Federal and state courts with concurrent jurisdiction are considered courts of separate jurisdiction.[i] Identical cases between the same parties may be pending in federal and state courts at the same time. In such a situation, the first court to dispose of the case by trial enters a judgment that is binding on the parties.[ii] The pendency of a personal action in either a state or a federal court is not a ground for abatement of a like action in other court. However in exceptional circumstances courts abates a prior action.[iii] The decision to abate a federal action because of parallel state court litigation depends on several factors. The weight to be given to any one factor may vary from case to case. These factors are iv]:
- whether either court has assumed jurisdiction over property
- the inconvenience of the federal forum
- the avoidance of piecemeal litigation
- the order in which the courts obtained jurisdiction
- which forum’s substantive law governs the merits of the litigation, and
- the adequacy of the state forum to protect the parties’ rights.
In actions in rem or quasi in rem, court first acquiring jurisdiction of the res retains it until the authority of the court is exhausted or the action dismissed[v]. Thus, pendency of in rem and quasi in rem action in either a state or a federal court is a ground for abatement of a like action in other court.
[i] Henry v. Stewart, 203 Kan. 289 (Kan. 1969)
[ii] Palmer v. Arkansas Council on Econ. Educ., 344 Ark. 461, 475 (Ark. 2001)
[iii] Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ward Trucking Corp., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3975 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 1994)
[iv] Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ward Trucking Corp., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3975 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 1994)
[v]Mandeville v. Canterbury, 318 U.S. 47 (U.S. 1943)