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Maier v. Green Eyes USA, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

January 24, 2019

KARINE L. MAIER, as surviving spouse of James R. Maier and as Executrix of the Estate of James R. Maier, Plaintiff,
v.
GREEN EYES USA, INC.; EAUSTINO JIMENEZ, CANAL INSURANCE COMPANY; SHELLY, MIDDLEBROOKS & O'LEARY, INC.; AEQUICAP INSURANCE COMPANY; K.V. CARRIER SERVICES, INC.; JAKE KANONITZ; KANNON & KANNON INSURANCE, INC.; DOT SERVICES CORP.; AEQUICAP PROGRAM ADMINISTRATORS, INC.; WESTFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is the parties' briefings on the citizenships of Decedent James Maier and Defendant Faustino Jimenez (Doc. 339; Doc. 34 4; Doc. 34 8; Doc. 352), and Defendants' Motion to Reopen Discovery (Doc. 340}. For the following reasons, the Court finds that the record has been sufficiently developed to establish that Decedent James Maier was a citizen of Georgia at the time of his death. The Court, however, finds that the record is insufficient to establish the citizenship of Defendant Jimenez. Accordingly, Defendants' request to reopen limited discovery is GRANTED IN PART. Defendants will be permitted to conduct limited jurisdictional discovery in order to further develop the record with respect to Defendant Jimenez's citizenship until March 6, 2019.

         Background

         This case arises from a traffic accident which resulted in the death of James Maier. (Doc. 1, Ex. 3 at 8.} On February 17, 2009, Plaintiff Karine Maier brought suit in the State Court of Chatham County seeking to recover for the wrongful death of her husband, James Maier. (Id.) On November 10, 2009, Defendants removed this action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1.) In their notice of removal, Defendants alleged that Defendant Faustino Jimenez was "a resident of Florida." (Id. at 2.) Defendants, however, failed to make any representation in the notice of removal with respect to the citizenship of Decedent James Maier. (Id.)

         On July 5, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit reviewed the notice of removal to determine its jurisdiction over this action and found the notice of removal to be deficient. (Doc. 337.) Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit remanded this action to this Court for the "limited purpose of making the factual determination of (1) where Jimenez was a citizen at the time of removal, and (2) where decedent James Maier was a citizen at the time of his death." (Id.) In accordance with the Eleventh Circuit's order, this Court instructed the parties to file briefing detailing the citizenships of both Decedent Maier and Defendant Jimenez. (Doc. 338.)

         On July 31, 2018, Defendants filed a brief highlighting evidence to demonstrate the citizenships of both Defendant Jimenez and Decedent Maier. (Doc. 339.) Defendants claim that the record clearly shows that Defendant Jimenez was a resident of Florida, and that Decedent Maier was a resident of Georgia at the time of his death. (Id.) Alternatively, Defendants filed a motion, requesting that the Court reopen discovery to permit Defendants to supplement the record in this case. For her part, Plaintiff disputes Defendants' arguments that the record is sufficient to establish either Defendant Jimenez's or Decedent Maier's citizenship. Moreover, Plaintiff opposes Defendants' reguest to reopen discovery. Plaintiff contends that Defendants have had over 388 days to conduct discovery and have failed to clearly establish the citizenship of either Decedent Maier or Defendant Jimenez. (Doc. 344 at 9.) Accordingly, Plaintiff contends that Defendants should not be now allowed to reopen discovery. (Doc. 343.) Before considering whether limited discovery is appropriate in this action, the Court must consider whether Defendants have offered enough evidence to establish the citizenship or either Defendant Jimenez or Decedent Maier.

         ANALYSIS

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), an action filed in state court may be removed to federal court based upon diversity or federal question jurisdiction. When removal is based on diversity jurisdiction, "[t]he party seeking to invoke a federal forum traditionally bears the burden of persuasion on jurisdictional issues such as establishing the citizenship of the parties." Life of S. Ins. Co. v. Carzell, 851 F.3d 1341, 1344 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing McHutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1094 (11th Cir, 1994)). Typically, the removing party can satisfy this burden by "show[ing], by a preponderance of the evidence, facts supporting jurisdiction." Burns, 31 F.3d at 1094.

         For an individual, "citizenship is determined by domicile, and it is well established that '[a] person's domicile is the place of his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment, and to which he has the intention of returning whenever he is absent therefrom.'" Cordell Funding, LLLP v. Jenkins, 722 F. App' x 890, 894 n.2 (11th Cir. 2018) (quoting Sunseri v. Macro Cellular Partners, 412 F.3d 1247, 1249 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations omitted)). When determining a person's domicile, this Court accepts certain presumptions as true. These presumptions include the presumption "that the state in which a person resides at any given time is also that person's domicile," McDonald v. Equitable Life Ins. Co. of Iowa, 13 F.Supp.2d 1279, 1281 (M.D. Ala. 1998) (citing District of Columbia v. Murphy, 314 U.S. 441, 455 (1941)), and that "once an individual has established a domicile, he remains a citizen there until he satisfies the mental and physical requirements of domicile in a new state," id. (citing McDougald v. Jenson, 786 F.2d 1465, 1483 (11th Cir. 1986)). Outside of these presumptions, courts are permitted to

examine numerous specific objective facts to determine whether a domicile has been established; these facts include: location of employment; home ownership and ownership of other real property; location of one's household furnishings; registration and title to one's automobiles; driver's licensing; voter registration; payment for utilities; banking; acquiring a telephone number and listing it; receiving mail; and establishing membership in local professional, civic, religious, or social organizations.

Audi Performance & Racing, LLC v. Kasberger, 273 F, Supp. 2d 1220, 1226 (M.D, Ala. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). Importantly, the Court must consider these facts in order to determine the individual's citizenship at the time of removal. Thermoset Corp. v. Bldg. Materials Corp of Am., 849 F.3d 1313, 1317 (11th Cir. 2017).

         II. CITIZENSHIP OF JAMES MAIER

         After reviewing the notice of removal in this case, the Eleventh Circuit found that Defendants failed to properly allege the citizenship of Karine Maier because Defendants had not provided any allegation as to Decedent James Maier's citizenship at the time of his death. (Doc. 337 at 2.) In this Circuit, it is well established that "[w]here an estate is a party, the citizenship that counts for diversity purposes is that of the decedent, and [the decedent] is deemed to be a citizen of the state in which [ ] he was domiciled at the time of [his] death." King v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 505 F.3d 1160, 1170 (11th Cir. 2007). Accordingly, Defendants must ...


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