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Maier v. Green Eyes USA, Inc.

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

May 9, 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.; FAUSTINO 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.; and WESTFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY; Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court are the parties' briefings on the citizenship of Defendant Faustino Jimenez. (Doc. 365; Doc. 366; Doc. 373.) For the following reasons, the Court finds that the record has been sufficiently developed to establish that Faustino Jimenez was a citizen of Florida at the time this action was removed. The Clerk is DIRECTED to return this case to the Eleventh Circuit.

         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.) 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 claimed that the record clearly established 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 allow Defendants to supplement the record in this case. (Doc. 340.) The Court reviewed the briefings and found that Defendants had properly established that Decedent Maier was a citizen of Georgia at the time of the death. (See Doc. 35 6 ("The Court finds that the provided death certificate detailing Decedent Maier's address in Georgia at the time of his death is particularly persuasive.").) The Court, however, found that the record was insufficient to establish the citizenship of Defendant Jimenez at the time of removal. (Id. at 8-11.) Accordingly, the Court granted Defendants' request to reopen discovery and provided Defendants with the opportunity to further develop the record with respect to Defendant Jimenez's citizenship. (Id. at 11.) Defendants were directed to file a brief detailing the citizenship of Defendant Jimenez. (Id.)

         On January 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Emergency Motion to Amend. (Doc. 357.) In her motion, Plaintiff requested that the Court amend its previous discovery order to also allow Plaintiff the opportunity to participate in discovery. (Id. at 3.) The Court granted Plaintiff's request and provided that Plaintiff was permitted to also file briefing with respect to Defendant Jimenez's citizenship. (Doc. 358.)

         Now, the parties have each filed briefing which discuss the citizenship of Defendant Jimenez. (Doc. 365; Doc. 366; Doc. 373.) In their briefings, Defendants contend that the record sufficiently demonstrates that Defendant Jimenez was a citizen of Florida at this time this action was removed. In support of their argument, Defendants cite a declaration obtained from Yarnilet Jimenez, Defendant Jimenez's adult daughter. For her part, Plaintiff heavily contests that Defendants have sufficiently shown that Defendant Jimenez was a resident of Florida at the time of removal. In Plaintiff's view, neither the declaration of Ms. Jimenez nor any other evidence in the record demonstrates that Defendant Jimenez was a resident of Florida when this action was removed.

         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 McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 10 92, 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 Dist. 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. ...


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