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GROFF v. SOUTHLAND CORP.

February 25, 1997

WILLIAM B. GROFF, JR., Administrator of the Estate of Gretchen C. Groff, Plaintiff
v.
SOUTHLAND CORPORATION, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CALDWELL

 I. Introduction.

 Gretchen C. Groff was murdered by Clayton Faxon while he and his accomplice, Jeremiah Reynolds, were robbing the convenience store where she worked. The store was owned and operated by Southland Corporation, her employer.

 Groff's husband, William B. Groff, Jr., as administrator of her estate and on his own behalf, brought a wrongful death and survival action against Southland, alleging that the defendant was negligent in failing to provide her with a safe place to work. He also alleged that Faxon killed his wife "due to reasons which were personal to Faxon and were not directed against Gretchen C. Groff as an employee of the Defendant or because of her employment with Defendant." (Complaint, P 8). The suit was filed in state court, but the defendant invoked our diversity jurisdiction and removed it here.

 The parties undertook discovery, and we are considering the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The motion argues that the plaintiff's exclusive remedy against his wife's employer is under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. See 77 P.S. ยง 1 et seq. (Purdon & Purdon Supp. 1996-97) . Hence, he cannot bring this action against Southland. The motion also argues that, contrary to the allegations of the complaint, Faxon did not kill Gretchen Groff for personal reasons, and the plaintiff therefore cannot rely on an exception to an employer's immunity from common-law suit in the Act for injuries motivated by personal animus.

 We will evaluate the motion under the well established standard. See Davis v. Portline Transportes Maritime Internacional, 16 F.3d 532, 536 n.3 (3d Cir. 1994).

 II. Background.

 At the time of her murder, Gretchen C. Groff was employed and on duty as a clerk by Southland Corporation at High's Dairy Store in Blue Ridge Summit, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At about 3:00 a.m. on the morning of December 20, 1994, Faxon and Reynolds entered the store and committed the robbery. Following that act, while Reynolds was outside preparing to steal Mrs. Groff's car, Faxon shot her in the head as he was leaving the store.

 According to Reynolds, as they were walking to the store to commit the robbery, Faxon said that they should kill whomever was on duty. Reynolds responded that they should take the clerk or clerks hostage and release them when they had gotten down the road. Faxon countered that he would tie the persons up and lock them in the back room. Ultimately, it appears they decided that, when they got there, Faxon would handle the situation as he saw fit. (Reynolds deposition at 30-32).

 Faxon made the following comments after the shooting. As they were driving away, he yelled out, "See you in hell, b h." (Id. at 69). He twice remarked, "I blew that f --g b h's head off." (Id. at 68). Faxon also laughingly said that the color of an Hawaiian Punch he had taken during the robbery looked like Gretchen Groff's blood as it was running out of her head. (Id. at 69).

 At his deposition, Reynolds could not recall if Faxon told him after the shooting that Faxon hated Gretchen Groff, (id. at 68), or whether Faxon had ever had any contact with Groff before the shooting. (Id. at 63). To jog his memory, he was shown an undated document, marked as Reynolds exhibit 2, apparently signed by him at the time of his criminal sentencing, which happened an unspecified period of time before the deposition. He could not remember signing it. (Id. at 62-63). In part, the document read:

 
I know that Clayton Faxon had contact with Gretchen Groff before the shooting. The night of the shooting, Faxon told me that there was only one person on duty at the store and that it was a woman. . . .
 
. . . .
 
When he left the store and entered the Groff car that I was driving, I asked Faxon what happened. He said, "I blew the f --g b h's head off." When I asked him why did he kill her, he told me that he hated her because she had, on a previous occasion, kicked him out of the store for stealing cigarettes. He said "The stupid b h kicked me out." When we were driving away from the High's ...

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