The elementary principle which governs the availability of the plea of “other suit pending” is that there must be the same parties, or, at least, such as represent the same interests; there must be the same rights asserted and the same relief prayed for; the relief must be founded upon the same facts, and the title, or essential basis, of the relief sought must be the same.[i] The doctrine that a procedural objection may be raised on the ground of pendency of another suit for substantially the same cause of action applies in admiralty. Where both the pending proceedings are in rem, the principle is generally recognized that when one court has assumed possession of property, no other court will undertake to adjudicate the interests of the parties until the first proceeding is finally determined.
Generally, the rule of another action pending is not applied in a case where one proceeding has been instituted in a state court and the other in an admiralty court or where one proceeding is in rem and the other is in personam. Likewise, in a limitation of liability proceeding, a claimant can proceed in a state court, even though there exists potential claimants, where the potential claimants have a status much different from those who had already filed claims.
According to the Supplemental Admiralty Rules a party is not required to bring an in rem and in personam claim in the same action, s/he can make successive claims. Supp. R. for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims C(1)(b) specifically provides that a party who may proceed in rem may also, or in the alternative, proceed in personam against any person who may be liable.[ii]
[i] Curtis v. DiMaio, 46 F. Supp. 2d 206 (E.D.N.Y. 1999)
[ii] Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Empresa Naviera Santa S.A., 56 F.3d 359 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1995)