Plaintiff attorney sued the defendant former client for unpaid legal fees. In the trial court, the plaintiff obtained a default judgment. Defendant made a motion to vacate the judgment based on improper service and lost. Defendant appealed, arguing alternatively that there was no diversity jurisdiction because he was a U.S. citizen domiciled in India. Defendant also argued the plaintiff is estopped from arguing the defendant was domiciled in any place other than India, because plaintiff previously alleged the defendant resided in India.
The court first found there was no estoppel. The court also found that if the defendant was domiciled in the United States when the complaint was filed, the defect in service of process would not be sufficient to vacate the default judgment. The court then remanded to determine the defendant's domicile at the time of the filing.
Here's a common lesson that's easy to forget--there is no diversity jurisdiction over a U.S. citizen residing abroad! Also, actual facts matter, rather than mere allegations, when it comes to jurisdiction and domicile.
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