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Southern Industrial Contractors, LLC v. Neel-Schaffer, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

April 18, 2019

INDUSTRIAL CONTRACTORS, LLC PLAINTIFF
v.
NEEL-SCHAFFER, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER DENYING MOTIONS TO STAY PROCEEDINGS

          LOUIS GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are the [287] Motion to Stay Proceedings filed by the defendants Roy Anderson Corp., W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, and Yates Anderson, JV, and the [292] Motion to Stay Proceedings filed by the defendant, Thompson Engineering, Inc. All the other defendants have joined in each of these Motions, and the parties have fully briefed the Motions. After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that both Motions to Stay should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, Southern Industrial Contractors, LLC, served as the general contractor for the West Pier Facilities project at the Port of Gulfport, Mississippi. It filed this lawsuit against the project's consultants and engineers - Neel-Schaffer, Inc., CH2M, T.L. Wallace Construction, Inc., Thompson Engineering, Inc., W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, Roy Anderson Corp., Yates Anderson, JV, and Quality Engineering Services, Inc. Southern Industrial alleges that these defendants failed to provide notice of a large underground debris field at the project site, which made the project much more expensive and time-consuming. At the defendants' request, the Court stayed this lawsuit pending the appeal of the decision ordering arbitration in the separate state court lawsuit Southern Industrial had filed against the project's owner, Mississippi State Port Authority. The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision compelling arbitration of Southern Industrial's claims against the Port Authority.

         Following the conclusion of the state court appeal, this Court lifted the stay imposed in the present case. The defendants Roy Anderson, W.G. Yates & Sons, and Yates Anderson then filed a Motion seeking a stay pending resolution of the arbitration of Southern Industrial's claims against ADS, LLC, which was one of Southern Industrial's subcontractors during the project. The defendant Thompson Engineering filed a separate Motion requesting a stay pending (1) resolution of the ADS, LLC, arbitration; (2) resolution of Southern Industrial's state court lawsuit against another subcontractor, Baker Pile Driving & Work, LLC; and (3) resolution of the state court lawsuit Southern Industrial filed against the Port Authority.

         DISCUSSION

         I. SOUTHERN INDUSTRIAL'S ARBITRATION AGAINST ADS

         After the parties finished briefing the Motions to Stay, Southern Industrial settled its claims against ADS, and the arbitration was canceled. As a result, the defendants' Motions requesting a stay pending the ADS arbitration must be denied.

         II. SOUTHERN INDUSTRIAL'S LAWSUIT AGAINST BAKER

         Thompson argues that this lawsuit should be stayed pending resolution of Southern Industrial's lawsuit against its subcontractor Baker, but Thompson has not provided sufficient information concerning the Baker lawsuit to demonstrate that a stay is warranted. Therefore, Thompson has not demonstrated that the Baker case justifies a stay of the present lawsuit.

         III. SOUTHERN INDUSTRIAL'S LAWSUIT AGAINST THE PORT AUTHORITY

         Thompson argues that the Landis standard should apply to the determination of whether this lawsuit should be stayed pending resolution of the Port Authority case in state court. In Landis, the United States Supreme Court held that courts have authority and discretion to stay proceedings to further the goal of judicial economy. Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). Southern Industrial counters that this Court must apply the Colorado River “exceptional circumstances” standard to determine whether a stay is appropriate. See Colo. River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 814 (1976). For the reasons stated below, a stay is unwarranted under either standard; thus, it is not necessary to determine which standard is most appropriate.

         A. LANDIS

         In Landis, the United States Supreme Court held that “the power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis, 299 U.S. at 254. To accomplish this, the court “must weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance.” Id. “A stay can be justified only if, based on a balancing of the parties' interests, there is a clear inequity to the suppliant who is required to defend while another action remains unresolved and if the order granting a stay can be framed to contain reasonable limits on its duration.” GATX Aircraft Corp. v. M/V Courtney Leigh, 768 F.2d 711, 716 (5th Cir. 1985). As a result, “before granting a stay pending resolution of another case, the court must carefully consider the time reasonably expected for resolution of the ‘other ...


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