516 F.3d 29 (1st Cir. 2008), 07-1447, Padilla-Mangual v. Pavia Hosp.

Docket Nº:07-1447.
Citation:516 F.3d 29
Party Name:Ryan PADILLA-MANGUAL, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. PAV
Case Date:February 14, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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516 F.3d 29 (1st Cir. 2008)

Ryan PADILLA-MANGUAL, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

PAVÍA HOSPITAL, et al. Defendants, Appellees.

No. 07-1447.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

February 14, 2008

Heard Nov. 9, 2007.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO, Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge.

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Antonio Bauzá-Torres and Rubén Morales, for appellant.

Mirta Rodríguez-Mora, with whom Látimer, Biaggi, Rachid & Godreau, were on brief for appellee Pavía Hospital, and Nuyen Marrero-Bonilla, with whom Montijo & Montijo Law Offices, were on brief for appellees Dr. Miguel De La Cruz and his conjugal partnership.

Before TORRUELLA and HOWARD, Circuit Judges, and SMITH, [*] District Judge.

SMITH, District Judge.

In this case, a challenge to the diversity jurisdiction claimed by a plaintiff requires us to examine the presumption of domicile and what it takes to overcome it where the plaintiff forges none of the typical ties to his new home. Ultimately, we conclude that the task is one better left to the district court, with the benefit of an evidentiary hearing.

Plaintiff-appellant, Ryan Padilla-Mangual ("Padilla"), brought an action in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico against defendant-appellee Pavía Hospital, and defendants-appellees Dr. Miguel De La Cruz Castellanos and his conjugal partnership (collectively, "Dr. De La Cruz"), for damages stemming from allegedly negligent medical treatment.1 Padilla's complaint, which was premised on Puerto Rico's general tort statute, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 5141 (2004), alleged federal diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The complaint alleged that Padilla was a resident of the State of Florida.2

On July 17, 2006, Dr. De La Cruz moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that diversity of citizenship was lacking.3 Dr. De La Cruz claimed that as of January 30, 2006, the date that Padilla filed his complaint, Padilla

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actually was a domiciliary of Puerto Rico, not Florida. On October 3, 2006, Pavía Hospital moved for summary judgment on Padilla's claims, also arguing that the district court lacked diversity jurisdiction. The district court granted both motions in a single order on February 1, 2007, without holding an evidentiary hearing. Padilla timely filed this appeal. While the district court's analysis ultimately may prove to be correct, because we find that the record has not been adequately developed, we reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing on the question of diversity of citizenship.

Federal jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship requires that the matter in controversy be between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) (2006). For purposes of diversity, a person is a citizen of the state in which he is domiciled. Lundquist v. Precision Valley Aviation, Inc., 946 F.2d 8, 10 (1st Cir. 1991); Rodríguez-Díaz v. Sierra-Martínez, 853 F.2d 1027, 1029 (1st Cir. 1988); Valedón Martínez v. Hospital Presbiteriano de la Comunidad, Inc., 806 F.2d 1128, 1132 (1st Cir. 1986). "A person's domicile 'is the place where he has his true, fixed home and principal establishment, and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention of returning.' " Rodríguez-Díaz, 853 F.2d at 1029 (quoting Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3612 (2d ed. 1984)). Domicile is determined as of the time the suit is filed. Lundquist, 946 F.2d at 10; Valedón Martínez, 806 F.2d at 1132; Hawes v. Club Ecuestre El Comandante, 598 F.2d 698, 701 (1st Cir. 1979).

In contesting Padilla's assertion of diversity jurisdiction, the appellees point out that only four days before filing his action in the district court, Padilla filed a complaint in Puerto Rico state court, essentially making the same allegations as in his federal complaint, but alleging him to be a resident of Puerto Rico.4 Once challenged, "the party invoking subject matter jurisdiction [here Padilla] has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence the facts supporting jurisdiction." Bank One, Texas, N.A. v. Montle, 964 F.2d 48, 50 (1st Cir. 1992) (citation omitted); see also Lundquist, 946 F.2d at 10 (plaintiff must support allegation of jurisdiction by "competent proof"); O'Toole v. Arlington Trust Co., 681 F.2d 94, 98 (1st Cir. 1982); Hawes, 598 F.2d at 702; Lugo-Viña v. Pueblo Int'l, Inc., 574 F.2d 41, 44 (1st Cir. 1978). Padilla contended that the allegations of residency contained in his Puerto Rico pleadings were "clerical errors" and that he had, by December 31, 2004, permanently relocated from Puerto Rico to Florida.5

There is, ordinarily, a presumption of continuing domicile, Hawes, 598 F.2d at 701; see also Mitchell v. United States, 21 Wall. 350, 88 U.S. 350, 353, 22 L.Ed. 584 (1874) ("domicile once acquired is presumed to continue until it is shown to have been changed"). Because Padilla was raised in Puerto Rico and lived there until his apparent relocation to Florida, it is presumed that he was a domiciliary of Puerto Rico. To sustain his burden, Padilla

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was required to show two things in order to establish a change in his domicile from Puerto Rico to Florida: (1) presence in Florida, and (2) an intent to remain there. Bank One, 964 F.2d at 50; Valedón Martínez, 806 F.2d at 1132; Hawes, 598 F.2d at 701. We have stated previously that the factors relevant to determining a party's intent include:

the place where civil and political rights are exercised, taxes paid, real and personal property (such as furniture and automobiles) located, driver's and other licenses obtained, bank accounts maintained, location of club and church membership and places of business or employment.

Bank One, 964 F.2d at 50 (citation omitted). While no single factor is controlling, some courts have presumed domicile in a state is established where a party is registered to vote. Id. This Court has not recognized such a presumption, but we have said that the place a person is registered to vote is a "weighty" factor in determining domicile. Lundquist, 946 F.2d at 12.

The district court's conclusion that Padilla failed to meet his burden of proving that he changed his domicile to Florida at the time he filed his federal complaint is a "mixed question of law and fact and as such may not be set aside unless clearly erroneous." Bank One, 964 F.2d at 51; Lundquist, 946 F.2d at 11; Valedón Martínez, 806 F.2d at 1132; O'Toole, 681 F.2d at 98; Hawes, 598 F.2d at 702. "A finding is 'clearly erroneous' when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985) (citation omitted). Though this presents a high hurdle for Padilla, we believe it has been cleared here - if only just - -and we therefore cannot sustain, on the present record, the district court's finding of a lack of diversity jurisdiction. See Fredyma v. AT & T Network Sys., Inc., 935 F.2d 368, 370 (1st Cir. 1991) (reversing district court judgment for error in procedure, but expressing no opinion on "ultimate viability" of complaint).

The record before us reveals that Padilla offered several pieces of evidence to show that he had changed his domicile from Puerto Rico to Florida prior to filing his federal lawsuit: (1) two declarations, one his and the other his mother's, made under penalty of perjury, that he is a resident of Florida and has no intention of returning to Puerto Rico; (2) copies of four ledgers detailing payments and charges from four different addresses in Florida where Padilla claims to have resided since...

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