Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court of New Hampshire was presented with a case involving the mental health of the respondent, D.E. In the case, the Circuit Court had denied D.E.'s motion to dismiss and granted New Hampshire Hospital’s (NHH) petition for guardianship. It also granted NHH’s petition for involuntary admission. D.E. appealed these decisions, arguing that his due process rights were violated by the simultaneous hearing of both the guardianship and involuntary admission petitions, and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the petitions as he was not a resident of New Hampshire nor was he lawfully detained there.The Supreme Court held that D.E.'s due process argument regarding simultaneous hearings was not preserved as it was not raised in the trial court and was therefore not eligible for review. However, the court found that at the time the non-emergency involuntary admission petition was filed, D.E. was not lawfully detained and thus the trial court did not have jurisdiction on this basis. The question of whether D.E. resided in New Hampshire, giving the court jurisdiction, was remanded to the trial court for determination.In relation to the guardianship order, the Supreme Court found that the trial court's findings that D.E. was incapacitated and that a guardianship was the least restrictive form of intervention were supported by the evidence. The court also found no error in the trial court's appointment of D.E.'s brother as guardian, despite D.E.'s preference for an independent, professional guardian. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision on guardianship, vacated the decision on involuntary admission, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re Guardianship of D.E." on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of New Hampshire voters challenged the constitutionality of the state's new boundaries for state senate and executive council districts. The plaintiffs claimed that the legislature violated the New Hampshire Constitution by drawing districts that unfairly benefitted one political party at the expense of another. They sought a declaration that the districts violated various parts of the state constitution and an injunction preventing the implementation of the new boundaries.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that the issue of partisan gerrymandering raised a non-justiciable political question because the New Hampshire Constitution committed the task of redistricting to the legislature and did not provide any legal standard for the courts to review such decisions. The court noted that the plaintiffs did not claim that the redistricting plans violated any mandatory requirements of the state constitution.The court also rejected the argument that the constitution's guarantees of free speech, equal protection, and association were violated by the alleged gerrymandering. The court found that these constitutional provisions did not provide clear and manageable standards for adjudicating claims of extreme partisan gerrymandering.The court affirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint, concluding that the challenge to the constitutionality of the districts based on claims of excessive political gerrymandering presented non-justiciable political questions. View "Brown v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jason Boucher appealed a superior court order granting defendant Town of Moultonborough's (Town) motion to dismiss. He contended that: (1) the court erred in finding that he failed to exhaust administrative remedies under RSA 41:48 (Supp. 2022); and (2) he has stated a claim for which relief may be granted. Plaintiff served as a police officer for the Town for nineteen years, mostly in a full-time capacity. At the time he filed his complaint, he most recently held the rank of sergeant. Up until the final four months of his employment, no formal disciplinary actions had been taken against him while employed by the Town’s police department. Due to his past involvement in assisting local officers to form a union, and his previous support of a candidate for police chief that the Board of Selectmen (Board) opposed, plaintiff believed the Board did not support him. In early 2020, the police chief retired and was replaced by an interim police manager “who was under the direct control of the [Board].” Shortly thereafter, plaintiff became “the subject of serial internal investigations orchestrated by” the interim manager and the lower-ranking officer “for simply attempting to conduct the ordinary business of a police Sergeant.” In total, plaintiff was subjected to four investigations over six weeks. According to plaintiff, the interim manager’s conduct “was very clearly aimed at undermining and isolating him.” In May 2021, plaintiff filed suit alleging one count of “Constructive Termination in Violation of RSA 41:48.” The court reasoned that if plaintiff “considers himself a terminated officer in violation of RSA 41:48, even if only constructively, it logically follows that he is required to follow the procedures contained within RSA 41:48.” The Town represented at oral argument that there were several processes plaintiff could have followed to attempt exhaustion, including requesting a hearing before the Board, articulating the issue to the Board, or “engaging” with the Board informally. Yet, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found none of these processes were set forth in the plain language of RSA 41:48. Accordingly, the Court found the trial court erred in its dismissal of plaintiff's case, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Boucher v. Town of Moultonborough" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Todd and Margaret Maddock appealed a superior court order in favor of defendant Michael Higgins on plaintiffs’ petition to quiet title and their request for declaratory judgment, equitable relief, and a temporary injunction. The dispute arose over clearing of part of the property, a driveway and parking area between the parties abutting properties. Plaintiffs argued the court erred by: (1) failing to find that monuments in the field controlled over bearings or distances in a deed or plan; (2) finding that plaintiffs did not establish title by adverse possession; (3) finding that plaintiffs did not meet their burden to establish a boundary by acquiescence; (4) dismissing plaintiffs’ trespass claim; and (5) finding that the testimony of one of defendant’s witnesses was credible. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly found that the field monuments did not control the boundaries established by the parties’ deeds, properly found that plaintiffs did not establish a boundary by acquiescence, properly granted plaintiffs a prescriptive easement over the limited adjacent area for the purposes of snow removal, and properly assessed the credibility of the witnesses. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court did not err by dismissing plaintiffs’ trespass claim but reversed, in part the trial court’s adverse possession decision as it pertained to plaintiffs’ claims concerning their driveway and parking area. View "Maddock, et al. v. Higgins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Bradley Weiss and Cathleen Shea appealed a superior court order granting defendant Town of Sunapee's (Town) motion to dismiss. The trial court determined that, because plaintiffs failed to request a second rehearing from the Town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over their appeal. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed and remanded: pursuant to RSA 677:3, plaintiffs perfected their appeal to the superior court from the ZBA’s April 1 denial by timely moving for rehearing. View "Weiss, et al. v. Town of Sunapee" on Justia Law

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The City of Nashua (the City) appealed a superior court order granting the petition of Laurie Ortolano compelling the City to conduct a reasonable search of its back-up tapes for records in response to Ortolano’s Right-to-Know Law request. The request asked for all emails sent and received by the following current and former City employees: Louise Brown, between November 1, 2020 and her last day of work, December 25, 2020; Amanda Mazerolle, between November 1, 2020 and March 7, 2021; and Karina Ochoa, between November 1, 2020 and March 7, 2021. The City replied on June 23, 2021 informing Ortolano that Mazerolle and Ochoa would both conduct reasonable searches for records matching Ortolano’s descriptions and that Ortolano would receive an update or response by July 16, 2021. The City stated that it no longer had “reasonable access to Ms. Brown’s emails from the time of her employment.” the City “claim[ed] that it met its requirement under RSA 91-A by looking for emails in Ms. Brown’s Outlook application and her personal U-drive and it was not required under RSA 91-A:4, III(b) to search the City’s backup tapes because such tapes are not ‘readily accessible’ as defined by the statute.” The trial court found that “it is undisputed that the City’s backup tape system exists, can be searched, and that files such as those requested by the petitioner are retrievable from the backup tapes.” After review of the superior court record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found that the trial court did not err in finding that the requested emails on the back-up tapes were “readily accessible” to the City. View "Ortolano v. City of Nashua" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Andrew and Marian Szewczyk appealed superior court orders: (1) granting the motion to dismiss filed by defendant New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT); (2) striking the plaintiffs’ expert reports; and (3) granting the motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Bellemore Property Services, LLC (Bellemore) and Continental Paving, Inc. (Continental). In 2016, plaintiffs were injured in a motor vehicle accident on Route 3 in Nashua. While driving, they encountered significant flooding in the left-hand travel lane of the highway, and the vehicle they were traveling in hydroplaned. After plaintiffs stopped and got out of their car, a second vehicle hydroplaned and struck plaintiffs’ vehicle, which then struck and injured plaintiffs. When the police arrived at the scene, they discovered the flooding had been caused by a clogged catch basin. At the time of the accident, Continental was repaving Route 3 pursuant to a contract with DOT. Continental had subcontracted with Bellemore to clean the catch basins along Route 3. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against DOT, Continental, and Bellemore alleging that the three defendants collectively undertook a repaving and drainage system rehabilitation project and their combined and individual negligence caused the flooding, which caused the motor vehicle crash that injured plaintiffs. DOT moved to dismiss the count brought against it, arguing that plaintiffs’ failed to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, and later denied plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider. Thereafter, Continental and Bellemore moved for summary judgment and moved to strike the opinions of plaintiffs’ expert, highway engineer Thomas Broderick. The trial court found that Broderick’s opinion regarding the cause of the clogging of the catch basin was “based entirely on pure speculation without any factual support,” and granted the motion to strike, but also granted plaintiffs leave to supplement their objections to the motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a supplemental objection, and submitted with it, among other things, an expert report written by a hydrologic/hydraulic engineer, Richard Murphy. The trial court declined to consider Murphy’s opinion on causation and granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider the order, and plaintiffs appealed. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the order granting DOT’s motion to dismiss, but reversed the orders striking the expert reports and granting the motions for summary judgment. View "Szewczyk, et al. v. Continental Paving, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Larissa Troy appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment in favor of defendants Bishop Guertin High School (BGHS) and Brothers of the Sacred Heart of New England, Inc. (BSHNE), based upon the court’s finding that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. In 1998, Shawn McEnany was convicted in Main of unlawful sexual conduct with a fifteen-year-old female student while McEnany was teaching at another school BSHNE owned and operated. Despite knowledge of this conviction, in 1990, BSHNE hired McEnany to each at BGHS. Plaintiff attended BGHS from 1992 to 1996. In 1995, when plaintiff was seventeen years old and a high school senior, plaintiff alleged McEnany sexually assaulted her on two occasions on the BGHS campus. Despite reporting the second incident to the BGHS Dean of Students, no action was taken on plaintiff’s report. In 1997, McEnany was charged in New Hampshire with “teaching as a convicted sex offender and failing to register as a sex offender.” The headmaster of the school notified parents of McEnany’s conviction, but plaintiff alleged she first became aware of McEnany’s conviction in 2017. That year, McEnany passed away. In May 2018, plaintiff brought two common-law claims alleging defendants were: (1) negligent in hiring, retaining and supervising McEnany; and (2) negligent in failing to protect her when she was a student at BGHS. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded there was a material factual dispute as to when plaintiff knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known, that her injury was proximately caused by defendants’ conduct. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Troy v. Bishop Guertin High School, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs AZNH Revocable Trust (AZNH) and John and Susan Sullivan, trustees, appealed a superior court order denying their request for preliminary injunctive relief against defendant Spinnaker Cove Yacht Club Association, Inc. (the Association), and granting the Association’s motion to dismiss. Spinnaker Cove Yacht Club (Spinnaker Cove) is a condominium consisting of ninety-one units and common area. Appurtenant to each unit is the exclusive right to use a boat slip corresponding to that unit. The Association was an organization created to manage and control Spinnaker Cove. Plaintiffs requested the court to enjoin the Association “from expending assessment monies or incurring any debt to purchase land outside the Condominium.” They also sought declarations that the condominium instruments of Spinnaker Cove and New Hampshire law prohibited the Association from both “expending assessment monies or incurring any debt to purchase land outside the Condominium to add guest parking spaces” and “expanding the Condominium.” The court reasoned that “[b]ecause the Condominium Act allows the Association to purchase land, and the Declaration does not prohibit same,” the plaintiffs’ complaint “fails to state a claim as a matter of law.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred with the trial court's conclusion and affirmed. View "AZNH Revocable Trust & a. v. Spinnaker Cove Yacht Club Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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The putative intervenors, the Robert T. Keeler Foundation (the Foundation) and Peter Mithoefer, the fiduciary for the Estate of Robert T. Keeler (the Estate), appealed circuit court orders which: (1) denied their motion to intervene in proceedings brought under the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) by petitioner, the Trustees of Dartmouth College (Dartmouth), and assented to by respondent, the New Hampshire Director of Charitable Trusts (DCT), to modify the restrictions governing an institutional fund created by a charitable gift pursuant to the last will and testament of Robert T. Keeler; and (2) granted Dartmouth’s assented-to application to modify. On appeal, the putative intervenors argued they had “special interest” standing pursuant to In re Trust of Eddy, 172 N.H. 266, 274-75 (2019), and that granting the assented-to application was error. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the putative intervenors’ motion to intervene for lack of standing and, therefore, necessarily also affirmed the decision to grant the assented-to application. View "In re Robert T. Keeler Maintenance Fund for the Hanover Country Club at Dartmouth College" on Justia Law