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Vaughan v. Pfizer

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS


May 26, 2006

RON VAUGHAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF EVERETT E. VAUGHAN, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PFIZER, INC., AND PHARMACIA CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, Chief District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This action is before the Court for an initial review. The Court has an independent obligation to satisfy itself that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists. The Seventh Circuit repeatedly warns litigants and district courts that subject matter jurisdiction is not an issue to be taken lightly. See, e.g., Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Market Place, L.L.C., 350 F.3d 691, 692 (7th Cir. 2003) ("[o]nce again litigants' insouciance toward the requirements of federal jurisdiction has caused a waste of time and money").

In this case, Plaintiff, Ron Vaughan, seeks damages on behalf of his father, a decedent, for injuries and suffering, including death, arising out of the use of the prescription medication Celebrex. Plaintiff seeks to invoke the Court's jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of citizenship, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In order for this Court to have diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the parties must be of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy must exceed the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.*fn1

"[T]he legal representative of the estate of a decedent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the decedent." See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(2). Thus, only the citizenship of Everett E. Vaughan, the deceased, matters for purposes of determining jurisdiction. Unfortunately, however, the complaint only alleges his residency at the time of his death. Because federal courts have jurisdiction over citizens of different states, a complaint must allege the citizenship of each party, not the residence. Held v. Held, 137 F.3d 998 (7th Cir. 1998); Pollution Control Indus. of Am., Inc. v. Van Gundy, 21 F.3d 152, 155 (7th Cir. 1994). The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly warned that an allegation of residency is insufficient to invoke federal subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Tylka v. Gerber Prods. Co., 211 F.3d 445, 448 (7th Cir. 2000).

Moreover, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1), "a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of business." The complaint only alleges that Defendants Pfizer and Pharmacia are Delaware corporations. It says nothing about the location of each corporation's principal place of business.

Without the foregoing information, the Court cannot determine whether the parties are, in fact, diverse citizens. "[S]ubject matter jurisdiction must be a matter of certainty and not of probabilities," Murphy v. Schering Corporation, 878 F. Supp. 124, 125-26 (N.D. Ill. 1995), and, at this time, the Court is not satisfied that jurisdiction exists. See Tylka v. Gerber Prods. Co., 211 F.3d 445, 447 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that federal courts are obligated to inquire sua sponte whenever a doubt arises as to the existence of federal jurisdiction). "[W]hile a court must dismiss a case over which it has no jurisdiction when a fatal defect appears, leave to amend defective allegations of subject matter jurisdiction should be freely given." Leaf v. Supreme Court of Wis., 979 F.2d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 1992). Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1653, Plaintiff shall, on or before June 22, 2006, file an amended complaint that properly invokes the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Failure to do so will result in the dismissal of this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

G. PATRICK MURPHY Chief United States District Judge


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