United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
JANA M. BROWN PLAINTIFF
FREDERICK TAPPAN AND JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-10 DEFENDANTS
P. JORDAN III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
removed case is before the Court on Plaintiff Jana M.
Brown's Motion to Remand . Having fully considered
the parties' memoranda and submissions, along with the
pertinent authorities, the Court finds that diversity
jurisdiction exists, so Brown's motion should be denied.
Facts and Procedural History
case stems from a September 2015 car accident involving
Brown, a resident citizen of Mississippi, and Defendant
Frederick Tappan, a college student residing in Mississippi.
Pl.'s Compl. [1-1]. In response to the accident, Brown
filed suit in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi,
on February 23, 2016. Notice of Removal  ¶ 1. On July
11, 2016, Tappan removed the case to this Court based on
diversity jurisdiction, and the parties thereafter conducted
jurisdictional discovery. When that discovery concluded,
Brown moved to remand, acknowledging that the Notice of
Removal was timely filed but arguing that Tappan is a
non-diverse Mississippi citizen. Pl.'s Mot.  at 1;
Pl.'s Mem.  at 2. Tappan responded that he is a
Tennessee citizen , and Brown replied . The Court,
having considered the parties' arguments and relevant
authority, is now prepared to rule.
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in
a State court of which the district courts of the United
States have original jurisdiction may be removed by the
defendant” to federal district court. Tappan argues
that removal to this Court is proper under 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1), which grants the district courts original
jurisdiction over civil actions between “citizens of
different States” in which “the matter in
controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000.” The
parties here do not contest the amount-in-controversy
requirement, thus the sole question is whether complete
diversity of citizenship exists.
the outset, there is a presumption against a federal court
having jurisdiction. Coury v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 248
(5th Cir. 1996). The party invoking federal jurisdiction must
rebut that presumption. Id. Likewise, if
“diversity jurisdiction is properly challenged, that
party also bears the burden of proof.” Mas v.
Perry, 489 F.2d 1396, 1399 (5th Cir. 1974) (citations
omitted). Because Tappan invoked this Court's
jurisdiction, he now must establish it by a preponderance of
the evidence. Preston v. Tenet Healthsystem Mem'l
Med. Ctr., Inc., 485 F.3d 804, 814 (5th Cir. 2007). In
determining whether Tappan has met that burden, the Court
“may look to any record evidence, and may receive
affidavits, deposition testimony or live testimony concerning
the facts underlying the citizenship of the parties.”
Coury, 85 F.3d at 249.
issue is whether Tappan, a college student over the age of
21, is a non-diverse citizen of Mississippi or a diverse
citizen of Tennessee. For purposes of the complete-diversity
requirement, citizenship means domicile. Mas, 489
F.2d at 1399. A person acquires a “domicile of
origin” at birth. Acridge v. Evangelican Lutheran
Good Samaritan Soc'y, 334 F.3d 444, 448 (5th Cir.
2003). That “domicile of origin” continues unless
there is sufficient evidence of a change. Id. A
party establishes such a change by showing (1)
“physical presence at the new location” and (2)
“an intention to remain there indefinitely.”
Coury, 85 F.3d at 250.
there is no dispute that Tappan was born in Tennessee, so
Tennessee is his domicile of origin. But he and his parents
moved to Mississippi in 2010, and he has remained in this
state since then to attend school. Given his presence in this
state, the question is whether his domicile changed from his
domicile of origin-Tennessee-at any time before this suit was
answer that question, the Court looks first to the domicile
of Tappan's parents. Tappan was a minor when he and his
parents moved to Mississippi. “Since most minors are
legally incapable of forming the requisite intent to
establish a domicile, their domicile is determined by that of
their parents.” Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians v.
Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 48 (1989). So if Tappan's
parents changed their domicile from Tennessee to Mississippi
before Tappan turned 21, Tappan's domicile likewise
is no dispute that Tappan's parents moved to Mississippi
at one point, so the question is whether they intended to
remain in Mississippi indefinitely. Coury, 85 F.3d
at 250. When determining intent to remain, courts consider
several factors, no single one being determinative.
Id. at 251. Factors include the “places where
the litigant exercises civil and political rights, pays
taxes, owns real and personal property, has driver's and
other licenses, maintains bank accounts, belongs to clubs and
churches, has places of business or employment, and maintains
a home for his family.” Id. Courts determine
domicile in light of these objective facts; if a
litigant's statement of intent conflicts with them, that
statement-though relevant-is entitled to little weight.
standard, the Court finds that Tappan's parents remained
Tennessee citizens. To begin with, they lived in Memphis,
Tennessee, at least from the time Tappan was born in 1994
through his tenth-grade year in high school. Tappan Dep.
[18-1] at 7, 12. But after the tenth grade, Tappan had a spat
with his football coach and wanted to transfer. Id.
at 12. Had he transferred to a school within 20 miles, he
would have lost a year of athletic eligibility, so in 2010,
he and his family moved to a house in Southaven, Mississippi,
that they had previously purchased as an investment property.
Id. at 8, 12, 41. Despite this move, the family
retained their Tennessee home, id. at 7, and
maintained contacts in Tennessee. For example, Tappan's
sister remained in a Memphis school, id. at 36, and
it appears that Tappan's father pastored a church in
Memphis, see Def.'s Resp.  at 2, 4. Once
Tappan completed high school two years later, his parents
returned to their Tennessee home, where they still reside
with Tappan's sister, great grandfather, and grandmother.
Tappan Dep. [18-1] at 7, 20. No one currently resides at the
Southaven address, id. at 8, and Tappan's
parents do not stay there, id. at 9. Finally,
Tappan's father owns the vehicle Tappan was driving at
the time of the accident; the vehicle is titled in Memphis
and has a Tennessee license plate. Id. at 33-34.
these facts, Brown notes that Tappan's parents obtained a
homestead exemption on the Mississippi residence, but this
fact is not alone determinative. See Wolf Network, LLC v.
AML Diagnostics, Inc., No. 3:15-CV-3797-B, 2016 WL
1242628, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 30, 2016) (“Even if
Wilson did take a homestead exemption for the Texas property,
this alone is not enough to outweigh the evidence suggesting
he is a Florida citizen.”) (citing Cox, Cox, Filo,
Camel & Wilson, LLC v. Sasol N. Am., Inc., No.
2:11-CV-0856, 2012 WL 262613, at *4-5 (W.D. La. Jan. 30,
2012), aff'd, 2012 WL ...