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Valdez v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 16, 2019

JOHN VALDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court takes up this matter sua sponte on defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's Notice of Removal [Docket No. 1]. Defendant asserts that this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Docket No. 1 at 3, ¶ 14.

         In every case and at every stage of the proceeding, a federal court must satisfy itself as to its own jurisdiction, even if doing so requires sua sponte action. See Citizens Concerned for Separation of Church & State v. City & County of Denver, 628 F.2d 1289, 1297 (10th Cir. 1980). Absent an assurance that jurisdiction exists, a court may not proceed in a case. See Cunningham v. BHP Petroleum Great Britain PLC, 427 F.3d 1238, 1245 (10th Cir. 2005). Courts are well-advised to raise the issue of jurisdiction on their own, regardless of parties' apparent acquiescence. First, it is the Court's duty to do so. Tuck v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 859 F.2d 842, 844 (10th Cir. 1988). Second, regarding subject matter jurisdiction, “the consent of the parties is irrelevant, principles of estoppel do not apply, and a party does not waive the requirement by failing to challenge jurisdiction.” Ins. Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982) (internal citations omitted). Finally, delay in addressing the issue only compounds the problem if, despite much time and expense having been dedicated to the case, a lack of jurisdiction causes it to be dismissed. See U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. Pinkard Constr. Co., No. 09-cv-00491-PAB-MJW, 2009 WL 2338116, at *3 (D. Colo. July 28, 2009).

         “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing such jurisdiction as a threshold matter.” Radil v. Sanborn W. Camps, Inc., 384 F.3d 1220, 1224 (10th Cir. 2004). Defendant asserts that this Court has diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pursuant to that section, “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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “For purposes of federal diversity jurisdiction, an individual's state citizenship is equivalent to domicile.” Smith v. Cummings, 445 F.3d 1254, 1259 (10th Cir. 2006). “To establish domicile in a particular state, a person must be physically present in the state and intend to remain there.” Id. at 1260. The facts presently alleged are insufficient to establish plaintiff's citizenship.

         The Notice of Removal alleges that plaintiff is a “resident and citizen of Colorado.” Docket No. 1 at 3, ¶ 15. However, the evidence upon which defendant relies to establish plaintiff's citizenship - namely, plaintiff's state court complaint, see Docket No. 3 - does not support defendant's allegations. In his complaint, plaintiff does not allege that he is a citizen of Colorado. Instead, the complaint states that plaintiff “at all relevant times hereto owned the property at issue in this matter located at 7391 State Highway 12, Weston, Colorado, 81091-9550.” Docket No. 3 at 1. Property ownership alone does not demonstrate a person's domicile. See Reece v. AES Corp., 2013 WL 1342379, at *4 (E.D. Okla. Apr. 2, 2013) (“[A] person may own property in a particular state without being a citizen of it.”).

         Even if it is assumed that plaintiff lives at that address, residency is not synonymous with domicile, see Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 48 (1989) (“‘Domicile' is not necessarily synonymous with ‘residence,' and one can reside in one place but be domiciled in another.”) (citations omitted)), and only the latter is determinative of a party's citizenship. See Whitelock v. Leatherman, 460 F.2d 507, 514 (10th Cir. 1972) (“[A]llegations of mere ‘residence' may not be equated with ‘citizenship' for the purposes of establishing diversity.”).

         Because the allegations are presently insufficient to allow the Court to determine the citizenship of plaintiff and whether the Court has jurisdiction, see United States ex rel. General Rock & Sand Corp. v. Chuska Dev. Corp., 55 F.3d 1491, 1495 (10th Cir. 1995) (“The party seeking the exercise of jurisdiction in his favor must allege in his pleading the facts essential to show jurisdiction.” (internal quotation marks omitted)), it is ORDERED that, on or before May 29, 2019, defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance ...


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