Pontchartrain v. Tierra de Los Lagos, No. 22-30286 (5th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Pontchartrain Partners, L.L.C. (“Pontchartrain”) and Tierra De Los Lagos, L.L.C. d/b/a Bee Sand Company (“Bee Sand”) are construction companies involved in a breach-of-contract dispute. In June 2021, Bee Sand sued Pontchartrain in Texas state court. Pontchartrain removed the case to federal court in July. Later that month, Bee Sand voluntarily dismissed the case and explained to Pontchartrain that it intended to refile in September— after a new Texas law governing attorney’s fees went into effect. Bee Sand also offered to refile in federal court to spare Pontchartrain the expense of a second removal, and Pontchartrain said that it would consider the matter. In response to Pontchartrain’s declaratory judgment action, Bee Sand argued that it was anticipatory in nature, meaning that the Southern District of Texas is the proper forum for this dispute. The district court agreed and dismissed the case.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court’s consideration of the abstention factors provided adequate justification for granting Bee Sand’s motion. Moreover, these same reasons more than satisfy the “compelling circumstances” needed to obviate the “first-to-file” rule’s application, so the district court was not obligated to hear this case under that rule. Accordingly, the district did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Pontchartrain’s anticipatory lawsuit, and Pontchartrain’s jurisdictional and venue arguments need not be considered.