Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs-homeowners Dylan O’Malley-Joyce and Eileen Nash appealed a superior court order granting the summary judgment motion filed by defendant Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company (the insurer), on their claims for damages and declaratory relief. The insured residence was damaged by two leaks — one in November 2017 and the other in early January 2018. The homeowners filed claims under the policy as to both leaks. Thereafter, the parties disagreed about the cost and scope of repairs. In November 2018, the insurer sought to settle the parties’ dispute by providing a contractor “who [was] willing and able to complete the work” and by “paying up to the replacement cost figures on the [contractor’s] estimates less the deductibles for each of the claims.” The policy’s appraisal provision provided, in pertinent part, that if the parties “fail to agree on the amount of loss, either may demand an appraisal of the loss.” Because the parties were unable to reach an agreement, the insurer demanded that they participate in the appraisal process set forth in the homeowners’ policy. In November 2019, the homeowners brought a two-claim complaint against the insurer. In one claim, the homeowners sought a declaratory judgment, and in the other, they sought damages for “breach of contract, bad faith, statutory violations.” Because, on appeal, the homeowners did not contest the grant of summary judgment on either their claim for declaratory judgment or their claim that the insurer violated certain statutes, the New Hampshire Supreme Court focused solely on their claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Because the homeowners filed neither an objection to the insurer’s summary judgment motion nor a motion to reconsider the trial court’s order, the Supreme Court determined they failed to preserve their appellate arguments for review. Nonetheless, the Court reviewed their arguments for plain error, and finding no plain error, the Court affirmed. View "O'Malley-Joyce v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant Juan Monegro-Diaz was charged with driving with a suspended license. The State appealed a circuit court order granting defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a warrantless seizure of defendant and his vehicle. The State argued the circuit court erred by ruling that the seizure violated Part I, Article 19 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court properly ruled that the officer who stopped defendant’s vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion that defendant was driving with a suspended license. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Monegro-Diaz" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Division of State Police (the Division) appealed a Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) order reversing the Division’s non-disciplinary removal of an employee pursuant to New Hampshire Administrative Rule, Per 1003.03, and ordering him reinstated subject to certain conditions. The Division argued the PAB: (1) erred by reversing the employee’s removal; and (2) exceeded its statutory authority by ordering the employee’s reinstatement subject to certain conditions. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the Division failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the PAB’s decision to reverse the employee’s removal was clearly unreasonable or unlawful. However, the PAB exceeded its statutory authority by imposing certain conditions upon the employee's reinstatement. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, and reversed in part. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Division of State Police" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ernesto Rivera appealed a superior court order denying his motion to vacate his 2020 resentencing on certain of his 2015 convictions. On appeal, he argued the trial court impermissibly “increased” certain of his sentences and that it erred by rejecting his claim that his counsel in the 2020 resentencing procedure was ineffective. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined defendant's due process rights were not violated and that the 2020 sentences were within the trial court’s sound discretion. However, the Court agreed with defendant that had defense counsel objected, and the 2015 sentences for the convictions from defendant’s second trial remained unchanged, the trial court properly could have considered those sentences when deciding whether the new sentences should have been consecutive or concurrent. The parties did not fully brief what showing of prejudice, if any, defendant had to make in this case beyond showing that the trial court should have sustained the objection, had it been made by defense counsel, to resentencing on the second trial convictions. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s ruling on the prejudice prong of the ineffective assistance of counsel test because it was premised upon the court’s erroneous ruling that had defense counsel objected to resentencing on the second trial convictions, the objection would have been properly overruled. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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Claimant Elba Hawes appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) determining that he was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Claimant was employed as a “ground man” for Asplundh Tree Expert, LLC. In November 2019, claimant and his fellow workers were working at a job site that was approximately 10-15 minutes away from a sandpit in Conway, where they punched in and punched out. On November 1, claimant reported to work for his regular 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. shift, punched in, left his personal vehicle at the sandpit, and traveled with his coworkers to the job site in company trucks. Because of an impending storm, the employer told its workers to stop work at noon, punch out, and go home and rest for the afternoon so they could return to the sandpit at 8:00 p.m. for storm cleanup activities through the night. It was not uncommon for the work schedule to change because of weather. As instructed, claimant left the job site with his coworkers, returned to the sandpit, and punched out at noon. Soon after driving away from the sandpit in his personal vehicle, the claimant was severely injured in a vehicular accident that was not his fault. Because of his accident-related injuries, the claimant was disabled from work from November 1, 2019, through February 9, 2020. The employer’s insurance carrier denied benefits on the ground that claimant’s injuries were not causally related to his employment. At claimant’s request, the matter was heard by a New Hampshire Department of Labor hearing officer, who ruled in the carrier’s favor. Claimant argued his injuries were compensable under the “special errand” exception to the coming and going rule. To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred: although it was not uncommon for the work schedule to change because of weather, the claimant’s trip home at noon was not part of his regular schedule. The claimant would not have left work at noon but for the employer’s direction to do so. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Hawes" on Justia Law

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Defendant Robert Leroux was convicted after a bench trial on one misdemeanor count of driving while his license was suspended as a result of a prior driving while intoxicated conviction. He argued that the circuit court erred by: (1) denying his motion to dismiss based upon the insufficiency of the allegations in the complaint; and (2) allowing the State to introduce certified Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records for the purpose of establishing his prior DWI conviction. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, even if the circuit court committed plain error by denying defendant’s motion to dismiss, defendant did not demonstrate that the error was prejudicial. Furthermore, defendant failed to preserve his argument that the court erred by admitting the certified DMV records as evidence of his prior DWI conviction. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Leroux" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Theresa Norelli, Christine Fajardo, Matt Gerding, and Palana Hunt-Hawkins, filed a complaint against the New Hampshire Secretary of State to challenge the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s current congressional districts. Plaintiffs contended the districts were rendered unconstitutionally malapportioned due to population shifts reported by the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 census. This case presented two preliminary questions for the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s review: (1) whether the current statute establishing a district plan for New Hampshire’s two congressional districts violated Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution; and (2) if so, whether the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan if the legislature failed to do so “according to federal constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so.” The Supreme Court answered the first question in the affirmative. In answering the second question, it determined that, upon a demonstrated legislative impasse, the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan and, in doing so, it would apply the “least change” approach. View "Norelli, et al. v. New Hampshire Sec'y of State" on Justia Law

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Petitioner State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, Inc. SEIU, Local 1984 (SEA), and intervenors New Hampshire Troopers Association, New Hampshire Troopers Association-Command Staff, New Hampshire Probation and Parole Officers Association, and New Hampshire Probation and Parole-Command Staff Association, appealed a Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) order denying petitioner’s request for declaratory relief. They argued the PELRB erred by ruling that the state legislature’s vote accepting a fact-finder’s report and recommendations pursuant to RSA 273-A:12, III (2010) was not binding upon respondent State of New Hampshire. In 2018, the unions and the State began negotiating the terms of a multi-year collective bargaining agreement. After the negotiations reached an impasse, the parties proceeded to impasse resolution procedures and engaged a neutral fact finder to assist them with resolving their disputes. The unions accepted the fact-finder’s report, but the Governor did not. In addition, the Governor declined to submit the report to the Executive Council for its consideration. The parties treated the Governor’s actions as a rejection of the report pursuant to RSA 273-A:12, II; from there the matter was submitted to the legislature. The legislature voted to adopt the fact-finder’s report. The unions took the position that the legislature’s vote was binding upon the State with respect to the cost items set forth in the report. The State took the opposite position, asserting that the legislature’s vote was merely advisory and did not result in a binding agreement between the parties. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the legislature’s vote was advisory and did not bind the State. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Troopers Association et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner David Apostoloff appealed a circuit court order dismissing his petition to validate a purported amendment to the Omega Trust. He contended the court erred in dismissing his petition by finding the grantor did not substantially comply with the terms of the trust regarding amendments, and that there was not clear and convincing evidence that the grantor intended to amend his trust. Taking all of the facts alleged in the petition as true, and applying them against the applicable law, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the allegations constituted a basis for legal relief. Thus, petitioner has sufficiently pled his case to survive a motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the circuit court’s order was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "In re The Omega Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Debbie Banaian appealed a superior court order granting motions to dismiss filed by defendants Aaron Bliss, Shannon Bossidy, Bryan Gagnon, Jacob D. MacDuffie, and Katie Moulton. The sole issue on appeal was whether defendants, who retweeted a defamatory tweet initiated by another individual, were “users” within the meaning of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) (2018) (CDA), and therefore entitled to immunity from plaintiff’s claims for defamation and reckless infliction of emotional distress. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the retweeter defendants were “user[s] of an interactive computer service” under section 230(c)(1) of the CDA, and thus plaintiff’s claims against them were barred. Accordingly, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s granting of the motions to dismiss because the facts pled in the plaintiff’s complaint did not constitute a basis for legal relief. View "Banaian v. Bascom et al." on Justia Law