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Wat Buddha-Dhamma, N.F.P. v. Stang

August 12, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss [9] this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion [9] is granted and this matter is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Background

A. Introduction

Defendants Prinn Stang and Wanda Stang are former officers of Plaintiff Wat Buddha-Dhamma ("the Temple"), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation located in Willowbrook, Illinois. Plaintiffs Montatip Bunluaphob, Santana Khongyai, and Pewpran Abdennadi (collectively the "Individual Plaintiffs") are each members of the Temple's executive board and are residents of Illinois. According to the allegations in the complaint, during early 2009, Defendants were suspended from their positions as officers within the Temple for misconduct, which included their failure to account to the Temple about its assets, their failure to attend corporate meetings, and other continued disruptive and wrongful conduct. Despite this suspension, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants have continued to act as purported representatives of the Temple, without any authority by the Temple to do so, and have made false reports to local law enforcement officials in an effort to harass, oppress, embarrass, and annoy the Temple and its constituents. The complaint alleges that Defendants' conduct has resulted in unauthorized lawsuits in the name of the Temple, lawsuits against the Temple, and conversion of assets of the Temple.

On December 7, 2009, Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court, alleging state law causes of action against Defendants for violation of Section 103.20 of the Illinois General Not for Profit Corporation Act of 1986 for wrongful assumption of corporate powers (805 ILCS 105/103.20 (West 2008)), breach of fiduciary duty, malicious prosecution, conversion, and an accounting. Plaintiffs allege that the Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 based upon the complete diversity of citizenship of the parties and an amount in controversy exceeding the jurisdictional minimum of $75,000.00. In response to Plaintiffs' complaint, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming that diversity of citizenship does not exist because Defendants, particularly Wanda Stang, reside in the State of Illinois, as opposed to the State of Indiana. The Court permitted the parties to engage in a rather lengthy period of jurisdictional discovery to develop a factual basis for consideration of Defendants' motion to dismiss.

B. Facts Pertaining to Jurisdiction

According to the Stangs, Prinn Stang, M.D., an obstetrician, delivers babies and performs surgeries at three separate hospitals in Indiana and has a medical office with approximately five employees in Merrillville, Indiana. Dr. Stang maintains a current Indiana medical license. Wanda Stang works at his office, and both file Indiana state income taxes. Both Stangs are registered to vote in Indiana and have been since 1982, although they only recall voting once in the past twenty years. Both have Indiana drivers' licenses, with their address listed as the medical office in Merrillville, Indiana. If Dr. Stang is on call, which he estimates to occur approximately fifteen to eighteen days per month, he sleeps at his Merrillville office.

The Stangs own a townhome that is located (rather ironically) at 1407 S. Indiana Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. They purchased the townhome in the mid-nineties when their daughter, Kathleeya, was attending the University of Chicago Lab School. According to Dr. Stang, they purchased the townhome for three reasons: (1) as an investment, (2) because their daughter was attending school in Chicago and they wanted to be closer to her high school, rather than having her commute from Indiana, and (3) to "enjoy city life." According to the Stangs, when construction on the townhome was complete, they moved their personal clothing and belongings to the Chicago townhome. Kathleeya Stang, who also is a doctor, lived in the townhome until she recently finished her residency, married, and moved to North Carolina. The Stangs also own a home in Valparaiso, Indiana, which they bought in the 1980s, when their daughter was in first grade, and in which they lived until they moved to Chicago. Their thirty-eight year old son now lives in the Valparaiso home.*fn1 There has not been any evidence presented that the Stangs still live at the Valparaiso residence with their son. Nor is there evidence that on the nights that Dr. Stang does not make the approximately 44-mile drive to return home to Chicago, he instead takes the 16-mile trek to Valparaiso to catch some shut-eye, rather than sleeping in his office.*fn2

Most of the Stangs' business is conducted in Indiana. The Stangs do all of their banking in Indiana and most of their bills are sent to Dr. Stang's Merrillville office. Their accountant lives in Indiana. The Stangs have four or five vehicles, one (the 1987 Mercedes Benz) that has an Illinois license plate and the rest that have Indiana plates. Wanda Stang has a cell phone with an Indiana number. When asked why they have not switched over their Indiana taxes, licenses, and voting, Dr. Stang responded that they are "just accustomed to that." Dr. Stang also stated that because he spends so much time at work, he uses his business address for most of his business and personal affairs. Wanda Stang testified that her husband handles all of the family's business and financial affairs, such as banking, taxes, bills, and the like.

In the various pro se lawsuits that Wanda Stang has filed in Illinois state courts in recent years, she has listed her address as 1407 S. Indiana, Chicago, Illinois. However, in a recent lawsuit in DuPage County, she wrote a letter to the judge in that case and stated, in part, "I live in Indiana and need to drive to Illinois to find a lawyer." During her deposition, Wanda claimed that her statement reflected the fact that most of her waking hours are spent working in Indiana and that most of the Stangs' affairs are conducted in Indiana, meaning that most of the people they associate with are from Indiana. She maintains that while she spends most of the day in Indiana, she returns to Chicago each night to cook and sleep and that she intends to remain in Illinois indefinitely.

If Wanda is not travelling out of the area (to Boston, North Carolina, or Thailand), she sleeps at the Chicago home, as does Dr. Stang, when he is not on call. When Dr. Stang is on call, he sleeps on a recliner at the office, or in the doctors' on-call room at the hospital. The Stangs have a landline and internet access at their Chicago home. Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, the Stangs worshipped for several years at the Temple, which is located in Willowbrook, Illinois, and, by all accounts, were active members of the Temple's religious community.

Jill Manka, an employee of Dr. Stang's for the past twenty years and the office manager at Dr. Stang's Merrillville office, stated in her affidavit that Wanda never sleeps at the office, that she has visited the Stangs' Chicago residence on over twenty occasions, that she observed their personal clothing and belongings at the Chicago residence, and that, to her knowledge, they have not lived at any other address since moving to Chicago in the mid-nineties. The Stangs' children also attested to the Stangs' residence in Chicago, remarking ...

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