Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Stergiou et al. v. City of Dover
Intervenors Micheline Elias and The Fakhourys, LLC (collectively, the developer), appealed a superior court order denying their motion to dismiss a petition filed by the petitioners, George Stergiou, Jen McCarthy, Brendan Sullivan, and Kirankumar Tamminidi (the abutters), challenging a conditional site plan approval granted to the developer by the planning board (the Board) for the respondent City of Dover (the City). In January 2019, the developer applied to the Board for permission to construct a mixed use development project in Dover. After a public hearing, the Board conditionally approved the site plan (the 2019 Approval). The 2019 Approval and Chapter 153, Article II, Section 153-8 of the City’s site review regulations (the Certification Provision) required the developer to provide the Board with copies of the plan in various formats within 90 days. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the developer was unable to meet this deadline. In July 2020, the developer asked the Board to “re-approve” the 2019 application so that the project could move forward. The Board held a duly-noticed meeting, at which it conditionally re-approved the Site Review Plan subject to specified “Conditions to be Met Prior to the Signing of Plans” (the 2020 Approval). The abutters petitioned pursuant to RSA 677:15, challenging the 2020 Approval as unlawful and unreasonable. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the 2019 Approval was not timely appealed and remained in force, and the 2020 Approval was void ab initio. The Court thus affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to dismiss, with prejudice, the abutters’ RSA 677:15, I, appeal as untimely. View "Stergiou et al. v. City of Dover" on Justia Law
In re N.T.
Respondent-Mother appealed circuit court orders entered during abuse and neglect proceedings regarding N.T. initiated by petitioner, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), under RSA chapter 169-C (2014 & Supp. 2021). Mother argued the trial court erred when it denied her motion to dismiss the abuse and neglect petitions, claiming that, because the court failed to issue adjudicatory findings within sixty days of the filing of the petitions as required by RSA 169-C:15, III(d) (2014), the court lacked jurisdiction over the case. She also argued the court erred when it found that she had physically abused and neglected N.T. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held RSA chapter 169-C had multiple purposes that were advanced by the time limit in RSA 169-C:15, III(d): to protect the life, health, and welfare of the child, and to protect the rights of all parties involved in the abuse and neglect proceeding. "Because construing the time limit as jurisdictional would undermine all of these important objectives, we conclude that the legislature did not intend that the court be divested of jurisdiction as a consequence of its non-compliance with the deadline." In its review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court was satisfied the trial court did not err in finding Mother abused N.T. Accordingly, the circuit court orders were affirmed. View "In re N.T." on Justia Law
Gaucher v. Waterhouse
Plaintiff Jerry Gaucher appealed a superior court order denying his claim for payment of a $20,000 lease termination fee and awarding one of the defendants, Waterhouse Realty Trust (the Trust), costs associated with a separate eviction proceeding against plaintiff. Plaintiff argued the court erred by: (1) finding that he, and not defendants, materially breached a lease termination agreement (LTA); (2) awarding the Trust costs incurred in the separate eviction proceeding; and (3) awarding no damages in connection with the court’s prior final default judgment against another defendant, Kevin Waterhouse. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly found that plaintiff, and not defendants, materially breached the LTA and, therefore, he had no right to the termination fee. However, because defendants assigned all of their rights set forth in the LTA to a third party, the Supreme Court also concluded the trial court erred in finding that the Trust was entitled to the costs associated with plaintiff’s eviction. Lastly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s reconsideration of its prior default judgment order against Kevin Waterhouse. View "Gaucher v. Waterhouse" on Justia Law
O’Malley-Joyce v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co.
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
Appeal of New Hampshire Division of State Police
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
Appeal of Hawes
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
Appeal of New Hampshire Troopers Association et al.
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
Norelli, et al. v. New Hampshire Sec’y of State
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
In re The Omega Trust
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
S.C. v. G.C.
Plaintiff S.C. appealed a circuit court order denying her request for a domestic violence protective order against defendant G.C. The trial court concluded plaintiff did not meet her burden of proving a credible present threat to her safety based upon her admitted presence in defendant’s home during the timeframe of the alleged abuse. On appeal, plaintiff argued the court erred as a matter of law when it relied on her in-person contact with defendant as the sole basis for its decision. She also contended that the court erred when it made certain evidentiary, trial management, and other rulings that deprived her of a fair hearing and violated her due process rights. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed it was legal error for the circuit court to rely solely on plaintiff’s contact with defendant in denying her petition, and therefore vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "S.C. v. G.C." on Justia Law