Ojo v. Clarks Summit Hospitality,LLC et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 1 Complaint filed by Eunice Ojo.Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 6/22/17. (jam)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
EUNICE OJO, Administratrix of THE
ESTATE OF EMMANUEL OJO,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:17-cv-01064
CLARKS SUMMIT HOSPITALITY, LLC
d/b/a NICHOLS VILLAGE HOTEL AND
SPA, et al.,
Presently before the Court is a Complaint filed by Plaintiff Eunice Ojo, Administratrix
of the Estate of Emmanuel Ojo. (Doc. 1.) Because the Complaint fails to establish that the
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, it will be dismissed unless Plaintiff can
show that diversity jurisdiction is proper.
Plaintiff commenced this action on June 16, 2017. (Compl., Doc. 1.) Plaintiff alleges
that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1), “based upon diversity of citizenship.” (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff also asserts that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (Id. ¶ 9.) With respect to Plaintiff’s citizenship, the
relevant allegation in the Complaint is that the Decedent, Emmanuel Ojo, “resided at 216
Rockaway Avenue, Apt. 7-O, Brooklyn, New York 11233,” prior to his death. (Id. ¶ 2.) With
respect to the citizenship of Defendant Clarks Summit Hospitality, LLC, the relevant
allegation in the Complaint is that “Clarks Summit Hospitality, LLC is a business entity
regularly conducting business as Nichols Village Hotel and Spa registered to do business
in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania . . . .” (Id. ¶ 4.) As to Defendant Hospitality Cover
Plus, LLC, the relevant allegation in the Complaint is that “Hospitality Cover Plus, LLC is a
business entity regularly conducting business as The Inn at Nichols Village. . . .” (Id. ¶ 5.)
Lastly, as to Defendant Nichols Village Motor Inn, Inc., the relevant allegation is that “Nichols
Village Motor Inn, Inc., is a business entity regularly conducting business as The Inn at
Nichols Village registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to do business at RD 1. .
. .” (Id. ¶ 6.)
Federal courts have an obligation to address issues of subject matter jurisdiction sua
sponte. See Shaffer v. GTE N., Inc., 284 F.3d 500, 502 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Club
Comanche, Inc. v. Gov't of the V.I., 278 F.3d 250, 255 (3d Cir. 2002)). Plaintiff’s Complaint
alleges that the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Section 1332(a)(1)
gives district courts original jurisdiction to hear cases where the matter in controversy
exceeds the value of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000) and is between citizens of
different states. In order for diversity jurisdiction to exist, there must be complete diversity,
meaning that each defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff. Owen
Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). Of course, “[t]he person asserting
jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the court at all
stages of the litigation.” Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir. 1993).
“It is . . . well established that when jurisdiction depends upon diverse citizenship the
absence of sufficient averments or of facts in the record showing such required diversity of
citizenship is fatal and cannot be overlooked by the court, even if the parties fail to call
attention to the defect, or consent that it may be waived.” Thomas v. Bd. of Trs. of Ohio State
Univ., 195 U.S. 207, 211 (1904). Moreover, “[w]hen the foundation of federal authority is, in
a particular instance, open to question, it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such
doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a disposition of the merits.” Carlsberg
Res. Corp. v. Cambria Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 554 F.2d 1254, 1256 (3d Cir. 1977); see also Fed
R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
Citizenship of Plaintiff
The Complaint fails to adequately allege the citizenship of Plaintiff. For purposes of
diversity jurisdiction, “where the plaintiff is the representative of the estate of a decedent, the
plaintiff is deemed to acquire the citizenship of the decedent at the time of the decedent's
death.” Ramsey v. Devereux Found., No. 16-299, 2016 WL 3959075, at *3 (E.D. Pa. July
22, 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(2)). Thus, Plaintiff Eunice Ojo’s citizenship as
Administratrix of the Estate of Emmanuel Ojo is determined by Emmanuel Ojo’s citizenship
at the time of his death. Id.
For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a natural person is deemed to be a citizen of the
state in which he is domiciled. Swiger v. Allegheny Energy, Inc., 540 F.3d 179, 182 (3d Cir.
2008) (citing Gilbert v. David, 235 U.S. 561, 569 (1915)). To be domiciled in a state, a
person must reside there and intend to remain indefinitely. Krasnov v. Dinan, 465 F.2d 1298,
1300-01 (3d Cir. 1972). A person may have only one domicile, and thus may be a citizen of
only one state for diversity jurisdiction purposes. See Williamson v. Osenton, 232 U.S. 619,
To the extent the Complaint alleges that Decedent “resided” in an apartment in New
York prior to his death, this is not sufficient. Residence is not the same as domicile and does
not establish citizenship for diversity purposes. See Krasnov, 465 F.2d at 1300 (“Where one
lives is prima facie evidence of domicile, but mere residency in a state is insufficient for
purposes of diversity.”) (internal citations omitted). To properly plead diversity, Plaintiff must
allege the Decedent’s state of citizenship at the time of his death, not merely the Decedent’s
state of residence. As the Complaint does not contain this fact, the Court cannot determine
whether subject matter jurisdiction exists.
Citizenship of Defendants
Plaintiff also fails to correctly plead the citizenship of any of the three Defendants. If
a party is a corporation, in order to properly plead diverse citizenship, a plaintiff must allege
both the corporation’s state of incorporation and its principal place of business. See VICI
Racing, LLC v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 763 F.3d 273, 282 (3d Cir. 2014). A corporation's
principal place of business is its "nerve center," the place "where a corporation's officers
direct, control, and coordinate the corporation's activities." Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S.
77, 92-93 (2010). A corporation may have only one principal place of business, and proper
invocation of diversity jurisdiction requires the plaintiff to allege where a corporation has its
principal place of business. See S. Freedman & Co., Inc. v. Raab, 180 Fed. Appx. 316, 320
(3d Cir. 2006). Separately, if a party is a limited liability company (“LLC”), for purposes of
diversity jurisdiction the citizenship of the LLC is determined by the citizenship of each of its
members. Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 420 (3d Cir. 2010). The
citizenship of an LLC’s member(s) depends on whether the member(s) is a natural or
artificial person. A natural person is deemed to be a citizen of the state in which he is
domiciled. Swiger v. Allegheny Energy, Inc., 540 F.3d 179, 182 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Gilbert
v. David, 235 U.S. 561, 569 (1915)). As noted above, to be domiciled in a state, a person
must reside there and intend to remain indefinitely. Krasnov v. Dinan, 465 F.2d 1298, 130001 (3d Cir. 1972). A corporation (an artificial person) “is a citizen both of the state where it
is incorporated and of the state where it has its principal place of business.” Zambelli
Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc., 592 F.3d at 419.
The Complaint alleges that Defendant Clarks Summit Hospitality, LLC and Defendant
Hospitality Cover Plus, LLC (the “LLC-Defendants”) are each a “business entity regularly
conducting business” in Pennsylvania, and that the former is registered to do business in
Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5.) This is not sufficient. As noted above, the citizenship of an
LLC is determined by the citizenship of each of its members. To properly plead diversity
jurisdiction, Plaintiff must allege the citizenship of each of the LLC-Defendants’ members in
order to establish the citizenship of each Defendant. Because the Complaint contains no
information about who the members of the LLC-Defendants are or what their citizenship is,
it is impossible for the Court to determine whether diversity jurisdiction exists. See Maxim
Crane Works, LP v. Smith Transp. Servs., Inc., No. 15-597, 2016 WL 757791, at *3 (W.D.
Pa. Feb. 26, 2016). Likewise, the Complaint alleges that Defendant Nichols Village Inn, Inc.
is a business entity registered to do business in Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 6.) This, too, is not
sufficient. A corporation “is a citizen both of the state where it is incorporated and of the state
where it has its principal place of business.” Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc., 592 F.3d at
419. As Plaintiff has not alleged these facts, the Court is also unable to determine the
citizenship of this Defendant.
Because the Court cannot determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, this
matter is subject to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3). However,
Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to amend the Complaint and show that diversity of
citizenship jurisdiction exists. Plaintiff will be granted fourteen (14) days in which to file an
amended complaint. Failure to do so will result in this action being dismissed.
An appropriate order follows.
June 22, 2017
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. Richard Caputo
United States District Judge
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