United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
ROBERT LOUIS CARTER, JR. Plaintiff,
KWAME SEKOU MICHAEL S. WUTOH, et al. Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
Sekou Michael S. Wutoh was driving a vehicle that Jong Sung
Ham had rented to him through the company Turo, Inc.
(“Turo”), on February 20, 2017, in Prince
George's County, Maryland, when he collided with the
vehicle that Robert Louis Carter, Jr. was driving, injuring
Carter. Carter filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County against Wutoh, Ham, and Erie Insurance
Company (Carter's insurance policy provider), alleging
all state law claims. Am. Compl., ECF No. 1-5. He then filed
an Amended Complaint, adding Turo as a Defendant and bringing
three state-law claims against it. See Redlined Am.
Compl., ECF No. 1-6. Turo removed this case to this Court on
November 8, 2018, based on diversity of citizenship. ECF Nos.
sought to remand the case to state court, arguing that, even
though he listed a California address for Wutoh, he was
unable to serve Wutoh in California and learned that he is a
Maryland citizen, such that there is not complete diversity
of citizenship, as is required for removal to federal court
based on diversity. Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. 20; Pl.'s
Mem. 1-2, 10, ECF No. 20-1.The parties engaged in targeted
discovery regarding Wutoh's domicile and briefed
Carter's Motion to Remand. Pl.'s Mem.; Pl.'s
Supp., ECF No. 21; Def.'s Mem., ECF No. 22-1. Carter did
not file a reply, but the time for doing so has passed.
See Loc. R. 105.6. Because Turo has failed to
establish that there was complete diversity at the time of
removal, I will grant Carter's Motion and remand the case
to the Circuit Court for Prince George's County.
district courts “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- (1) citizens of different States . . . .” 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). The plaintiff may file suit in federal
court, and the court's diversity jurisdiction is assessed
based on “the state of things at the time . . . the
action [is] brought.” Medish v. Johns Hopkins
Health Sys. Corp., 272 F.Supp.3d 719, 723 (D. Md. 2017)
(quoting Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Group, L.P.,
541 U.S. 567, 570 (2004) (quoting Mollan v.
Torrance, 9 Wheat. 537, 539, 22 U.S. 537 (1824)));
see also Dollinger v. Caradonna, No. JFM-10-7200,
2010 WL 4183401, at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 25, 2010) (“In
determining whether diversity of citizenship exists, it is
the date on which the complaint was filed that
controls.”). When, instead, a plaintiff files an action
in state court against a defendant or defendants and the
parties are diverse, the action “may be removed by the
defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the
United States for the district and division embracing the
place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). In this situation, diversity of citizenship must
exist when the defendant removes the case to federal court.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3); Pittman v.
Quest Diagnostics, Inc., No. ELH-15-3093, 2016 WL
540673, at *4 (D. Md. Feb. 11, 2016) (noting that a case that
could not be removed based on diversity later could
“become removable” if non-diverse parties were
dismissed); 14C Wright & Miller, Fed. Prac. &
Proc. § 3731 (“[A] change in the parties to
the state court action through the plaintiff's voluntary
dismissal of those defendants whose presence destroyed
complete diversity of citizenship may make a previously
unremovable action removable.”).
the party that invokes this Court's jurisdiction-here,
Turo-that “bears the burden of proof, by a
preponderance of the evidence, to show the parties'
citizenship to be diverse.” Zoroastrian Ctr. &
Darb-E-Mehr of Metro. Wash., D.C. v, Rustam Guiv Found. of
N.Y., 822 F.3d 739, 748 (4th Cir. 2016). When the moving
party argues that “the jurisdictional allegations . . .
were not true, ” the Court may “go beyond the
allegations” and “consider evidence by affidavit,
depositions or live testimony . . . .” Adams v.
Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982); see
Championship Tournaments, LLC v. U.S. Youth Soccer Ass'n,
Inc., No. ELH-18-2580, 2019 WL 528174, at *2 (D. Md.
Feb. 8, 2019) (noting that a motion to remand based on lack
of diversity jurisdiction “is akin to a motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction governed by
[Rule] 12(b)(1)” (quoting Garner v. Supervalu,
Inc., No. DKC-08-895, 2008 WL 11416969, at *1 (D. Md.
June 4, 2008))). If, the evidence before the Court
demonstrates that complete diversity does not exist in a case
removed to federal court on the basis of diversity of
citizenship, it must be remanded for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Championship Tournaments, 2019 WL
528174, at *2.
case, the only dispute concerns Defendant Wutoh's
citizenship on November 8, 2018, when Turo removed the case
to this Court. See Notice of Removal 2;
Pl.'s Mem. 9-10; Def.'s Mem. 4. Defendant Turo
insists that Wutoh was a citizen of California at the
relevant time. Def.'s Mem. 4. Carter contends that Wutoh
was a citizen of Maryland. Pl's Mem. 8.
purposes of diversity jurisdiction, an individual is a
citizen of the state where the person is domiciled . . .
.” See Berrios v. Keefe Commissary Network,
LLC, No. TDC-17-0826, 2018 WL 6462840, at *2 (D. Md.
Dec. 10, 2018) (citing Mississippi Band of Choctaw
Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 48 (1989)). Domicile
the place with which an individual has a settled connection
for legal purposes and the place where a person has his true,
fixed, permanent home, habitation and principal
establishment, without any present intention of removing
therefrom, and to which place he has, whenever he is absent,
the intention of returning. The controlling factor in
determining a person's domicile is his intent. One's
domicile, generally, is that place where he intends to be.
Oglesby v. Williams, 812 A.2d 1061, 1068 (Md. 2002)
(quoting Roberts v. Lakin, 665 A.2d 1024, 1027 (Md.
1995)). Thus, “[f]or adults, domicile is established by
physical presence in a place in connection with a certain
state of mind concerning one's intent to remain
there.” Mississippi v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30,
48 (1989); see also Berrios, 2018 WL 6462840, at *2
(noting that domicile “requires physical presence
coupled with an intent to make the state a home”).
[a] party's own declarations concerning the identity of
his domicile, particularly with regard to an intent to retain
or establish one, as is true of any self-serving statement,
are subject to judicial skepticism. As many federal courts
have made clear, they are accorded little weight by the
district judge when they are in conflict with the facts or a
party's actual conduct.
Dollinger, 2010 WL 4183401, at *3 (quoting 13E
Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. &
Proc. § 3612 (3d ed. 2004)). Thus, “[t]he
determination of [a party's] intent . . . is not
dependent upon what he says at a particular time, since his
intent may be more satisfactorily shown by what is done than
by what is said.” Oglesby, 812 A.2d at 1068
(quoting Roberts, 665 A.2d at 1027).
starting point for determining domicile is “[w]here a
person lives and votes, ” but when “these factors
are not so clear” or “special
circumstances” suggest that they are not dispositive,
then “the Court will look to and weigh a number of
other factors in deciding a person's domicile.”
Id. at 1068-69 (quoting Roberts, 665 A.2d
at 1027). Some of the other facts the Court considers are
the paying of taxes and statements on tax returns; the
ownership of property; where the person's children attend
school; the address at which one receives mail; statements as
to residency contained in contracts or other documents;
statements on licenses or governmental documents; where
furniture and other personal belongings are kept; which
jurisdiction's banks are utilized; membership in
professional, fraternal, religious or social organizations;
where one's regular physicians and dentists ...