Joyner et al v. Bulova Technologies Group, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 11/6/17. (dw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
LUCILLE JOYNER, Individually and
as the Administratrix of the Estate of
Janet Margaret Rains, her deceased
daugther, et al.,
BULOVA TECHNOLOGIES GROUP,
INC., et al.,
Presently before the Court is a Complaint filed by Plaintiffs Lucille Joyner,
individually and as the Administratrix of the Estate of Janet M. Rains, Robert Dressler,
and Jason McCloe. (See Doc. 1). Because the Complaint fails to establish that the
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, it will be dismissed unless
Plaintiffs can show that diversity jurisdiction is proper.
Plaintiffs commenced this action on October 31, 2017. (See Doc. 1). Plaintiffs
allege that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332 because the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limit and
there is complete diversity between Plaintiffs and Defendants. (See id. at ¶ 49).
Plaintiff Lucille Joyner, the duly appointed Administratrix of the Estate of Janet
M. Rains, “resides at 1006 Colonial Road, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey 07417.” (Id.
at ¶ 1). At the time of her death, Janet M. Rains “resided at 127 Broad Street, Pittston,
Pennsylvania 18640.” (Id. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff Robert Dressler “resides at 152½ South
Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18705.” (Id. at ¶ 3). Plaintiff Jason McCloe
“resides at 109 Midland Court, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18702.” (Id. at ¶ 4).
Defendant Twiss Transport, Inc. is a “Florida Profit Corporation with a principal
place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue SE, Largo, Florida 33771.” (Id. at ¶
5). Defendant BT-Twiss Transport, LLC is a “Florida Limited Liability company with
a principal place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue, SE, Largo, Florida 33771.”
(Id. at ¶ 6). Defendant Bulova Technologies Group, Inc. is a “Florida Profit
Corporation with a principal place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue SE,
Largo, Florida 33771.” (Id. at ¶ 7). Defendant Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. is a
“Florida Profit Corporation with a principal place of business located at 1375 East
Buena Vista Drive, 4th Floor North, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830.” (Id. at ¶ 8).
Lastly, Defendant Robert Edwin Haines “resides at 0372 126th Avenue Lot 73, Largo,
Florida 33773.” (Id. at ¶ 9).
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)). Plaintiffs’
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 Plaintiffs.
The Complaint fails to adequately allege the citizenship of Plaintiffs. 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)). Additionally, “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)). 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 Plaintiffs (and Decedent) “reside[ ]” in
Pennsylvania, 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.”) . To properly plead diversity, the state of
citizenship of each Plaintiff must be alleged, not merely their state of residence. As
the Complaint does not contain these facts, the Court cannot determine whether
subject matter jurisdiction exists.
Citizenship of Defendants.
The Complaint also fails to properly allege the citizenship of all Defendants.
The Individual Defendant.
For reasons explained above with respect to the allegations regarding the
citizenship of Plaintiffs, the allegations of individual Defendant Haines’ citizenship
are inadequate. Although Haines is alleged to “reside” in Florida, this is insufficient.
To properly plead diversity, Plaintiffs must allege Haines’ state of citizenship, not
merely his states of residence.
The Corporate Defendants.
Plaintiffs also improperly allege the citizenship of Defendants Twiss Transport,
Inc., Bulova Technologies Group, Inc., and Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. A
corporation may have more than one state of citizenship: “a corporation shall be
deemed to be a citizen of every State . . . by which it has been incorporated and of the
State . . . where it has its principal place of business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). A
corporation may only have one principal place of business, and proper invocation of
diversity jurisdiction requires that the plaintiff allege where a corporation has “its
principal place of business.” See S. Freedman & Co., Inc. v. Raab, 180 F. App'x 316,
320 (3d Cir. 2006) (affirming the district court's dismissal of a complaint alleging
where the plaintiff corporation maintained “a principal place of business,” rather than
“its principal place of business”). A corporation's principal place of business is its
“nerve center,” that is, the place “where a corporation's officers direct, control, and
coordinate the corporation's activities.” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 130 S. Ct.
1181, 1192, 175 L. Ed. 2d 1029 (2010).
Here, while the Complaint adequately identifies that corporate Defendants are
all Florida corporations, the Complaint only alleges that these Defendants have “a
principal place of business” in Florida. But, to properly plead the citizenship of these
corporations, Plaintiff must allege where each corporation has its principal place of
The Limited Liability Company Defendant.
Lastly, the citizenship of the limited liability company Defendant is not properly
alleged. As stated above, Defendant BT-Twiss Transport, LLC is a “Florida Limited
Liability company with a principal place of business located at 1501 Lake Avenue, SE,
Largo, Florida 33771.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 6). The citizenship of a limited liability for
purposes of diversity jurisdiction is “determined by the citizenship of each of its
members.” Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir.
2010); see also VICI Racing, LLC v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 763 F.3d 273, 282 (3d Cir.
2014) (a limited liability company “is a citizen of any state in which its members are
citizens.”); 1 Fed. Proc., L. Ed. § 1:165 (2014) (acknowledging that a “limited
liability company is a citizen, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, of each state where
its members are citizens.”). Where one or more of a limited liability company’s
members is itself another limited liability company, the citizenship of each limited
liability company must be determined by “trac[ing] through however many layers of
partners or members there may be.” Zambelli Fireworks, 592 F.3d at 420; accord
Lincoln Ben. Life Co. v. AEI Life, LLC, 800 F.3d 99, 107 (3d Cir. 2015) (If, after
reasonable inquiry, the precise citizenship of a defendant is unknown, a plaintiff may
sufficiently plead diversity by “alleg[ing] that the defendant is not a citizen of the
plaintiff's state of citizenship”).
Here, the Complaint fails to adequately aver the citizenship of Defendant BTTwiss Transport, LLC. As stated, BT-Twiss Transport, LLC is claimed to be a Florida
limited liability company with a principal place of business in Florida is insufficient.
To properly plead diversity jurisdiction of the limited liability company Defendant,
though, Plaintiffs must allege the citizenship of its member(s). Because the Complaint
fails to identify who the member(s) of BT-Twiss Transport, LLC are or what their
citizenship is, the Court is unable to determine the existence of diversity jurisdiction
as to this Defendant. Accord Lincoln Ben. Life Co., 800 F.3d at 106-110.
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, Plaintiffs will be given an opportunity to amend the Complaint to
adequately allege the existence of diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs will be granted
twenty-one (21) days in which to file an amended complaint. Failure to do so will
result in this action being dismissed.
An appropriate order follows.
November 6, 2017
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. Richard Caputo
United States District Judge
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