 000 under its contract.
completed its work and requested final payment. JGCI refused
to pay the final invoice, which exceeded $300, 000, and
claimed that the retaining wall was defective and had failed.
The failure allegedly caused a work stoppage, delays in the
overall project, and required JGCI and its sister company to
spend over $1, 000, 000 for a temporary conveying system.
JGCI claims that Goettle's design and construction were
defective in various ways. Goettle responds that the fault
lies with JGCMI for not using specified fill material and
allowing dump trucks to drive on a portion of the project
before it was appropriate to do so.
parties engaged in negotiations for a resolution, and JGCI
sent a letter that allowed Goettle until September 4, 2017 to
submit an agreeable plan to rebuild the wall. Goettle instead
filed suit in an Ohio state court on September 5, 2017, one
day after the deadline, for breach of contract and unjust
enrichment. JGCI filed this civil action the next day,
apparently unaware of the Ohio suit. JGCI's complaint in
this case sets forth claims for breach of contract and
negligence. It prays for an award of damages and the return
of all monies paid to Goettle under their contract.
removed the Ohio action to federal court based on diversity
jurisdiction. It is pending in the Southern District of Ohio
(Cincinnati) as No. 1:17-CV-0613. JGCI quickly filed a motion
to dismiss to challenge the Ohio court's ability to
exercise personal jurisdiction over JGCI. It prayed, in the
alternative, that the Ohio court transfer venue to this
Louisiana court based on 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Goettle
filed a motion that asked the Ohio court to stay its
proceedings pending the outcome of Goettle's motion to
transfer that is now before this Louisiana court. The Ohio
court has not yet acted on either of those motions or a
motion for permission to conduct jurisdictional discovery
that JGCI filed in that court.
the first-to-file rule, when related cases are pending before
two federal courts, the court in which the case was last
filed may refuse to hear it if the issues raised by the cases
substantially overlap.” Cadle Co. v. Whataburger of
Alice, Inc., 174 F.3d 599, 603 (5th Cir. 1999).
“The concern manifestly is to avoid the waste of
duplication, to avoid rulings which may trench upon the
authority of sister courts, and to avoid piecemeal resolution
of issues that call for a uniform result.” West
Gulf Maritime Ass'n v. ILA Deep Sea Local 24, 751
F.2d 721, 729 (5th Cir. 1985).
party moves to transfer under the first-to-file rule, the
second-filed court must examine the two pending cases to see
if the subject matter “might substantially
overlap.” Cadle Co., 174 F.3d at 606. The
cases do not have to be identical. The rule is applicable if
there is a “substantial overlap” in issues and
parties. Save Power Ltd. v. Syntek Fin. Corp., 121
F.3d 947, 950 (5th Cir. 1997).
likelihood of substantial overlap exists, the proper course
of action is ordinarily for the second-filed court to
transfer the case to the first-filed court. Id. The
first-filed court can then decide whether the second suit
filed must be dismissed, stayed, or transferred and
consolidated. Cadle Co., 174 F.3d at 606; Sutter
Corp. v. P&P Indus., Inc., 125 F.3d 914, 920 (5th
Cir. 1997). A party can avoid application of the
first-to-file rule by demonstrating the presence of
“compelling circumstances” that caution against
the transfer. Gateway Mortg. Grp., ...