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Keshock v. Metabowerke GmbH

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

July 20, 2015

MICHAEL KESHOCK, et al., Plaintiffs,
METABOWERKE GmbH, et al., Defendants.


KATHERINE P. NELSON, Magistrate Judge.

This action is before the Court sua sponte on review of the Notice of Removal (Doc. 1) filed by the Defendants Metabowerke GMBH and Metabo Corporation (collectively, "Metabo Defendants"). Upon review, the Court finds the Notice of Removal to be deficient for the following reasons.

I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"It is... axiomatic that the inferior federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They are empowered to hear only those cases within the judicial power of the United States as defined by Article III of the Constitution, ' and which have been entrusted to them by a jurisdictional grant authorized by Congress." Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 409 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994)). Accordingly, "it is well settled that a federal court is obligated to inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking." Id. at 410. "[A] court should inquire into whether it has subject matter jurisdiction at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings." Id.

The Notice of Removal alleges diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) as the sole basis for the Court's subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this action.[1] Doc. 1 at 6, ¶ 16-17.

When a [a defendant removes a case to federal court, it] must allege facts that, if true, show federal subject matter jurisdiction over [its] case exists. Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994). Those allegations, when federal jurisdiction is invoked based upon diversity, must include the citizenship of each party, so that the court is satisfied that no plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant. Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, Inc., 154 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 1998) ("Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity; every plaintiff must be diverse from every defendant."). Without such allegations, district courts are constitutionally obligated to dismiss the action altogether if the plaintiff does not cure the deficiency. Stanley v. C.I.A., 639 F.2d 1146, 1159 (5th Cir. Unit B Mar. 1981); see also DiMaio v. Democratic Nat'l Comm., 520 F.3d 1299, 1303 (11th Cir. 2008) ("Where dismissal can be based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, the court should dismiss on only the jurisdictional grounds." (internal quotation marks omitted)). That is, if a complaint's factual allegations do not assure the court it has subject matter jurisdiction, then the court is without power to do anything in the case. See Goodman ex rel. Goodman v. Sipos, 259 F.3d 1327, 1331, n.6 (11th Cir. 2001) ("[A district] court must dismiss a case without ever reaching the merits if it concludes that it has no jurisdiction.'" (quoting Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993))); see also Belleri v. United States, 712 F.3d 543, 547 (11th Cir. 2013) ("We may not consider the merits of [a] complaint unless and until we are assured of our subject matter jurisdiction.").

Travaglio v. Am. Exp. Co., 735 F.3d 1266, 1268 (11th Cir. 2013) (footnote omitted). See also, e.g., Ray v. Bird & Son & Asset Realization Co., Inc., 519 F.2d 1081, 1082 (5th Cir. 1975) ("The burden of pleading diversity of citizenship is upon the party invoking federal jurisdiction..." (citing Mas v. Perry, 489 F.2d 1396 (5th Cir. 1974)).[2]

The Metabo Defendants, as the parties invoking this Court's jurisdiction, bears the initial burden of pleading sufficient facts establishing jurisdiction. The Metabo Defendants properly allege that § 1332(a)'s requisite amount in controversy is satisfied by claiming that it "exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs." (Doc. 1 at 7, ¶ 18). See, e.g., Federated Mut. Ins. Co. v. McKinnon Motors, LLC, 329 F.3d 805, 807 (11th Cir. 2003) ("In order to invoke a federal court's diversity jurisdiction, a plaintiff must claim, among other things, that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000." (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332)). They also properly allege the citizenships of corporate defendant Metabo Corporation (a citizen of Delaware and Pennsylvania ( see Doc. 1 at 10, ¶ 25)) by alleging the states under whose laws it was incorporated and where it has its principal places of business. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). Finally, they properly allege the citizenships of Defendants Craig Perciavalle, Mike Bell, and Chris Blankenfeld, all natural persons, by alleging that they are "citizens of Alabama". See Doc. 1 at 10, ¶ 27; see also Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994). However, the Metabo Defendants have failed to properly plead facts establishing the citizenships of the other parties.

a. Natural-Person Defendants' Citizenship

First, Metabo Defendants allege that Plaintiffs Michael Keshock, Martin Osborn, Richard Fitzgerald, and Tyrone Lucas, all natural pesons, are "residents of Alabama." Doc. 1 at 9, ¶ 23. The Eleventh Circuit has repeatedly stressed that "[c]itizenship, not residence, is the key fact that must be alleged... to establish diversity for a natural person." Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994) (emphasis added). See also Travaglio, 735 F.3d at 1269 ("As we indicated in remanding this case for jurisdictional findings, the allegations in Travaglio's complaint about her citizenship are fatally defective. Residence alone is not enough."); Molinos Valle Del Cibao, C. por A. v. Lama, 633 F.3d 1330, 1342 n.12 (11th Cir. 2011) ("Ordinarily, the complaint must allege the citizenship, not residence, of the natural defendants."); Corporate Mgmt. Advisors, Inc. v. Artjen Complexus, Inc., 561 F.3d 1294, 1297 (11th Cir. 2009) ("If a party fails to specifically allege citizenship in their notice of removal, the district court should allow that party to cure the omission..." (quotation marks omitted)); Beavers v. A.O. Smith Elec. Prods. Co., 265 F.Appx. 772, 778 (11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) ("The plaintiffs' complaint alleges only the residence of the nearly 100 plaintiffs, not their states of citizenship. Because the plaintiffs have the burden to affirmatively allege facts demonstrating the existence of jurisdiction and failed to allege the citizenship of the individual plaintiffs, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction on the face of the complaint." (internal citation and quotation omitted)); Crist v. Carnival Corp., 410 F.Appx. 197, 200 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) ("The allegation that Crist is a resident' of Florida is insufficient for diversity jurisdiction purposes because residency is not the equivalent of citizenship.").

"Citizenship is equivalent to domicile' for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. 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." McCormick v. Aderholt, 293 F.3d 1254, 1257-58 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations, quotations, and footnote omitted). See also Travaglio, 735 F.3d at 1269 ("Citizenship is equivalent to "domicile" for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.' And domicile requires both residence in a state and an intention to remain there indefinitely...'" (quoting McCormick, 293 F.3d at 1257-58 (internal quotation marks omitted)) (internal citation omitted)); Mas, 489 F.2d at 1399 ("For diversity purposes, citizenship means domicile; mere residence in the State is not sufficient.").

As such, if the Metabo Defendants wish to adequately plead diversity, they must allege the state of citizenship/domicile of each natural defendant.

b. LLC Parties

Unlike a corporation, for purposes of assessing diversity of citizenship "a limited liability company is a citizen of any state of which a member of the company is a citizen." Rolling Greens, MHP, L.P. v. Comcast SCH Holdings, L.L.C., 374 F.3d 1020, 1022 (11th Cir. 2004) (per curiam). Accord Mallory & Evans Contractors & Eng'rs, LLC v. Tuskegee Univ., 663 F.3d 1304, 1305 (11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam). Therefore, to sufficiently allege the citizenship of an LLC, "a party ...

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