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Poirier v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

June 18, 2018

SPENCER M. POIRIER
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PATRICK J. HANNA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the court is the consent motion to remand (Rec. Doc. 12), which was filed by the plaintiff, Spencer M. Poirier, and defendants Fusionstorm, Matthew Kiefer, and National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford. Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company separately consented to having the action remanded. (Rec. Doc. 14). Therefore, the motion is unopposed. The motion was referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of this Court. For the following reasons, it is recommended that the motion be granted.

         Background

         This lawsuit originated in the 16th Judicial District Court, St. Martin Parish, Louisiana. In his original petition for damages, the plaintiff alleged that he was involved in a motor vehicle accident on June 5, 2017, at the intersection of Willow Street and the Evangeline Thruway in Lafayette, Louisiana. The plaintiff alleged that the collision was the fault of the driver of the other vehicle involved in the incident, Matthew Kiefer, who was allegedly driving a vehicle rented from Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC and insured by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. The plaintiff alleged that Mr. Kiefer was also insured under another policy issued by State Farm. The plaintiff further alleged that Mr. Kiefer was, at the time of the accident, in the course and scope of his employment with Fusionstorm (erroneously identified in the original petition as Fusion Storm Elite). The plaintiff asserted claims against Mr. Kiefer, against State Farm in its capacity as Avis's insurer, against State Farm in its capacity as Mr. Kiefer's insurer, and against Fusionstorm. In his amended petition, the plaintiff asserted a claim against National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, based on the allegation that it issued an insurance policy providing coverage for Fusionstorm and Mr. Kiefer. The plaintiff alleged that he sustained bodily injuries in the incident but he did not quantify his alleged damages.

         Fusionstorm, Mr. Kiefer, and National Fire removed the action to this court, alleging that the parties are diverse in citizenship and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         This Court reviewed the parties' pleadings in an effort to determine whether the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action. Finding that the removing defendants had neither established that the parties are diverse in citizenship nor that the amount-in-controversy requirement was satisfied, this Court ordered the parties to submit briefs addressing the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. (Rec. Doc. 10). Rather than responding to the briefing order, however, the removing defendants and the plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand.

         Analysis

         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only the power authorized by the Constitution and by statute.[1] Accordingly, federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction only over civil actions presenting a federal question[2]and those in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs and the parties are citizens of different states.[3] The party invoking subject-matter jurisdiction in federal court has the burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction.[4] Therefore, when an action is removed from state court, the removing party bears the burden of proving that federal jurisdiction exists.[5] In this case, the removing defendants must bear that burden.

         A. Diversity of Citizenship

         The movants did not argue in support of their motion to remand that the parties are not diverse in citizenship; however, this Court finds that it is impossible, on the basis of the record as it currently exists, to determine whether the parties are diverse.

         The plaintiff's petition alleged that he is domiciled in Louisiana. The citizenship of a natural person is determined by the state in which he or she is domiciled.[6] Therefore, the plaintiff established that he is a Louisiana citizen.

         Defendant Matthew Kiefer is also a natural person. The plaintiff alleged that Mr. Kiefer resides in the State of Washington but did not indicate where Mr. Kiefer is domiciled. As noted, a person's citizenship is determined by his domicile. Therefore, the removing defendants did not establish Mr. Kiefer's citizenship.

         Defendants State Farm and National Fire appear to be corporations. A corporation's citizenship is determined by its state of incorporation and the state in which it has its principal place of business.[7] But neither the plaintiff's petitions nor the removal notice provide that information. “Where the plaintiff [or removing party] fails to state the place of incorporation or the principal place of business of a corporate party, the pleadings are inadequate to establish diversity.”[8] In order for this Court to evaluate the parties' citizenship, the removing defendants must identify the states in which State Farm and National Fire were incorporated and the states in which they have their principal places of business.

         The plaintiff also sued Fusionstorm, which was described in the amended petition as a “company.” In its corporate disclosure statement (Rec. Doc. 7), Fusionstorm stated that it is a corporation with its principal place of business in Massachusetts but it did not identify the state in which it was ...


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