United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO TRANSFER
[DKT. #S 7, 9, 11]
RONALD B. LEIGHTON, District Judge.
This Matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Triad Fisheries' Motion to Remand [Dkt. #9] and Defendant Keith Brady's Motion to Dismiss or Transfer [Dkt. #7].
Brady, a commercial fisherman in Alaska, agreed to catch and sell salmon and prawns to Triad, a Washington company. The catch was delivered to Triad's agents in Alaska, and transported to Washington, where Triad inspected and accepted it. Triad claims that Brady delivered damaged spot prawns and it sued for breach of contract in Clallam County Superior Court. Brady removed the case based on diversity jurisdiction, claiming that he is an Alaskan citizen. Triad's Motion to Remand claims Brady lives instead in Sequim, Washington, and that the parties are therefore not diverse.
Brady argues that not only is he not a Washington citizen, but that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over him. Even though he owns a home here, lives here temporarily, and conducts some business here, Brady claims that he does not have the required minimum contacts necessary for him to be fairly "haled into court" here. Brady seeks dismissal on this basis. Alternatively, he asks the Court to transfer the case to Alaska, where he claims the case belongs in any event.
Brady owns and lives on his fishing boat in Alaska during fishing season, and he lives in a home he owns there during the offseason. He pays Alaska taxes and votes as an Alaskan citizen, and has an Alaska driver's license. Brady's bank account is in Alaska, and he receives Alaska Permanent Fund dividends available exclusively to Alaska citizens. He plans to settle at his retirement home in Alaska. His family resides in Alaska and he has caretaking responsibilities there. He owns personal and real property in Alaska and his business is located in Alaska.
Brady also owns a home in Sequim, Washington, where he has a (360) cell phone number and he belongs to the Local Masons chapter. He admits to temporarily residing in Sequim for the purpose of ongoing cancer treatment. Triad inspected the prawns at issue at their Washington base and Brady has met with Triad in Washington to discuss the breach. Brady also receives paychecks and business documents at his Washington address.
Brady claims that despite his temporary presence in Washington, he is a citizen of Alaska-that he remains domiciled there-for diversity purposes. He also claims that this court does not have personal jurisdiction over him because his temporary presence in Washington is traceable only to his ongoing medical treatment, and his limited contacts are not sufficient for him to be sued here.
Triad argues that whatever his long term plans may be, Brady is currently a citizen of Washington. It argues the case should be remanded for lack of diversity jurisdiction. Triad also argues that even if Brady is not a Washington citizen, his presence here certainly makes it fair for this court to assert personal jurisdiction over him.
Finally, Brady argues that, even if this court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case and personal jurisdiction over him, the case should be transferred to Alaska: he claims the contract was made, performed, and allegedly breached there, and that the witnesses are located there. Triad disagrees, and emphasizes that its forum choice is entitled to deference. It asks the court to deny the Motion to Transfer.
A. Diversity Jurisdiction-Motion to Remand
To support removal based on diversity jurisdiction, a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating two points: (1) that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000; and (2) that complete diversity of citizenship exists between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Conrad Associates v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 994 F.Supp. 1196, 1198 (N.D. Cal. 1998) (the removing party has the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction). Citizenship means a person must both reside and be domiciled within the state. Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 828, 109 S.Ct. 2218, 104 L.Ed.2d 893 (1989). Domicile is the place where an individual resides with the intent to remain. Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001).
Brady has the burden of proving that he is an Alaska citizen-that he remains domiciled there, with the intent to remain there- in order to establish that this ...