United States District Court, D. Connecticut
HOMESITE INSURANCE COMPANY, a/s/o Margaret Lofrumento, and MARGARET LOFRUMENTO, individually, Plaintiffs,
TRIANGLE TUBE/PHASE III CO. INC., Defendant.
ORDER RE: SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. Senior United States District Judge
Homesite Insurance Company and its insured, Margaret
Lofrumento, (collectively "Plaintiffs") bring this
action against Triangle Tube/Phase III Co., Inc.
("Triangle Tube"), a corporation engaged in the
manufacture and supply of water heaters. Specifically,
Plaintiffs seek damages arising from "a significant
water loss" from a tank manufactured by Triangle Tube,
which occurred at Lofrumento's property in Brookfield,
Connecticut, on November 19, 2014. Doc. 1
("Complaint"), ¶ 8. That water loss was
allegedly caused "by the failure of the 35 gallon
Triangle Tube water tank" due to corrosion after the
tank had been "in service for less than three years,
" which was "within the warranty and useful life
period for this water heater." Id., ¶ 9.
to the terms and conditions of an insurance contract Homesite
had issued to Lofrumento, Homesite made payments to
Lofrumento in excess of $132, 406.32 for the water damage to
the Brookfield property. Id., ¶ 10. In addition to
the payments made by Homesite, Lofrumento incurred $79,
721.66 in damages and costs to repair her property.
thereafter filed this action, seeking to recover their
damages resulting from the failure of the Triangle Tube water
tank under Connecticut's product liability statute, Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 52-572m, et seq., asserting that
the "water tank was in a defective and unreasonably
dangerous condition." Doc. 1, ¶ 14(a). In support
of that claim, Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that
the tank was designed and manufactured in a condition which
subjected Lofrumento to "an unreasonable risk of
harm;" and the tank was "not merchantable" or
fit for its intended and foreseeable use. Id.,
¶¶ 14 (b)-(c).
Complaint, Plaintiffs' stated basis for subject matter
jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). In particular, Plaintiffs allege that this action is
"between citizens of different states and the amount in
controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum
of $75, 000." See Doc. 1, ¶ 4. However, as
set forth infra, Plaintiffs have failed to plead
sufficient facts regarding citizenship to establish diversity
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
to Article III of the Constitution, a federal court has
limited jurisdiction. Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch.
Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541(1986) (citing Marbury v.
Madison, 1 Cranch (5 U.S.) 137, 173-80 (1803)). In
general, it may only exercise subject matter jurisdiction if
either: (1) the plaintiff sets forth a colorable claim
arising under the Constitution or federal statute, creating
"federal question" jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §
1331; or (2) there is complete diversity of citizenship
between plaintiff and all defendants and the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Strawbridge v.
Curtiss, 3 Cranch 267, 1806 WL 1213, at *1 (February
Term 1806). See also Da Silva v. Kinsho Int'l
Corp., 229 F.3d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 2000) (delineating two
categories of subject matter jurisdiction).
incumbent on a federal court to determine with certainty
whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over a case
pending before it. If necessary, the court must consider its
subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. Joseph
v. Leavitt, 465 F.3d 87, 89 (2d Cir.2006)
("Although neither party has suggested that we lack
appellate jurisdiction, we have an independent obligation to
consider the presence or absence of subject matter
jurisdiction sua sponte."), cert.
denied, 549 U.S. 1282 (2007); see also Univ. of
South Alabama v. American Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410
(11th Cir. 1999) ("a federal court is obligated to
inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte
whenever it may be lacking"); Licari v. Nutmeg Ins.
Adjusters, Inc., No. 3:08mc245(WIG), 2008 WL 3891734, at
* 1 (D. Conn. July 31, 2008) ("This Court has a duty to
review a plaintiff's complaint at the earliest
opportunity to determine whether this Court has subject
matter jurisdiction.") (citing Transatlantic Marine
Claims Agency, Inc. v. Ace Shipping Corp., 109 F.3d 105,
107 (2d Cir. 1997) for its holding that a district court may
raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction sua
personal jurisdiction, "subject matter jurisdiction is
not waivable and may be raised at any time by a party or by
the court sua sponte." Lyndonville Sav.
Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700 (2d
Cir. 2000). If subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, the
action must be dismissed. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(h)(3); Lyndonville Sav. Bank & Trust Co., 211
F.3d at 700-01. See also, e.g., Cortlandt St. Recovery
Corp. v. Hellas Telecomms., S.À.R.L., 790 F.3d
411, 416-17 (2d Cir. 2015) ("A district court properly
dismisses an action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction if the court 'lacks the
statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate
it'") (citing Makarova v. United States,
201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir.2000)); Manway Constr. Co. v.
Housing Auth. of Hartford, 711 F.2d 501, 503 (2d Cir.
1983) ("It is common ground that in our federal system
of limited jurisdiction any party or the court sua
sponte, at any stage of the proceedings, may raise the
question of whether the court has subject matter
jurisdiction; and, if it does not, dismissal is
mandatory."); Transatlantic Marine Claims Agency,
Inc. v. Ace Shipping Corp., Div. of Ace Young Inc., 109
F.3d 105, 108 (2d Cir. 1997) ("Whenever it appears by
suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks
jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss
the action.") (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3));
Lovejoy v. Watson, 475 F.App'x 792, 792 (2d Cir.
2012) ("Where jurisdiction is lacking . . . dismissal is
mandatory.") (quoting United Food & Commercial
Workers Union, Local 919, AFL-CIO v. CenterMark Props.
Meriden Square, Inc., 30 F.3d 298, 301 (2d Cir.1994)).
case at bar, given the fact that Plaintiffs have included
solely a state law claim in their Complaint, there is no
arguable basis upon which the Court may assert "federal
question" subject matter jurisdiction over this action,
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiffs have, however, alleged that
diversity of citizenship exists as a jurisdictional basis, 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). In order for diversity of citizenship to
exist, Plaintiffs' citizenship must be diverse from that
of Defendant Triangle Tube. See, e.g., St. Paul
Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Universal Builders Supply,
409 F.3d 73, 80 (2d Cir. 2005) ("Diversity is not
complete if any plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as
any defendant.") (citing Owen Equip. & Erection
Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373-74 (1978)) . Moreover,
"diversity must exist at the time the action is
commenced." Universal Licensing Corp. v. Lungo,
293 F.3d 579, 581 (2d Cir. 2002). See also Wolde-Meskel
v. Vocational Instruction Project Cmty. Servs., Inc.,
166 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir.1999) ("Satisfaction of the
§ 1332(a) diversity requirements (amount in controversy
and citizenship) is determined as of the date that suit is
filed - the 'time-of-filing' rule.").
Citizenship of Corporate Parties
Homesite and Defendant Triangle Tube are both corporations.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 1332(c)(1), "a corporation
shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has
been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal
place of business." The Plaintiffs have adequately pled
the citizenship of the two corporate parties. In particular,
Plaintiffs have stated that Homesite is "a Connecticut
company with its principle [sic] place of business located in
Massachusetts;" and defendant Triangle Tube "is a
corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of . .
. New Jersey with a principal place of business at 1 Triangle
Lane, Blackwood[, ] New Jersey." Doc. 1, ¶¶ 1,
3. Under those ...