Husband and wife sue their landlord for invasion of privacy in federal court and argue that diversity jurisdiction is proper even though they lived in the same state as the defendant at the time the claim arose.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A party is domiciled in the state where their true, fixed, and permanent home is.
Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.
A person's domicile is the place of his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment, and to which he has the intention of returning whenever he is absent therefrom.
Plaintiff Mas’s meet in Louisiana and get married at the wife’s family’s home in Mississippi. They return to Louisiana and rent an apartment from Defendant Perry. Defendant Perry installed see-through mirrors to allow him to watch Plaintiffs without being seen. The Defendant Perry’s invasion of privacy occurred for 3 months until Plaintiff Mas’s found out and moved out. Plaintiffs filed suit in Louisiana District Court for $100,000. While the case made its way through the court system Plaintiff Mas’s moved to Illinois. The Plaintiffs won in District Court and were awarded $15,000 for the wife and $5,000 for the husband.
Can a party living in one state, but with no intention of staying there permanently, invoke diversity jurisdiction against a party of the same state?
Yes, a party living in a state with no intention of staying there permanently may invoke diversity jurisdiction against a party of the same state, so long as the Plaintiff’s domicile is no in the same state as the defendant.
For a court to exercise diversity jurisdiction, no plaintiff can share the same state citizenship with any of the defendants. This is the complete diversity requirement that comes from Article III of the Constitution and a federal statute.
Thus, the District Court verdict must be overturned if either of the Msa Plaintiffs is from Louisiana because Defendant is also from Louisiana.
State citizenship is established at the time the suit is filed. Therefore the Plaintiffs move to Illinois does not matter.
Federal not state law determines a party’s citizenship in a diversity jurisdiction case.
Citizenship is not dictated by where parties happen to live when they file their lawsuit, but by where they are domiciled.
A person’s domicile is a person’s last truly permanent home.
Every person only has one domicile.
Nothing about the plaintiff’s lives in Louisiana suggested that they intended to stay there indefinitely. The husband was domiciled in France, his last permanent home, and the wife traditionally takes the domicile of her husband. However, the court did not find that the wife was a domiciliary of France because that would mean she has no ties to any state in America which would be absurd.
The court thus found that the wife’s domicile was Mississippi where she was raised.
Court did not discuss whether the husband intended to return to France or the wife to Mississippi, which is a question to be answered in determining domicile.
Therefore the court found complete diversity.
Defendant thereafter raised the issue that a federal diversity dispute must have at least $10,000 at issue, but that Plaintiff husband was only awarded $5,000 by the jury.
However, the court clarified that the amount requirement is satisfied if the Plaintiff in good faith claims damages that meet the jurisdictional threshold. And the Mas’s requested $100,000.