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McBride v. Karumanchi

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 8, 2015

COURTNEY McBRIDE, Plaintiff,
v.
DINESH KARUMANCHI, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Courtney McBride developed a rare skin disease after receiving treatment at a county hospital followed by her subsequent discharge to a local jail. She originally brought this lawsuit against the following defendants: Houston County Health Care Authority; Dr. Dinesh Karumanchi; Dr. Rajendra Paladugu; Dr. Rita Fairclough; the City of Dothan; Board of Commissioners of the City of Dothan; Mamie McCory; Stephanie Johnson; Williams Banks; Belinda Robinson; and Greg Benton. She asserted claims that the Health Care Authority and the doctors committed medical malpractice in violation of Alabama law and that the City of Dothan and its correctional officers were deliberately indifferent to her medical needs in violation of the United States Constitution and were negligent in violation of Alabama law. She asserted that the court had both diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1332) as well as federal-question (28 U.S.C. § 1331) and supplemental jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1367).

After the court issued its summary-judgment opinion, all defendants except the Health Care Authority, Dr. Karumanchi, Correctional Officers McCory and Johnson, and the City of Dothan either had been dismissed or had summary judgment entered in their favor. See McBride v. Houston Cnty. Health Care Auth., 2015 WL 3892715 (M.D. Ala. 2015) (Thompson, J.). However, on qualified-immunity grounds, the correctional officers appealed the denial of their dismissal. In response, the court stayed the litigation as to those two defendants as well as to the City of Dothan. The Health Care Authority has also since been dismissed. The question remains whether the court should stay this litigation as to the remaining state-law claim against Dr. Karumanchi.

As part of this issue, Karumanchi raised concerns that this court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to try the claim against him separately. Because the court has "a continuing obligation to assess [its] subject-matter jurisdiction and... may consider subject matter jurisdiction claims at any time during litigation, " Belleri v. United States, 712 F.3d 543, 547 (11th Cir. 2013), the court asked for briefing on whether it had diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 or supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 to try the remaining state-law claim. After considering the parties' briefing, and conducting a hearing on the question of diversity jurisdiction, the court holds it has jurisdiction.

I. DIVERSITY-OF-CITIZENSHIP JURISDICTION

A. Legal Standard

"There are a number of basic legal principles regarding diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction: that § 1332 grants federal courts jurisdiction over cases between citizens of different states'; that the party seeking diversity jurisdiction has the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence;... that diversity is determined when the suit is instituted, not when the cause of action arose;... that, for diversity jurisdiction to exist, there must be complete diversity, ' that is, each defendant must be a citizen of a state different from that of each plaintiff, " and that "the terms citizenship' and domicile' are synonymous." McDonald v. Equitable Life Ins. Co. of Iowa, 13 F.Supp.2d 1279, 1280 & n. 1 (M.D. Ala. 1998) (Thompson, J.) (citing Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978); Smith v. Sperling, 354 U.S. 91, 93 n.1 (1957)); Yeldell v. Tutt, 913 F.2d 533, 537 (8th Cir. 1990); Blakemore v. Missouri P. R.R. Co., 789 F.2d 616, 618 (8th Cir. 1986)).

"The law is also well-established that a person is not necessarily a citizen of, or domiciled in, the state in which she resides at any given moment.... Instead, citizenship, ' or domicile, ' is determined by two elements: (1) physical presence within a State; and (2) the mental intent to make a home there indefinitely." McDonald, 13 F.Supp.2d at 1280-1281 (citing Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, 490 U.S. at 48; Texas v. Florida, 306 U.S. 398, 424 (1939); Scoggins v. Pollock, 727 F.2d 1025, 1026 (11th Cir. 1984); Jagiella v. Jagiella, 647 F.2d 561, 563 (5th Cir. June 1981)).[1] "Intention to remain there permanently is not necessary.... It is enough to have a floating intention' to stay indefinitely and also have the general desire to return to one's former domicile at some undetermined point of time." McDonald, 13 F.Supp.2d at 1280 (citing Yeldell, 913 F.2d at 537 (8th Cir. 1990); Crowley v. Glaze, 710 F.2d 676, 678 (10th Cir. 1983)).

In determining domicile, a court should consider both positive evidence and presumptions. Mitchell v. United States, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 350, 352 (1874). One such presumption is that the State in which a person resides at any given time is also that person's domicile. District of Columbia v. Murphy, 314 U.S. 441, 455 (1941); Stine v. Moore, 213 F.2d 446, 448 (5th Cir. 1954); see generally 13B Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3612. But because changes in residence are so common in this country, courts also refer to another presumption: once an individual has established a domicile, she remains a citizen there until she satisfies the mental and physical requirements of domicile in a new State. Yeldell, 913 F.2d at 537; McDougald v. Jenson, 786 F.2d 1465, 1483 (11th Cir. 1986).

"However, these presumptions are merely aids for the court; they cannot override the actual facts of the case. The objective facts bearing on an individual's entire course of conduct' determine domicile for diversity-jurisdiction purposes." McDonald, 13 F.Supp.2d at 1281 (citing Wasson v. Northrup Worldwide Aircraft Services, Inc., 443 F.Supp. 400, 404 (W.D. Tex. 1978) (Suttle, J.)). "Facts frequently taken into account include but are not limited to: current residence; residence of family and dependents; place of employment and name of business; voting registration and voting practices; location of personal and real property; location of brokerage and bank accounts; membership in church, clubs, and business organizations; driver's license and automobile registration; and payment of taxes." McDonald, 13 F.Supp.2d at 1281 (citing Garcia v. American Heritage Life Ins. Co., 773 F.Supp. 516, 520 (D.P.R. 1991) (Pieras, J.); 13B Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3612.) "No single factor is conclusive; instead, a totality of evidence' approach is necessary." McDonald, 13 F.Supp.2d at 1280-1281 (citing National Artists Management Co. v. Weaving, 769 F.Supp. 1224, 1228 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (Conboy, J.)).

An individual's statements of intent also are considered in determining domicile. However, when subjective expressions of intent conflict with established facts, courts accord them less weight. Lew v. Moss, 797 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1986); Hendry v. Masonite Corp., 455 F.2d 955, 956 (5th Cir. 1972). "But when subjective expressions of intent accord with objective facts, the subjective testimony bolsters the objective evidence." McDonald, 13 F.Supp.2d at 1281.

B. Relevant Facts

All parties agree that all the defendants were citizens of Alabama when this case was filed. The issue is whether McBride was a citizen of Florida, in which case the court has diversity jurisdiction, or, of Alabama, in which ...


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