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Williams v. Raynor

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 7, 2019

BRANDON WILLIAMS
v.
ZACHARY RAYNOR, ET AL.

         SECTION "L" (5)

          ORDER & REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Brandon Williams' Motion to Remand. R. Doc. 12. The Motion is opposed. R. Doc. 14. For the reasons that follow, the Court will DENY the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 9, 2018, Plaintiff Brandon Williams filed a petition in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, alleging that on January 13, 2018, he was stopped at a traffic light headed east-bound on St. Charles Avenue when Defendant Zachary Raynor hit the car stopped behind Mr. Williams', causing the car behind Mr. Williams to “vault[] . . . into Mr. Williams' [car].” R. Doc. 1-2 at ¶¶ 4-5. Mr. Williams alleges Mr. Raynor “made no attempt to stop before the impact, ” and “did not realize traffic was stopped or intentionally declined to apply his breaks, ” as Mr. Raynor was “either asleep, . . . looking at his phone, or . . . intoxicated.” Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.

         As a result of the impact, Mr. Williams alleges he “sustained both new injuries and exacerbat[ed] previous injuries, . . . all of which are serious and extensive in nature, and require continuing medical care and treatment.” Id. at ¶ 11. Mr. Williams asks for a judgment against Mr. Raynor and his automobile insurance company, Defendant Geico Casualty Insurance Company (“Geico”), for “past, present and future pain and suffering; past, present and future medical and pharmaceutical expenses; past, present and future mental anguish and emotional trauma; past, present and future loss of enjoyment of life; loss of enjoyment of life; and other damages itemized at the trial of this matter.” Id. at ¶ 11.

         On December 31, 2018, Mr. Raynor removed the case to this Court. R. Doc. 1. In his notice of removal, Mr. Raynor contends this Court has jurisdiction over the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, as the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and there is diversity of citizenship between the parties. R. Doc. 1 at ¶ II.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         On January 30, 2019, Mr. Williams filed a Motion to Remand, arguing the Court lacks diversity jurisdiction over this action as both he and Mr. Raynor are citizens of Louisiana. R. Doc. 12-2 at 1-2. In opposition, Mr. Raynor submits he was a citizen of Pennsylvania at the time Mr. Williams filed suit in state court and when the case was removed to this Court. R. Doc. 14 at 1.

         III. LAW & ANALYSIS

         “[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). If a federal court would have had original jurisdiction, a defendant may generally remove the case to federal court. In the present case, Mr. Williams asserts this Court has original jurisdiction over the suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, which provides that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between…citizens of different States.” The removing party bears the burden of establishing that federal jurisdiction exists. De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir. 1995) (citing Gaitor v. Peninsular & Occidental S.S. Co., 287 F.2d 252, 253-54 (5th Cir. 1961)). “To determine whether jurisdiction is present for removal, [the court should] consider the claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal.” Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002). The removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand. Id. (citing Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000)). The only jurisdictional issue remaining in this case is whether diversity of citizenship existed at the time of removal.

         To decide whether diversity jurisdiction exists, the Court must determine the parties' respective domiciles. See Preston v. Tenet Healthsystem Memorial Med. Ctr., Inc., 485 F.3d 793, 797-98 (5th Cir. 2007). A party's domicile serves as his state of citizenship. Id. (citing Stine v. Moore, 213 F.2d 446, 448 (5th Cir. 1954)). “[T]he question of a person's domicile is a matter of federal common law.” Acridge v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc., 334 F.3d 444, 448 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Coury v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 248 (5th Cir. 1996)). In Acridge v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the Fifth Circuit provided a thorough explanation of how a person's domicile can change:

A person acquires a “domicile of origin” at birth, and this domicile is presumed to continue absent sufficient evidence of change. There is a presumption of continuing domicile that applies whenever a person relocates. In order to defeat the presumption and establish a new domicile (the “domicile of choice”), the person must demonstrate both (1) residence in a new state, and (2) an intention to remain in that state indefinitely.

Id. (citation omitted); see also Preston, 485 F.3d at 798 (“A person's state of domicile presumptively continues unless rebutted with sufficient evidence of change.”). “[M]ere presence in a new location does not effect a change of domicile; it must be accompanied with the requisite intent.” Coury, 85 F.3d at 250. There are several ...


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