Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire (MBNH) appealed several superior court orders: (1) a decision upholding the denial by defendant Town of Effingham (Town), of MBNH’s request for a charitable tax exemption, for tax year 2015, for real property; and (2) an order granting the Town’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of the tax treatment of New Hampshire youth camps other than the camp run by MBNH. When Camp Marist was not in session, MBNH rented the Property subject to this appeal: no restrictions were placed on who is eligible to rent, or how renters use, the Property. Rental proceeds were allocated to either the “regular Camp fund, the running of the Camp, or . . . to some of [MBNH’s] scholarships.” MBNH argues that the trial court erred in determining that it met none of the "ElderTrust" factors. After careful consideration, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded MBNH did satisfy all ElderTrust factors, reversing the trial court. View "The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire v. Town of Effingham" on Justia Law

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The Circuit Court transferred to the New Hampshire Supreme Court without ruling on a question of whether RSA 564-B:1-112 (Supp. 2017) (amended 2018), which addressed rules of construction for trusts, incorporated the pretermitted heir statute, RSA 551:10 (2007), as a rule of construction applicable to trusts. The Supreme Court accepted the transfer, and answered the question in the negative. View "In re Teresa E. Craig Living Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Rochester City Council appealed a superior court order affirming defendant City of Rochester Zoning Board of Adjustment’s grant of a variance to defendants Donald and Bonnie Toy. On appeal, the Council argued the trial court: (1) erred in affirming the ZBA’s decision to grant a variance to the Toys; and (2) unsustainably exercised its discretion in denying the plaintiff’s motions to expand the record. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rochester City Council v. Rochester Zoning Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The State and other defendants the New Hampshire Department of Education; Margaret Wood Hassan, individually; Christopher T. Sununu, as Governor; Virginia M. Barry, individually; and Frank Edelblut, as Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, appealed a superior court order granting plaintiffs Bedford School District and William Foote (collectively, “Bedford”), attorney’s fees in a case that Bedford had filed to recover adequate education funding that the State withheld in fiscal year 2016 because of a statutory limit on state funding imposed under RSA 198:41, III(b) (Supp. 2015) (repealed 2015, repeal effective July 1, 2017). On appeal, the State argued that because the trial court specifically declined to find that the State had acted in bad faith in this litigation, the trial court unsustainably exercised its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees. The State also argued that Bedford waived its right to attorney’s fees when it accepted education funds appropriated by a bill that contained a waiver provision. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found after review of the superior court record, that Bedford waived its right to an award of attorney’s fees, and thus reversed the superior court’s order. View "Bedford School District v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Eric McAndrews appealed an order recommended by a Marital Master (DalPra, M.) and approved by the Circuit Court which dismissed his petition to modify a parenting plan on inconvenient forum grounds. The parenting plan pertained to petitioner’s child with whom he shares custody with respondent Sachet Woodson. On appeal, petitioner argued that the trial court erred in dismissing his petition because it conducted an improper and incomplete inconvenient forum analysis pursuant to RSA 458-A:18 (Supp. 2017), a provision of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In vacating the circuit court's order, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found the order lacked a meaningful discussion of the factors that it relied upon in reaching its conclusion and its failure to address each specific factor required by the UCCJEA was untenable and unreasonable to the prejudice of petitioner’s case, and, therefore, its decision that Indiana is the more convenient forum constituted an unsustainable exercise of its discretion. View "In the Matter of McAndrews and Woodson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Cheryl Moore, M.D. appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendants attorney Charles Grau and Upton Hatfield, LLP, on plaintiff’s claims for legal malpractice, violation of the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act, and entitlement to an accounting and forfeiture of fees. Plaintiff was a member of Young & Novis, P.A. (Y&N), along with her partner, Dr. Glenn Littell. Y&N provided pathology services to the intervenor, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (WDH), until WDH elected to terminate Y&N’s services. Prior to the termination, an attorney acting on Y&N’s behalf solicited trial counsel for a potential wrongful termination suit against WDH. Plaintiff retained Grau and his firm. On the date for Y&N’s contract was terminated, plaintiff allegedly permitted her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, to access Y&N computers connected to WDH’s network. Plaintiff’s husband and Littell then downloaded confidential documents and destroyed certain electronic data. WDH sued plaintiff, her husband, and Littell in federal district court. Years later, the parties reached a tentative settlement. During negotiations preceding the tentative settlement, the hospital defendants were jointly represented by Grau and Upton Hatfield. In mid- August, however, plaintiff hired a separate attorney, Peter Callaghan, to represent her in finalizing the settlement. Plaintiff ultimately sued Grau and the firm for malpractice; the trial court granted summary judgment, concluding plaintiff’s claims against defendants “originate[d] or [grew] out of or flow from her relationship with WDH,” and, therefore, fell within the prohibition of Paragraph 4 of the Settlement Agreement. Having determined that the Settlement Agreement barred the suit, the court found it unnecessary to address the defendants’ remaining arguments or to decide a pending motion to quash. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the settlement agreement, by its terms, did not cover plaintiff's malpractice claims against Grau or the firm. Therefore, summary judgment was improperly granted, and the Court reversed. View "Moore v. Grau" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brandon Stachulski brought suit against defendant Apple New England, LLC (operating an Applebee's Neighborhood Bar and Grill), under a theory of strict products liability alleging that he contracted salmonella by eating a hamburger at defendant’s restaurant. Defendant disputed the allegation that the hamburger was the source of plaintiff’s salmonella illness and asserted that plaintiff’s pet lizard or other food sources could just as likely be the cause of his illness. Following a three-day trial a jury returned a general verdict in plaintiff’s favor, awarding him $750,000 in damages. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by: (1) admitting unfairly prejudicial evidence; (2) admitting the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony; (3) submitting the issue of causation to the jury; (4) instructing the jury on awarding hedonic and future pain and suffering damages; (5) permitting the plaintiff’s counsel to make certain statements during his opening and closing arguments; and (6) denying its request for remittitur. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Stachulski v. Apple New England, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendants, Nikolaos Pappas and Ascend Medical, Inc. (Ascend), appealed multiple orders of the Superior Court ruling that they misappropriated trade secrets of plaintiff Vention Medical Advanced Components, Inc. d/b/a Advanced Polymers, a Vention Medical Company (Vention), in violation of the New Hampshire Uniform Trade Secrets Act, RSA chapter 350-B (2009) (UTSA). Vention cross-appealed the trial court’s denial of its request for attorney’s fees. Vention is a medical components manufacturer in the medical device industry. Vention makes medical balloons, medical tubing, and heat shrink tubing (HST). Pappas began working at Vention after he graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a bachelor of science degree in plastics engineering and a master’s degree in innovative and technological entrepreneurship. Prior to working at Vention, Pappas had neither specifically studied HST nor had any experience working with HST. In December 2013, after working for Vention for about ten years, Pappas resigned from the company. During his employment, Pappas was exposed to Vention’s confidential HST technology and information. He also had knowledge of Vention’s business and marketing information and strategies, including the sales volumes for Vention’s various products. At the time he resigned, he was serving as the engineering manager of the HST department. At some point before Pappas resigned, he consulted with an attorney about his obligations under the confidentiality agreement. Almost immediately after leaving Vention, Pappas established Ascend. In late December 2013 and January 2014, the defendants began working with a website developer, communicated with one equipment vendor, and provided an initial machine design to a second equipment vendor. This design included extensive detail and critical specifications of the equipment they wanted built. By August 2014, the defendants began actively marketing HST. After the defendants launched their HST line, Vention requested information about the products. The defendants sent Vention samples of their HST in August and September 2014. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found the trial court determined that the defendants neither willfully and maliciously misappropriated Vention’s trade secrets nor made a bad-faith claim of misappropriation, and there was support in the record for these determinations. Based upon its review of Vention’s arguments and the record, the Supreme Court could not say it was “clearly untenable” or “clearly unreasonable” for the trial court to decline to award fees for bad faith litigation. Accordingly, the Court found no reversible error and affirmed the Superior Court. View "Vention Medical Advanced Components, Inc. v. Pappas" on Justia Law

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Appellants, Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Algonquin) and Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (Eversource), appealed a New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) order dismissing Eversource’s petition for approval of a proposed contract for natural gas capacity, as well as a program to set parameters for the release of capacity and the sale of liquefied natural gas made available to electric generators, and/or an associated tariff. Appellees, NextEra Energy Resources, LLC (NextEra), Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and the Office of the Consumer Advocate (OCA), appeared in opposition to this appeal. In denying Eversource’s petition, the PUC first ruled “that the overriding purpose of the Restructuring Statute is to introduce competition to the generation of electricity” with the “long-term results [to] be lower prices and a more productive economy.” The PUC then further ruled that “[t]o achieve that purpose, RSA 374-F:3, III directs the restructuring of the industry, separating generation activities from transmission and distribution activities, and unbundling the rates associated with each of the separate services.” Given these rulings, the PUC concluded that “the basic premise of Eversource’s proposal — having an EDC purchase long-term gas capacity to be used by electric generators — runs afoul of the Restructuring Statute’s functional separation requirement.” The NEw Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed. Pursuant to its plain language, and reading the statute as a whole, the Court discerned the primary intent of the legislature in enacting RSA chapter 374- F was to reduce electricity costs to consumers. The Court disagreed with the PUC’s ruling that the legislature’s “overriding purpose” was “to introduce competition to the generation of electricity.” Rather, as the statute provides, the legislature intended to “harness[ ] the power of competitive markets,” as a means to reduce costs to consumers, not as an end in itself. Likewise, the Court disagreed with the PUC’s ruling that RSA 374-F:3, III directed the “functional separation” of generation services from transmission and distribution services and elevates that single policy principle over the others identified in the statute. Therefore, the Supreme Court held the PUC erred in dismissing Eversource’s petition as a matter of law. In light of its decision, the Court did not address the appellant’s remaining arguments. View "Appeal of Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Mary Allen, Fred Ward, and other interested parties, appealed the decision of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (Committee) authorizing respondent Antrim Wind Energy, LLC (Antrim Wind), to construct and operate nine wind turbines in the town of Antrim. Antrim Wind originally filed an application (Antrim I) with the Committee in 2012, seeking authorization to construct ten wind turbines. Six of the turbines would be equipped with red flashing aviation obstruction lights. The project also included four miles of new gravel surfaced roads, a joint electrical system, an interconnection substation, and a maintenance building. Antrim Wind further proposed to construct a meteorological tower between turbines three and four to obtain wind data, dedicate 800 acres of land to conservation easements, and install a radar activated lighting system. Antrim I was initially denied; a few years later, Antrim II was filed and ultimately approved by the Committee, finding the second application reflected a “substantial change” from the first application, and as such, would not “have an unreasonable adverse effect on the health, safety, or aesthetics of the region. On appeal, petitioners argued the Committee’s ultimate decision was unreasonable, unlawful, and unjust because: (1) the subcommittee was unlawfully constituted; (2) the denial of Antrim I barred Antrim Wind’s Antrim II application under the doctrine of res judicata as well as the subsequent application doctrine as set forth in Fisher v. City of Dover, 120 N.H. 187 (1980); and (3) there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the subcommittee’s finding that the project proposed in Antrim II would not have an unreasonable adverse impact on aesthetics, public health, and safety. After review of the record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded there was competent evidence to support all of the subcommittee’s factual findings. The subcommittee deliberated about each of these assessments and impacts and determined which experts it found to be more credible. The subcommittee also imposed certain mitigation measures and conditions to address remaining concerns and to ensure regulatory compliance. Accordingly, the Court concluded petitioners failed to show reversible error. View "Appeal of Allen et al." on Justia Law