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Case vacated over jurisdictional questions

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded a case to an Indiana District Court to determine whether the plaintiffs in a suit have citizenship in Indiana or Arizona.

In Charles A. Craig and Barbara J. Craig v. Ontario Corp., Nos. 06-4409, 08-1013, Ontario Corp. challenged Charles and Barbara Craig's claims they were Arizona citizens so federal court is the appropriate venue for their lawsuit against an Indiana company.

Charles worked for Ontario and offered to sell his shares of the company back when he retired. Instead of receiving cash, he received three promissory notes from Ontario. Later, the Craigs sued in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division after Ontario sent a notice of default on the notes.

The District Court entered judgment for the Craigs on their suit in No. 06-4409 and denied Ontario's motion for relief from judgment. Ontario filed a second appeal after the District Court declined to hear the company's motion for relief from judgment while the original case was on appeal to the 7th Circuit. Ontario discovered evidence the Craigs may actually be citizens of Indiana, not Arizona, so the federal court wouldn't have jurisdiction to hear their suit. The District Court held it had no jurisdiction to rule on the motion, conduct a hearing, or to review new filings while the original case was on appeal.

The 7th Circuit vacated the original ruling by the District Court because it was mistaken to believe it lost authority to explore the facts relating to subject-matter jurisdiction, wrote Judge Diane Wood.

The appellate court also reversed the District Court's order denying the Rule 60(b)(4) motion by Ontario in case No. 08-1013 and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on subject matter jurisdiction. Ontario collected evidence showing the Craigs purchased an Indiana property right before filing their complaint and sold another property in Indiana after they filed the complaint. Barbara voted in Indiana after the suit was filed, which is allowed only if one is a resident of the precinct for at least 30 days. These and other facts called into question the Craigs' citizenship and they must prove otherwise in order to retain their suit in federal court, wrote the judge.

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