Court Discusses Domicile of Stateless Defendants in Car Accident Case in Florida

Some car accidents that occur in Florida involve out of state parties. While a plaintiff has the right to choose where to file a lawsuit, a defendant can remove a state court case to federal court in lawsuits between parties of different states, even if a plaintiff objects. A plaintiff whose case has been removed is not necessarily without recourse, however, as there are avenues for remanding a matter back to a state court. Recently, in a lawsuit arising out of a car accident, a Florida federal court issued an opinion explaining when remanding a case is appropriate. If you were hurt in a car accident involving a driver from another state, you should consult a knowledgeable Florida car accident attorney to assess your options for seeking compensation.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff suffered harm in a car accident with the defendant driver, who was employed by the defendant company. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging negligence claims against the defendant driver and vicarious liability claims against the defendant company. The plaintiff was unable to serve the defendant driver with the complaint, and it was ultimately revealed that she was permanently domiciled in Japan. The defendant company removed the case to federal court, and the parties litigated the case without the defendant driver.

Allegedly, mediation was conducted between the defendant company and the plaintiff. Upon realizing the defendant driver had not been served or participated in litigation, the court entered a rule to show cause why she should not be dismissed from the case. The plaintiff filed a motion to remand in response, arguing the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.

Diversity Jurisdiction in Cases Involving Stateless Parties

If a case is removed to federal court based on diversity, there must be complete diversity between the parties, and the damages alleged must exceed $75,000. For purposes of diversity, parties are citizens of the state in which they are domiciled. A person who is not domiciled in any state, however, is a stateless party, and a stateless defendant will destroy complete diversity for the purposes of jurisdiction.

The law allows district courts to dismiss non-diverse dispensable parties at any time, though, and a federal court should disregard any formal or nominal parties and determine jurisdiction solely on the actual parties in the case. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant driver was a stateless party as she permanently resided in Japan. Thus, the court turned to the analysis of whether she was a nominal party and could be dismissed. The court ultimately determined that she was not, as she could be held solely liable for the plaintiff’s damages. Thus, the court remanded the case to the state court.

Speak to a Capable Florida Attorney

Filing a lawsuit in the appropriate court against the proper parties is essential to recovering damages, and if you were injured in a car accident, you should speak to an attorney regarding what steps you should take to protect your rights. Jarrett Blakeley is a capable Florida car accident attorney with ample experience litigating cases in the federal and state courts and he will gather the facts and evidence needed to help you pursue a just outcome. You can contact Mr. Blakeley via the online form or at (800) 602-5000 to schedule a meeting.

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