Monday, December 2, 2013

Erie, Semtek, Rule 41(a), and the Preclusive Effect of Voluntary Dismissals

See how the Supreme Court of Tennessee addresses these issues in Cooper v. Glasser, __ S.W.3d __, 2013 WL 6174469 (Tenn. Nov. 26, 2013). The opinion is here. It begins:

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants in California state court, alleging a number of business-related torts. After one of the defendants moved to dismiss based on a forum selection clause contained in the parties' contract, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his California complaint and refiled his action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. In his federal court complaint, the plaintiff invoked federal-question jurisdiction by pleading a number of federal securities law violations. In its discretion, the federal district court exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state-law claims. One of the defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint, arguing that the statute of limitations applicable to the plaintiff's federal securities law claims had expired. Before the federal court could dispose of the motion, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his complaint without court approval pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a). The plaintiff later filed the present action in the Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee, pleading only three of the state-law claims that formed the basis for his two previously dismissed lawsuits. The defendants moved for summary judgment, alleging that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the plaintiff's second voluntary dismissal in federal court. The trial court granted summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. We granted the plaintiff permission to appeal. We conclude that a plaintiff's second voluntary dismissal of supplemental state-law claims filed in federal court does not, under Tennessee law, preclude the plaintiff from later refiling an action based on the same claims in Tennessee state court. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions, State Courts | Permalink


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