Toth v. Toth
4/12/23, Judge Gerber
Topics: Motion to Stay; Petition for Certiorari
A Florida court departed from the essential requirements of law in a way that irreparably harmed the petition. Specifically, the petitioner in this case had sued the respondent in Pennsylvania. When the case started going the petitioner’s way, the respondent filed an extremely similar case in Florida. Their explanation was that they thought that Florida, not Pennsylvania, should have personal jurisdiction. But the PA court had already held that it had personal jurisdiction, and it had already entered partial summary judgment and other orders in petitioners’ favor.
Petitioners moved to stay the Florida case pending outcome of the Pennsylvania case, and for some reason, the Florida judge denied the motion to stay. The petitioners filed a petition for a writ of certiorari.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, the rule of priority (dictating that the second-filed case should be stayed) should be obeyed. Exceptional circumstances might include time-sensitive issues involving child custody, visitation, or support or probate issues. The key to invoking the rule of priority is showing that the second-filed suit has similar parties and issues, though absolute identity of parties and identical causes of action are not required. Here, the issues were similar.
The petition was granted, the order was quashed, and the case was remanded with directions to stay the Florida case until a final judgment is entered and any appeals are exhausted in the PA case.