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Duff v. FCA US, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 8, 2019

DEREK P. DUFF, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA US, LLC and CARL J. MISSBACH, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 12(B)(1) FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION (ECF NO. 44)

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this diversity action, Plaintiff Derek Duff has brought a negligence claim against Defendants FCA US, LLC (“FCA”) and Carl Missbach (“Defendants”) arising out of injuries Duff sustained in a motor vehicle accident on June 17, 2015, while he was working to test Chrysler vehicles in Aurora, Colorado. Plaintiff alleges Missbach, an FCA employee, negligently struck him while driving a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Laredo. Now before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).

         Defendants argue Duff was a citizen of Michigan at the time the lawsuit was filed; thus, they claim there is no diversity jurisdiction. Because Duff has established that at the time this lawsuit was filed, he was a citizen of Maine, his childhood home where he had resided for 26 of his 27 years, and where he was residing with his parents in order to treat for his serious injuries and to receive daily living assistance, diversity jurisdiction exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and Defendants' motion shall be denied.

         I. Factual Background

         Duff was born in Bangor, Maine, where he grew up and attended high school. He then attended the University of Maine at Orono. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, he accepted a position with IAV and moved to Michigan for his employment in September, 2014. He obtained a Michigan driver's license and Michigan no-fault insurance on his automobile, and leased an apartment for one year. After living in Michigan for ten months, he was injured on the job while working in Colorado on June 17, 2015. After in-patient hospitalization and rehabilitation in Denver, Colorado, Duff moved back to Maine, where he continues to live with his parents at their home, and who provide him with care and support as he attempts to recover from his severe injury to his leg.

         To date, Duff requires daily living assistance and cannot live independently. Upon his return to Maine, Duff's father and brother-in-law cleaned out his Michigan apartment and brought his personal possessions back to Maine. He did not renew his apartment lease. Following his accident, Duff has undergone 18 surgeries to save his leg, his most recent one involved implantation of a biological knee joint from a cadaver donor. While Duff's dream is to relocate to Arizona, or a similar climate, which would be more comfortable for him given his injuries, for the foreseeable future and until he is able to live on his own, he intends to reside with his parents, as he has for the last four years.

         The only connection Duff continues to maintain to Michigan is that he still has a Michigan's driver's license and Michigan automobile insurance. On the other hand, since returning to his childhood home, Maine is listed as Duff's official mailing address, as his residence on his tax returns, and as the legal address on all of his accounts including his credit card. Duff is registered to vote in Maine. The majority of his treating physicians and therapists, numbering close to a dozen, are located in Maine; all of his family and friends are in Maine, and Duff has a new job for which he works from his home in Maine. His new employer, who is located in Arizona, but for whom he works remotely, had him sign a non-compete agreement which lists Maine as his principal place of business. Duff also listed Bradley, Maine, as his residence in his application for social security disability benefits, his attorney and accountant are located in Maine, all of his banking is through Bangor Savings Bank of Maine, he has a Maine fishing license which lists Maine as his residence, and he attends church in Maine.

         II. Standard of Law

         “A Rule 12(b)(1) motion addresses whether the Court has authority or competence to hear a case.” Gilbert v. Ferry, 298 F.Supp.2d 606, 611 (E.D. Mich. 2003). “[D]iversity of citizenship requires complete diversity between all plaintiffs on one side and all defendants on the other side.” Glancy v. Taubman Ctrs., Inc., 373 F.3d 656, 664 (6th Cir. 2004). Diversity of citizenship for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1332 is determined at the time the complaint is filed. Kaiser v. Loomis, 391 F.2d 1007, 1009 (6th Cir.1968) (citations omitted); Bateman v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co., 7 F.Supp.2d 910, 911 (E.D. Mich. 1998). It is well established that citizenship for purposes of the diversity requirement is equated with domicile, not residence. Von Dunser v. Aronoff, 915 F.2d 1071, 1072 (6th Cir.1990); see Kaiser, 391 F.2d at 1009. “To acquire a domicile within a particular state, a person must be physically present in the state and must have either the intention to make his home there indefinitely or the absence of an intention to make his home elsewhere.” Stifel v. Hopkins, 477 F.2d 1116, 1120 (6th Cir. 1973) (citations omitted); see also Von Dunser, 915 F.2d at 1072 (“Establishment of a new domicile is determined by two factors: residence in the new domicile, and the intention to remain there.”); Kaiser, 391 F.2d at 1009 (same).

         The party invoking diversity jurisdiction must prove complete diversity by a preponderance of the evidence. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana, 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Everett v. Verizon Wireless, Inc., 460 F.3d 818, 829 (6th Cir. 2006). Moreover, a person can only have one domicile at a time for purposes of diversity jurisdiction-a previous domicile can not be lost until another is adequately established. Eastman v. Univ. of Michigan, 30 F.3d 670, 672-73 (6th Cir.1994); see also Von Dunser, 915 F.2d at 1072.

         To determine the domicile of a party for purposes of considering whether diversity jurisdiction exists, courts typically take into account a variety of factors indicating the extent of a particular party's ties to the purported domicile. These include, but are not limited to:

[c]urrent residence; voting registration and voting practices; location of personal and real property; location of brokerage and bank accounts; membership in unions; fraternal organizations, churches, clubs and other associations; place of employment or business; driver licenses and other automobile registration; [and] payment of taxes.

Persinger v. Extendicare Health Servs., Inc., 539 F.Supp.2d 995, 996-97 (S.D. Ohio 2008) (citing 13B Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, and Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3612 (2d ed.1984)). Courts also consider the location of a plaintiff's physician, lawyer, accountant, and other service providers. Bateman, 7 Supp. 2d at 912. No. single one of these factors is dispositive, and the analysis does not focus simply on the number of contacts with the purported domicile, but also their substantive nature. Persinger, 539 F.Supp.2d at 997. In sum, domicile is “the place where a person dwells and which is the center of his domestic, social, and civil life.” Bateman, 7 F.Supp.2d at 912.

         III. ...


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