Deer Hunt Widow Brings Case Back to State Court

     (CN) – A man whose illegal hunting party mistook a father of two for a deer and fatally shot him must face wrongful-death claims in state court, a federal judge ruled.
     Barry Roy Groh had been hunting on Nov. 29, 2010, in Bucks County, Pa., when David Manilla mistook him for a deer and shot him down with his rifle.
     Manilla had allegedly been hunting on his own nearby property along with his uncle, Michael Marino, and a third man, Robert Monestero.
     The shooter ultimately pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and Groh’s widow filed several separate actions in state court against the allegedly involved parties.
     She claimed that Manilla was not even allowed to own or use a firearm because of a prior conviction for aggravated assault. As Manilla’s attorney in that criminal case, Marino allegedly knew his nephew should not have been hunting.
     The widowed Mrs. Groh also said that the trio’s hunt was illegal because they were using rifles in a shotgun-only hunting zone. Furthermore, it was allegedly illegal for the trio to hunt while riding on Manilla’s all-terrain vehicle.
     Her lawsuits also include a claim against Manilla’s mother and sister, Honor and Vivian Manilla, whom she accuses of conspiring to dissipate their family member’s assets with fraudulent transfers.
     Mrs. Groh is also suing Allstate Insurance and Barbara Fletcher, David’s paramour. The actions against Manilla, Marino and Fletcher were consolidated in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 13, 2012.
     Groh later sued Monestero for trespass, but he removed the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and then moved to dismiss.
     U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson remanded the case last week finding that the possibility of joinder in the other state-court action removes federal jurisdiction.
     The judge noted that Groh’s “guiding objective appears to be to pursue a single action against all parties potentially responsible for her husband’s death in one forum.”
     He also found that she would “unquestionably” be injured if remand is denied.
     “Without remand, plaintiff will be forced to pursue two lawsuits in two separate court systems, even though they both center on the same set of facts and circumstances – the hunting accident of Nov. 29, 2010,” according to the ruling.
     Monestero failed to convince the court that Groh should have filed a motion for joinder.
     “Plaintiff’s remand motion is centered on arguments about joinder: plaintiff explains her goal is to consolidate the lawsuit against Monestero with related state-court actions against other defendants, but that joinder of those defendants in this court would be impossible,” Baylson wrote.
     Furthermore, despite the ripeness of the consolidated action, the extension of discovery in that case to Aug. 1 removes any prejudice against Monestero.

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