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AUTOMOTIVE FINANCE CORP. v. AUTOMAX OF NORTHERN ILL.
April 1, 2002
AUTOMOTIVE FINANCE CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
AUTOMAX OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Automotive Finance Corporation ("Automotive") has just filed its
Complaint for Monetary Damages and Other Relief against Automax of
Northern Illinois, Inc. ("Automax"), Jack Meade ("Meade") and John Does 1
through 10 ("Doe Defendants"), purporting to invoke federal subject
matter jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship grounds under
28 U.S.C. § 1332.*fn1 Because such jurisdiction plainly (and indeed
concededly) does not exist on the face of Automotive's Complaint, this
Court sua sponte dismisses both the Complaint and this action on that
Automotive properly does its job in Complaint ¶¶ 2 and 3 as to both
corporate parties — itself and Automax — by identifying both
facets of their respective states of citizenship under Section
1332(c)(1). But as to Meade, Complaint ¶ 4 identifies only his state
of residence and not his state of citizenship, even though by definition
the latter is the relevant fact. As taught by Held v. Held, 137 F.3d 998,
1000 (7th Cir. 1998), quoting Guaranty Nat'l Title Co. v. J.E.G.
Assocs., 101 F.3d 57, 59 (7th Cir. 1996):
Of course, allegations of residence are insufficient to
establish diversity jurisdiction. It is well-settled
that "[w]hen the parties allege residence but not
citizenship, the court must dismiss the suit."
Despite that directive, this Court normally gives the errant
plaintiff's lawyer a chance to cure that type of flaw — both (1)
because an individual's place of residence so frequently (though not
invariably) coincides with his or her state of citizenship and (2) to
spare the client the need to pay another $150 filing fee. But in this
instance the injection of Doe Defendants is a fatal flaw, for Complaint
¶ 5 (emphasis added) alleges:
Upon information and belief, the Doe Defendants are
individuals and/or entities organized and existing
under the laws of indeterminate states, maintain
principal places of business at indeterminate
addresses, and transact and do business in the State of
Illinois and within this Judicial District. The
identities of the Doe Defendants are not presently
known, and this complaint may be amended to include the
name or names of said individuals and/or entities if
and when their identities can be established.
Nearly two decades ago this Court found such allegations ran afoul of
the nearly-two-centuries-old (see Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3
Cranch) 267 (1806)) requirement of total diversity as between the
plaintiff's side and the defendants' side (see John Hancock Mutual Life
Ins. Co. v. Central Nat'l Bank in Chicago, 555 F. Supp. 1026 (N.D. Ill.
1983)). And although confirmation of that basic proposition was scarcely
necessary, Congress has essentially done so by amending the removal
statute — but not the statute dealing with original jurisdiction
— to eliminate the problem where a case with unnamed parties has
been brought to the federal courthouse via removal. Here is the relevant
provision of Section 1441(a):
For purposes of removal under this chapter, the
citizenship of defendants sued under fictitious names
shall be disregarded.*fn2
As stated at the outset, then, both the Complaint and this action are
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This ruling is of
course without prejudice to Automotive's refiling of this ...
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