BENTON — The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois has granted a man’s petition to remand his case to the St. Clair County Circuit Court, rejecting diversity arguments by a doctor accused of having an affair with the man’s wife.
Judge Staci M. Yandle wrote in the order that the “Defendant has not presented adequate proof of Plaintiff’s intention to transfer his domicile from Missouri to Illinois.” The defendant claims that the case should not be removed to the St. Clair County court because the plaintiff, Frederick Peet, filed taxes in 2017 showing he is a resident of Illinois, meaning he is not a Missouri resident as he previously claimed.
Frederick Peet filed a complaint against Christopher Green alleging that Green “pursued and seduced” his wife, Rita Peet. Frederick Peet claims his wife was a medical technologist when she met Green at a hospital where he practiced and began the affair in 2015. Frederick Peet claims he found out about the affair from Green’s wife in 2017. He is seeking actual damages due to the loss of his wife’s income, $85,000 per year, and filed the suit under the now-abolished alienation of affection Illinois statute. He said in his complaint that he “maintained a marital residence” during this time in Illinois. He has other homes in Missouri, according to information in the ruling.
Green filed to remove the case to the Southern District of Illinois, claiming “complete diversity between the parties exists” because Green resides in Missouri, and Peet is a resident of Illinois. Green states that removal to a federal court is proper if diversity exists “and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00.”
Green in his filing pointed out that Frederick Peet himself was the subject of a lawsuit in 2015, and that a judge found that Peet was a resident of Missouri, according to the ruling. In that case, Peet attempted to remove the case for diversity, claiming he was a resident of Illinois.
Green argued that Peet filed taxes stating he is a resident of Illinois, but Yandle wrote that in determining diversity, “the focus is on the 'center of gravity' for that party’s lifestyle.”
Peet has a Missouri driver's license and two homes in Missouri, one of which is his current residence. Yandle agreed with Green that the previous court ruling where Peet was found to be a Missouri resident by a judge in Illinois was not a binding decision, “asserting a change in domicile requires proof of both a physical presence at the new location and an intention to remain there indefinitely.”
Yandle noted that “there may be some 'shady business' involved in Plaintiff’s statements about residency for tax purposes … But that does not settle the issue for diversity jurisdiction for this Court.”
Yandle issued the order to close the case with the Southern District of Illinois and remand it to the St. Clair County court in Belleville.