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Legal Memorandum: Applicability of Deemer Clause

Issue: What are the potential bases for avoiding application of the deemer clause in the federal diversity statutes in Pennsylvania federal district courts?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Diversity of citizenship; Deemer clause
Jurisdiction: Federal, Pennsylvania
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(2), § 1332(a)(1); 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8302
Date: 05/01/2010

The relevant statute provides in full:

The legal representative of the estate of a decedent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the decedent, and the legal representative of an infant or incompetent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the infant or incompetent.

 

28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(2).  Because federal subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship requires that plaintiffs and defendants be citizens of different states, subject matter jurisdiction may be lacking if this provision applies when the defendants are citizens of Pennsylvania and the decedent was also a resident of Pennsylvania. See id. § 1332(a)(1).         

No authority was found holding that the deemer clause was inapplicable under the dual-capacity scenario, nor was any authority found even addressing the issue directly.   This is likely true for several reasons.  First, the provision at issue, § 1332(c)(2), is of relatively recent vintage, adopted in 1988 and, thus, there is not an abundance of cases discussing the provision at all.  See Brumfield v. Farley, 243 F. Supp. 2d 574, 575 (S.D. W.Va. 2002).    

Second, and more significant, the general rule of “complete diversity” has long been established that holds that in cases involving multiple parties and multiple claims, each and every plaintiff must have citizenship that is different from each and every defendant. Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996).  Where only one plaintiff has only one claim against […]

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