Aponte-Davila v. Municipality of Caguas, 070816 FED1, 15-1800
|Opinion Judge:||LYNCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.|
|Party Name:||JOSÉ APONTE-DÁVILA, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. MUNICIPALITY OF CAGUAS, Defendant, Appellee, CONSOLIDATED WASTE SERVICE CORPORATION; MAPFRE-PRAICO, Defendants/Third Party Plaintiffs, Appellees, EDDIE JIMÉNEZ; EDDIE JIMÉNEZ-COSMO, Cafetería la Terraza de Eddie; INSURANCE CARRIERS, Third Party Defendants.|
|Attorney:||David W. Román, with whom José Luis Ubarri and Ubarri & Román Law Office were on brief, for appellant. Michael Craig McCall and Pablo H. Montaner-Cordero, with whom The Law Offices of Michael Craig McCall, Luis E. Pabón Roca, Clarisa Solá Gómez, and Faccio & Pabón Roca were on brief, for appellees.|
|Judge Panel:||Before Torruella, Lynch, and Barron, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||July 08, 2016|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit|
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S. District Judge]
David W. Román, with whom José Luis Ubarri and Ubarri & Román Law Office were on brief, for appellant.
Michael Craig McCall and Pablo H. Montaner-Cordero, with whom The Law Offices of Michael Craig McCall, Luis E. Pabón Roca, Clarisa Solá Gómez, and Faccio & Pabón Roca were on brief, for appellees.
Before Torruella, Lynch, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
LYNCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
José Aponte-Dávila appeals from the district court's dismissal of his negligence suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Aponte-Dávila invokes the federal courts' diversity jurisdiction, arguing that because he was domiciled in Texas and the defendants were domiciled in Puerto Rico at the time the suit was filed, there was complete diversity. The district court found, instead, that both Aponte-Dávila and the defendants were domiciled in Puerto Rico and dismissed the case. We conclude otherwise, that Aponte-Dávila had not abandoned his Texas domicile while receiving medical care in Puerto Rico, and, that in any event, he had reinstated his Texas domicile before suit was filed. We reverse and remand.
On May 9, 2013, Aponte-Dávila filed a complaint in the Puerto Rico federal district court against the Municipality of Caguas ("Municipality"), Consolidated Waste Service Corporation ("ConWaste"), and MAPFRE/PRAICO, ConWaste's insurance provider. The issue in this case is where Aponte-Dávila was domiciled as of May 9, 2013.
The complaint alleged that on July 13, 2009, Aponte-Dávila was walking on a sidewalk in Caguas, Puerto Rico, when he slipped and fell while trying to pass a dumpster partially obstructing the sidewalk. As a result of the fall, Aponte-Dávila suffered a series of injuries and was permanently rendered partially disabled. Aponte-Dávila alleged that the Municipality and ConWaste, the owner of the dumpster, were negligent under Puerto Rico law for failing to move the dumpster from the sidewalk, and he sought damages for physical harm, mental and moral anguish, loss of earnings, and medical expenses. He asserted that MAPFRE/PRAICO, as ConWaste's insurer, was jointly and severally liable under Puerto Rico law.
In the complaint, Aponte-Dávila stated that because he was domiciled in Texas and each of the defendants was domiciled in Puerto Rico, the district court had diversity jurisdiction over his state-law tort claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
Each of the defendants filed an answer denying subject-matter jurisdiction. ConWaste and MAPFRE/PRAICO filed a third-party complaint against "Eddie Jiménez Cosmo d/b/a Cafeteria La Terraza de Eddie and/or Cafeteria La Terraza de Eddie" claiming that it was responsible for the waste deposited in the dumpster and for maintaining the area around the dumpster. Cross-claims between the defendants were also filed that are not relevant to this appeal. The district court held a status conference on November 25, 2014, at which the court's subject-matter jurisdiction was challenged. The parties suggested that "the issue may be ruled on without an evidentiary hearing, " and so "the Court ordered the parties to file simultaneous briefs and supporting documents on the issue."
On January 26, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). On the same day, Aponte-Dávila made a filing in support of diversity jurisdiction.1 On March 6, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to strike sixteen of the documents appended to Aponte-Dávila's filing. The motion to strike was denied on June 5, 2015.
The dispute between the parties boils down to whether on May 9, 2013, the date the complaint was filed, Aponte-Dávila was domiciled in Texas, creating complete diversity and affording the federal district court jurisdiction, or Puerto Rico, defeating complete diversity and depriving the federal district court of jurisdiction.
The facts relevant to Aponte-Dávila's domicile, which are largely undisputed, are as follows. Aponte-Dávila was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, in 1963. In the late 1980s, after service with the U.S. Army Reserve in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico National Guard, he moved to Florida to work as a professional truck driver. After a few years as a commercial dump truck driver in Florida, he moved back to Puerto Rico, bringing his dump truck with him.
In 1998, he moved to Arkansas and obtained an Arkansas commercial driver's license. From 1999 to 2004, he worked as an interstate truck driver based in Arkansas. In 1999, he purchased his first semi-trailer truck, a 1995 Freightliner Condo.
In 2004, Aponte-Dávila left his job in Arkansas, moved to Laredo, Texas, and began working for a trucking company called Landstar. While working for Landstar, he traded in his semitrailer truck for a 1999 Freightliner Condo.
Later that year, Aponte-Dávila left Landstar, returned his second semi-trailer truck, and relocated to Puerto Rico to help his father, who had fallen ill, with his asphalt business. In 2007, after his father's health improved, he returned to Texas to continue his truck driving career and purchased, with the help of a loan from First National Bank in Laredo, a third semi-trailer truck, a 2001 Freightliner Condo. From 2007 to 2010, Aponte-Dávila, based out of Laredo, worked for a trucking company called Land Carrier. He stated that because he was a truck driver, he would frequently stay in Laredo at a hotel, at the trucking company's terminal, or in a small utility apartment, and while on the road he often lived out of his truck. In 2008, he obtained a Texas Class "A" commercial driver's license.
On July 13, 2009, while in Puerto Rico to marry his second wife, María Teresa Báez, Aponte-Dávila suffered the injury giving rise to the instant lawsuit. He remained bedridden in Puerto Rico until he was able to return to Texas. After the accident, he obtained medical coverage through Puerto Rico's government health plan, then known as "Reforma." When applying for benefits, Aponte-Dávila provided Báez's address in Caguas, Puerto Rico. He explained that he gave Báez's address because that was where he was staying while recovering. He and Báez divorced two years later in September of 2011.
Aponte-Dávila returned to Texas in late 2009 after recuperating from his accident. The back pain caused by his accident prevented him from completing his truck routes with Land Carrier on schedule, so he eventually left Land Carrier and began working for another trucking company called Hotfoot Logistics, which had a terminal in Laredo. His time at Hotfoot Logistics was short lived; after three months, he found that his persistent back pain prevented him from continuing driving.
In September 2010, about a month after he left Hotfoot Logistics, and still based out of Laredo, he started working for Warren Transport. On a personnel form that Aponte-Dávila filled out for Warren Transport titled "Warren Transport wants to get to know you!!!" he wrote "Caguas, Puerto Rico" in the blank space following "I make my home in." He later explained that he had been directed by Warren Transport to do so. The form also asked him to provide the names of his family members as well as a list of interests and hobbies. During his deposition, Aponte-Dávila stated that a dispatcher had told him that the purpose of the form was to list the names of individuals who would be authorized to ride along with him in his truck and so he listed Caguas because that is where Báez, to whom he was still married at that point, lived. According to Aponte-Dávila, Warren Transport management already knew that he lived in Laredo. On other Warren Transport forms, he listed his address as a P.O. Box in Laredo.
For the tax years 2007 to 2012, Aponte-Dávila filed all of his federal tax returns using his Texas address. From 2000 to 2014, he never filed state personal income tax returns in Puerto Rico.
Starting in 2010, Aponte-Dávila began traveling back to Puerto Rico for longer visits to receive physical therapy, staying at Báez's residence in Caguas. In September 2011, he applied for and received a disability parking permit in Puerto Rico. In the application for the permit, he stated that his address was in Puerto Rico. In January 2012, he obtained a Puerto Rico driver's license, which also listed his address as being in Caguas. He explained that the address he provided was Báez's, even though by that point they had been divorced for several months.
On May 27, 2012, Aponte-Dávila suffered a bout of paralyzing back pain that left him immobile on the ground of a parking lot in Laredo. A week later, he resigned from Warren Transport, sold his truck, threw away everything he had in the truck including clothes and documents, and returned to Puerto Rico to recover at his parents' house in Canóvanas. In early 2013, he filed a Merchant's Registry Certificate with the Puerto Rico Department of Treasury, listing his address as being in Caguas. He also submitted an application to the Medicaid Program of the Puerto Rico Department of Health. In February 2013, his Texas commercial driver's license expired.
Aponte-Dávila returned to Laredo at the end of April 2013. He stayed with a friend and began looking for work as an interstate trucker. He also arranged to attend,...
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