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Joyner v. Bulova Technologies Group, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 6, 2017

LUCILLE JOYNER, Individually and as the Administratrix of the Estate of Janet Margaret Rains, her deceased daughter, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BULOVA TECHNOLOGIES GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is a Complaint filed by Plaintiffs Lucille Joyner, individually and as the Administratrix of the Estate of Janet M. Rains, Robert Dressler, and Jason McCloe. (See Doc. 1). Because the Complaint fails to establish that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, it will be dismissed unless Plaintiffs can show that diversity jurisdiction is proper.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs commenced this action on October 31, 2017. (See Doc. 1). Plaintiffs allege that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limit and there is complete diversity between Plaintiffs and Defendants. (See id. at ¶ 49).

         Plaintiff Lucille Joyner, the duly appointed Administratrix of the Estate of Janet M. Rains, “resides at 1006 Colonial Road, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey 07417.” (Id. at ¶ 1). At the time of her death, Janet M. Rains “resided at 127 Broad Street, Pittston, Pennsylvania 18640.” (Id. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff Robert Dressler “resides at 152½ South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18705.” (Id. at ¶ 3). Plaintiff Jason McCloe “resides at 109 Midland Court, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18702.” (Id. at ¶ 4).

         Defendant Twiss Transport, Inc. is a “Florida Profit Corporation with a principal place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue SE, Largo, Florida 33771.” (Id. at ¶ 5). Defendant BT-Twiss Transport, LLC is a “Florida Limited Liability company with a principal place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue, SE, Largo, Florida 33771.” (Id. at ¶ 6). Defendant Bulova Technologies Group, Inc. is a “Florida Profit Corporation with a principal place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue SE, Largo, Florida 33771.” (Id. at ¶ 7). Defendant Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. is a “Florida Profit Corporation with a principal place of business located at 1375 East Buena Vista Drive, 4th Floor North, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830.” (Id. at ¶ 8). Lastly, Defendant Robert Edwin Haines “resides at 0372 126th Avenue Lot 73, Largo, Florida 33773.” (Id. at ¶ 9).

         II. Discussion

         Federal courts have an obligation to address issues of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. See Shaffer v. GTE N., Inc., 284 F.3d 500, 502 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Club Comanche, Inc. v. Gov't of the V.I., 278 F.3d 250, 255 (3d Cir. 2002)). Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Section 1332(a)(1) gives district courts original jurisdiction to hear cases where the matter in controversy exceeds the value of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75, 000) and is between citizens of different states. In order for diversity jurisdiction to exist, there must be complete diversity, meaning that each defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff. Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). Of course, “[t]he person asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the court at all stages of the litigation.” Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir. 1993). “It is . . . well established that when jurisdiction depends upon diverse citizenship the absence of sufficient averments or of facts in the record showing such required diversity of citizenship is fatal and cannot be overlooked by the court, even if the parties fail to call attention to the defect, or consent that it may be waived.” Thomas v. Bd. of Trs. of Ohio State Univ., 195 U.S. 207, 211 (1904). Moreover, “[w]hen the foundation of federal authority is, in a particular instance, open to question, it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a disposition of the merits.” Carlsberg Res. Corp. v. Cambria Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 554 F.2d 1254, 1256 (3d Cir. 1977); see also Fed R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

         A. Citizenship of Plaintiffs.

         The Complaint fails to adequately allege the citizenship of Plaintiffs. For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a natural person is deemed to be a citizen of the state in which 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)). Additionally, “where the plaintiff is the representative of the estate of a decedent, the plaintiff is deemed to acquire the citizenship of the decedent at the time of the decedent's death.” Ramsey v. Devereux Found., No. 16-299, 2016 WL 3959075, at *3 (E.D. Pa. July 22, 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(2)). 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, 625 (1914).

         To the extent the Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs (and Decedent) “reside[ ]” in Pennsylvania, this is not sufficient. Residence is not the same as domicile and does not establish citizenship for diversity purposes. See Krasnov, 465 F.2d at 1300 (“Where one lives is prima facie evidence of domicile, but mere residency in a state is insufficient for purposes of diversity.”) . To properly plead diversity, the state of citizenship of each Plaintiff must be alleged, not merely their state of residence. As the Complaint does not contain these facts, the Court cannot determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists.

         B. Citizenship of Defendants.

         The Complaint also fails to properly allege the citizenship of all Defendants.

         1. The ...


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