Estate of Thomas v. Wakefern Food Corp.
A decedent's estate takes on the domicile or citizenship of the decedent. In August 2012, the plaintiff's decedent, Edwin Thomas, was traveling in an Acura driven by defendant Jennifer Edwards when Edwards allegedly drove the Acura into the defendants' tractor trailer, which had been parked on Route 25 North without any warning cones or flares. Thomas and Edwards passed away. The administratrix of Thomas' estate, who resides in Bridgeport, Conn., sued the defendants for wrongful death in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §52-555. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the defendant truck driver resides in New Jersey and that defendants Wakefern Food Corp. and Costamar Leasing are New Jersey corporations with principal places of business in New Jersey. Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity of citizenship between the plaintiff and each defendant. Citizenship is decided by domicile, which is the place to which an individual intends to return, when absent. When ruling on whether diversity jurisdiction exists, a court must know the location of each litigant's domicile and not merely the litigants' residences. Consequently, allegations of residency alone are insufficient to establish citizenship. The plaintiff's allegation that the defendant truck driver resides in New Jersey is insufficient to indicate his domicile. The plaintiff's complaint failed to allege the location of the domicile of the plaintiff's decedent at the time that he passed away. A decedent's estate takes on the domicile or citizenship of the decedent. The possibility exists that if Thomas and Edwards were both domiciled in Connecticut, before they passed away, the District Court may not possess diversity jurisdiction. The court ordered the plaintiff administratrix to submit additional evidence of citizenship, on or before Jan. 25, 2013.