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Westfield Insurance Co. v. Francois

November 5, 2010

WESTFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EMMANUEL A. FRANCOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the plaintiff's amended complaint, which insufficiently alleges the plaintiff's and defendant's diversity of citizenship. (Doc. No. 3.) Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the action will be dismissed.

Background

The plaintiff in this action is Westfield Insurance Company (Westfield). Westfield filed a complaint against Emmanuel A. Francois, seeking declaratory relief and damages. (Doc. No. 1.) Westfield invoked this Court's jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

The complaint described Westfield as an "Ohio Corporation that is authorized to sell insurance products in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with corporate headquarters located [in Ohio]." The defendant was described as "an adult individual with a residence located" in New York.

These allegations were insufficient to show diversity jurisdiction, because Westfield failed to allege the state of its incorporation and the state it had its principal place of business. Additionally, Westfield failed to allege the state of Mr. Francios's citizenship.

The Court instructed Westfield to file a new complaint properly alleging jurisdiction or face dismissal. (Doc. No. 2.) In its Order, the Court encouraged Westfield to review Form 7 in the Appendix of Forms of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for an example of properly pleading diversity jurisdiction. The form instructs that one may simply state, for example, that "the plaintiff is a citizen of Michigan," and that "[t]he defendant is a corporation incorporated under the laws of New York with its principal place of business in New York."

Westfield filed an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 3.) In the amended complaint, Westfield alleges that it is "a corporation incorporated under the laws of Ohio, with corporate headquarters located [in Ohio]" and maintains "a principal place of business" in Pennsylvania. As to Mr. Francois, the complaint alleges that he "is believed to be a foreign national, permanently domiciled in the state of New York."

Analysis

"It is an elementary principle that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, empowered to hear cases only as provided for under Article III of the Constitution and congressional enactments pursuant thereto." Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., Inc., 905 F.2d 42, 45 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986)).Federal courts have an obligation to address concerns over subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. Id.

Under the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, "the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of different States . . ." When diversity of citizenship provides the grounds for federal jurisdiction, "the pleadings should affirmatively disclose that such diversity exists." Osthaus v. Button, 70 F.2d 392, 392 (3d Cir. 1934). Complete diversity must exist between the adverse parties in the action; that is, the citizenship of each plaintiff must be diverse from that of each defendant. See Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365 (1978), 373--74 (1978). The burden of proving jurisdiction is on the party invoking it.

For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a natural person is deemed to be a citizen of the state where he is domiciled. Swiger v. Allegheny Energy, Inc., 540 F.3d 179 182 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Gilbert v. David, 235 U.S. 561, 569 (1915)). To be domiciled in a state, a person must reside there and intend to remain indefinitely. Krasnov v. Dinan, 465 F.2d 1298, 1300--01 (3d Cir. 1972). A person may have only one domicile, and thus may be a citizen of only one state for diversity jurisdiction purposes. See Williamson v. Osenton, 232 U.S. 619 (1914). In contrast, corporations may have more than one state of citizenship: "a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of business." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1).

Here, the complaint fails to properly plead the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Westfield improperly alleges both its citizenship and that of Mr. Francois.

While Westfield has alleged the state of its incorporation, it still fails to allege the state where it has "its principal place of business" (emphasis added). Naming the state where it maintains its corporate headquarters is not sufficient, because its corporate headquarters are not necessarily the same as is its principal place of business, and for diversity purposes, its citizenship will be determined by the latter under ยง 1332. See Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 130 S.Ct. 1181, 1186 (2010) (concluding that the phrase "principal place of business" refers to "the place where the corporation's high level officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporation's activities" which will "typically" be the ...


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