Brief Fact Summary. Jimmy Lee Walker III, along with his guardian, Cynthia Walker (Plaintiffs), and their attorney, James Harrison Massey, appealed from a district court’s award of sanctions against Massey for filing a diversity case in which he failed to plead complete diversity of citizenship. The district court instead found that Massey had pleaded facts which tended to show there was not complete diversity.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Sanctions in the form of attorney’s fees pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 11 are justified for failing to file proper pleadings in a diversity case.
It is, to say the least, well settled that federal diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity, so that no defendant is a citizen of the same state as any plaintiff.View Full Point of Law
Held. Yes. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order awarding attorney’s fees. The fact that the Walkers did not allege the citizenship of the defendants convinced the Appeals Court that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Rule 11 sanctions were appropriate.
Discussion. The general rule is that the complaint must plead the existence of the diversity jurisdiction; if the plaintiff fails to allege the citizenship grounding diversity jurisdiction, the defendant may bring a 12(b) motion to dismiss. Here, the district court went one step further, issuing sanctions in the form of attorney fees, in addition to granting the motion to dismiss. Students should recall that even if the appeals court on its own would have been inclined to allow Walker to amend his complaint rather than issue Rule 11 sanctions, the appeals court’s review was limited to abuse of discretion.