Articles Posted in Contracts

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Defendant Arch Specialty Insurance Company (Arch) appealed multiple superior court orders granting summary judgment to defendants Triage Staffing, Inc. (Triage), Exeter Hospital, Inc. (Exeter), and American Healthcare Services Association (AHSA) on their petitions for declaratory judgment, and denying Arch’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The court ruled that Arch was required to defend and indemnify Triage, Exeter, and AHSA, pursuant to two insurance policies that Arch issued to Triage, for claims asserted against the defendants by patients of Exeter who contracted Hepatitis C (Exeter Patients). On appeal, Arch argued the trial court erred in finding inapplicable certain exclusions found in the insurance policies and in determining that the claims involved multiple occurrences under the policies. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Triage and Exeter regarding Arch’s duty to defend and indemnify them pursuant to the general liability coverage forms; the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Exeter regarding Arch’s duty to defend and indemnify it pursuant to the umbrella coverage forms; reversed in part and vacated in part the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Triage regarding Arch’s duty to defend and indemnify it pursuant to the umbrella coverage forms, and remanded all matters to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company v. American Healthcare Services Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Wayne and Ruth Ross, trustees of the Wayne Ross Revocable Trust and the Ruth Ross Revocable Trust, respectively, appealed a superior court order in favor of defendants Donald Ross and Rossview Farm, LLC (the LLC). Plaintiffs contested findings that the parties entered into a lease for the plaintiffs’ lifetimes and that they had no right to evict the defendants pursuant to RSA 540:2, II(d) or (e) (2007). The trial court found that plaintiffs conceded that a June 23, 2006 document satisfied the statute of frauds because, in their post-trial memorandum, plaintiffs explained their position that the June 23, 2006 document “is a writing signed by all the parties that states the terms of the parties’ agreement. This document satisfies the statute of frauds and governs their relationship.” The “clear” language of the June 23, 2006 document, plaintiffs posited, created a yearly lease. However, plaintiffs also argued in the post-trial memorandum that defendants’ introduction of parol evidence of the parties’ intent to create a perpetual lease violated the statute of frauds because “the intent of the parties to create a perpetual lease must be clear from the face of the document and there must be a document to satisfy the statute of frauds.” Thus, plaintiffs did not concede that the June 23, 2006 document satisfied the statute of frauds for all purposes; instead, they contended that it “satisfies the statute of frauds” if the document was read to create a yearly lease. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated and remanded, finding the trial court’s finding that plaintiffs conceded the issue lacked evidentiary support, and concluded plaintiffs did not waive their statute of frauds argument by concession. View "Ross v. Ross" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment proceeding, petitioner Exeter Hospital, Inc. (Exeter) appealed a superior court order denying its motion for partial summary judgment as to the amount at which coverage was triggered under an umbrella policy (the policy) issued to Exeter by respondent Steadfast Insurance Company (Steadfast). In the spring of 2012, an outbreak of Hepatitis C infections among patients serviced by Exeter’s cardiac catheterization lab led investigators to discover that a technician had spread the virus to patients “through a clandestine drug diversion scheme.” The technician allegedly injected certain drugs into his body by way of intravenous needles, then reused the needles on patients, thereby infecting them with the virus. Numerous lawsuits were lodged against Exeter by affected patients. Exeter was primarily insured through a Self-Insurance Trust Agreement (SIT), which provided professional liability coverage in the amount of $1 million per medical incident, with a $4 million annual aggregate cap. Exeter also maintained the policy with Steadfast, which provided excess health care professional liability coverage. Steadfast maintained that it would pay damages only in excess of the $100,000 retained limit for each medical incident. Exeter filed this proceeding, seeking a declaration that it was not required to pay $100,000 retained limit per claim. The trial court interpreted the term “applicable underlying limit” as being a variable amount “dependent on the actual coverage remaining under [the] other [limits of] insurance,” here, the limits of the SIT. Because Exeter had paid out the limits of the SIT, the court found that the “applicable underlying limit” was zero, thereby rendering the $100,000 retained limit greater than the “applicable underlying limit.” Thus, the court determined that, pursuant to “Coverage A,” Steadfast was required “to pay damages in excess of $100,000 for each medical incident.” Exeter sought reconsideration of the court’s order, which the court denied. Although the New Hampshire Supreme Court did not agree with every underlying argument pressed by Exeter, it concluded that its overall argument regarding the interpretation of Coverage A was reasonable, and the trial court therefore erred in granting partial summary judgment as to the terms of Coverage A. View "Exeter Hospital, Inc. v. Steadfast Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fat Bullies Farm, LLC (Fat Bullies), and the counterclaim defendants, Donald Gould and Peter Simmons, appealed certain superior court findings and rulings made during the course of litigation with defendants Alan and Donna Perkins and Lori and Bret Devenport, involving the sale of a 3.1 acre horse farm in North Hampton known as Runnymede Farm. When the Devenports purchased the property in 1998, they promised to operate it as a horse farm in perpetuity, and to allow the former owner to maintain an office on site. Simmons told the Devenports that he was interested in purchasing the property. The Devenports told Simmons they would only sell if the buyer agreed to the horse farm and on site office conditions. Simmons spoke with Gould about purchasing the property jointly with the intent to develop and/or resell it. The two created Fat Bullies “for the purpose of acquiring real estate for development or resale.” After amendments to the purchase contract, the Devenports reiterated that they would sell the property only if Fat Bullies committed to operating it as a horse farm. Despite their intentions to develop the property, Simmons and Gould agreed. The parties executed a sales agreement. No payment had been made on the property; word got back to Lori Devenport that Simmons had talked to others in North Hampton about purchasing the farm. The Devenports rescinded the agreement, believing Simmons lied to them about promising to operate Runnymede as a horse farm. Fat Bullies invoked an option, but the Devenports refused to sell. In 2011, the Devenports sold Runnymede to the Perkinses. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Devenports on Fat Bullies’ breach of contract claim, finding that Fat Bullies failed to prove the existence of a contract by a preponderance of the evidence, and a verdict in favor of Fat Bullies, Simmons, and Gould on the Devenports’ fraudulent inducement claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court with respect to a Consumer Protection Act violation decision; the Court reversed with respect to attorney fees related to that Act decision. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fat Bullies Farm, LLC v. Devenport" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Holloway Automotive Group (Holloway) appealed a circuit court order ruling that the liquidated damages clause contained in the parties’ contract was unenforceable. Holloway was an authorized franchisee of Mercedes-Benz North America. Defendant Steven Giacalone purchased a new vehicle from Holloway. At the time of the purchase, the defendant signed an “AGREEMENT NOT TO EXPORT:” “MBUSA prohibits its authorized dealers from exporting new Mercedes-Benz vehicles outside of the exclusive sales territory of North America and will assess charges against [Holloway] for each new Mercedes-Benz vehicle it sells . . . which is exported from North America within one (1) year.” By signing the agreement, defendant promised “not [to] export the Vehicle outside North America . . . for a period of one (1) year” from the date of the Agreement and, if he did so, to pay Holloway $15,000 as liquidated damages. The vehicle was subsequently exported within the one-year period. Holloway sued claiming breach of contract and misrepresentation and seeking liquidated damages in the amount of $15,000, plus interest, costs, and attorney’s fees. The trial court found that the Agreement was entered into “between the parties to protect [Holloway] from a claim by [MBUSA],” but that MBUSA did not, in fact, charge Holloway any fees despite the vehicle having been exported. The trial court declined to enforce the liquidated damages clause in the agreement. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the $15,000 liquidated damages provision was enforceable because Holloway’s damages resulting from the breach were not “easily ascertainable.” Accordingly, the Court held the trial court’s determination that the liquidated damages provision in the parties’ Agreement was unenforceable was not supported by the record and was erroneous as a matter of law. View "Holloway Automotive Group v. Giacalone" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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Defendants, Markel Corporation, Markel Services, Inc. (Markel Services), and Essex Insurance Company (Essex), appealed a superior court order denying their motions for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to plaintiff Michael Newell, in this insurance coverage action. Newell was allegedly injured in a slip and fall accident at a property owned by Brames, Inc. (Brames) in Laconia. Brames was insured under an Amusement Park General Liability Policy issued by Essex. Essex was a subsidiary of Markel Corporation and Markel Services was Markel Corporation’s claims handling branch. Newell filed two personal injury actions arising from his slip and fall. The first action against Brames' co-owner and treasurer, was settled out-of-court. In the second lawsuit, Newell sued Ivy Banks, the person who allegedly cleaned the floor upon which Newell slipped and injured himself. Defendants received notice of the Banks action, but declined to defend Banks or intervene. Banks, although properly served, filed neither an appearance nor an answer and was defaulted. A default judgment was entered against Banks for $300,000, the full amount of damages sought by Newell. Newell brought suit against defendants to recover the amount of the default judgment, arguing he was a third party beneficiary under the insurance contract between Brames and Markel/Essex. On appeal, defendants argued the trial court erred in determining that the language of the Policy was ambiguous and that Banks was a “volunteer worker” under the Policy. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Newell v. Markel Corporation" on Justia Law

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Steven Cohen met John Raymond when Raymond began dating Cohen’s stepdaughter, Molly, whom Raymond eventually married. Cohen owned a successful scrap metal company and offered Raymond a job. Cohen knew a broker and private wealth manager at Merrill Lynch, and Cohen testified that he wanted to help Raymond learn about investment through that broker. To set up an investment account, Merrill Lynch required a minimum deposit of $250,000. Cohen deposited this amount into an account in Raymond’s name, later testifying at trial that he considered the money to be “seed money” for a business that he planned to open with Raymond. Although Raymond testified that he never intended to go into business with Cohen, the trial court found that “the parties had decided to enter the recycling business together.” Raymond and Molly decided to divorce. Raymond then withdrew $50,000 from the Merrill Lynch account, which he used for “personal purposes.” Upon learning of the divorce and withdrawal, Cohen demanded that Raymond repay him the $250,000, and then sued Raymond in superior court. Cohen claimed that the money was a loan, and that he was entitled to repayment with interest at 5% or 6%. In the alternative, Cohen claimed that Raymond had been unjustly enriched, and that he was entitled to restitution. In his argument on unjust enrichment, Cohen suggested, for the first time, that the $250,000 was a conditional gift. Cohen, appealed the trial court’s ruling that the $250,000 deposited into the investment account was an unconditional gift. Cohen argued, among other things, that the trial court erred by: (1) finding that the $250,000 was an unconditional gift, rather than a loan or a conditional gift; and (2) presuming that the $250,000 was a gift, thereby placing the burden on Cohen to show that it was not a gift. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated and remanded: Raymond was Cohen’s son-in-law, thus, the gift presumption did not apply, and the burden should have been on Raymond to prove that Cohen intended to give him the $250,000 as a gift. View "Cohen v. Raymond" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Defendants, Keith McNamara, Shirley Benton, and Jerel Benton, appealed: (1) a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, Richard and Mary Murray, on their claim that the defendants breached the implied warranty of workmanlike quality; (2) a Superior Court order denying their motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA) claim; and (3) a Superior Court order finding that the defendants violated the CPA when they built the plaintiffs' home with latent structural defects that caused mold growth. Defendants argued that, because plaintiffs' claim was exempt from the CPA, the trial court erred by denying their motion to dismiss. Defendants added that the trial court erred by denying their motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the plaintiffs breach of implied warranty claim. There is no dispute that the transaction at issue here is the defendants alleged construction of the house with latent structural defects, not any representations that the defendants made to others during or after construction. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed, finding that because the house was completed in 2004 and was purchased by the plaintiffs five years later and the allegedly wrongful transaction occurred more than three years before the plaintiffs "knew or reasonably should have known" of it, the construction of the house was an exempt transaction pursuant to RSA 358-A:3, IV-a and that plaintiffs' CPA claim should have been dismissed. Thus, the Court reversed the trial court's ruling on the CPA claim. However, the Court was not persuaded that defendants were insulated from liability on the breach of the implied warranty of workmanlike quality claim. Because the Court reversed the trial court's judgment on the CPA claim, defendants failed to show that they were prejudiced with respect to the breach of warranty claim. View "Murray v. McNamara" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Cogswell Farm Condominium Association filed a declaratory judgment action with respect to two exclusions in insurance policies issued by respondents Tower Group, Inc. and Acadia Insurance Company. The trial court held that the two exclusions at issue precluded coverage for petitioner's underlying lawsuit against Lemery Building Company, Inc. In 2009, Cogswell sued Lemery and others, alleging negligence, breach of contract, and negligent supervision in the construction of 24 residential condominium units. Cogswell asserted that the "weather barrier" components of the units – including the water/ice shield, flashing, siding, and vapor barrier – were defectively constructed and resulted in damage to the units due to water leaks. Because the units were sold at different times and the policies were in effect during two different time periods, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in holding that one policy exclusion served as a bar for coverage for each unit after it was sold. Furthermore, the Court found that the other exclusion was subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting respondents summary judgment with respect to that exclusion. The trial court was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cogswell Farm Condominium Ass'n v. Tower Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The respondents, Shared Towers VA, LLC and NH Note Investment, LLC, appealed, and petitioner Joseph Turner, individually and as trustee of the Routes 3 and 25 Nominee Trust, cross-appealed, Superior Court orders after a bench trial on petitioner’s petition for a preliminary injunction enjoining a foreclosure sale and for damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. The parties’ dispute stemmed from a commercial construction loan agreement and promissory note secured by a mortgage, pursuant to which petitioner was loaned $450,000 at 13% interest per annum to build a home. Respondents argued the trial court erred when it: (1) determined that they would be unjustly enriched if the court required the petitioner to pay the amounts he owed under the note from November 2009 until April 2011; (2) applied the petitioner’s $450,000 lump sum payment to principal; (3) excluded evidence of the petitioner’s experience with similar loans; (4) ruled that, because the promissory note failed to contain a "clear statement in writing" of the charges owed, as required by RSA 399-B:2 (2006), respondents could not collect a $22,500 delinquency charge on the petitioner’s lump sum payment of principal; and (5) denied the respondents’ request for attorney’s fees and costs. Petitioner argued that the trial court erroneously concluded that respondents’ actions did not violate the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). After review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded: contrary to the trial court’s decision, petitioner’s obligation to make the payments was not tolled. Because the loan agreement and note remained viable, it was error for the trial court to have afforded the petitioner a remedy under an unjust enrichment theory. The trial court made its decision with regard to the payment of $450,000 in connection with its conclusion that the petitioner was entitled to a remedy under an unjust enrichment theory. Because the Supreme Court could not determine how the trial court would have ruled upon this issue had it not considered relief under that equitable theory, and because, given the nature of the parties’ arguments, resolving this issue requires fact finding that must be done by the trial court in the first instance, it vacated that part of its order and remanded for further proceedings. In light of the trial court’s errors with regard to the attorney’s fees and costs claimed by respondents, the Supreme Court vacated the order denying them, and remanded for consideration of respondents’ request for fees and costs. The Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s rejection of petitioner’s CPA claim. View "Turner v. Shared Towers VA, LLC" on Justia Law