Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Weiss, et al. v. Town of Sunapee
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
Ortolano v. City of Nashua
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
Szewczyk, et al. v. Continental Paving, Inc., et al.
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
Appeal of Rancourt
Claimant Fran Rancourt appealed a Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision granting the request of the carrier, AIM Mutual — NH Employers Ins. Co., for a reduction of the claimant’s benefits from the Temporary Total Disability (TTD) rate to the Diminished Earning Capacity (DEC) rate. At the time of her injury, the claimant was employed as the “vice president of academic and community affairs” for the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCS). The injury occurred when the claimant slipped on ice, hitting her head. She was taken to the hospital where she received 11 staples to close a wound in her head. Three months later, the claimant was assessed by Dr. Glassman, an independent medical examiner, who recommended “partial duty modified work part-time” and physical therapy, and that the claimant see a concussion specialist. He concluded that claimant did “not have the ability to return to full duty work at this time,” but opined that “she could be evaluated for partial duty work, working three to four hours a day, two to three days a week.” In July 2019, claimant was visiting a friend in Maine when she fell stepping into a boat. As a result of the fall, the claimant severely injured her left hamstring, resulting in surgery. She reported that the fall was a result of problems with her depth perception related to her head injury. In March 2020, Glassman performed another independent medical examination to evaluate the extent of claimant’s continuing disability. Glassman reported that claimant continued to suffer from “postconcussion syndrome” as a result of the work injury in 2017. He concluded that claimant “has not returned to her pre-accident status” and “still has ongoing deficits and ongoing symptoms.” He reported that claimant feels about “60% improved,” and that, while “she is being seen by neuro-optometry and speech therapy,” she “has reached maximum medical improvement” for her post-concussion syndrome. It was his opinion that “no further treatment is indicated for the date of injury of November 20, 2017.” In May 2020, the carrier requested a hearing, pursuant to RSA 281-A:48 (2010), seeking to reduce or terminate the TTD indemnity benefits claimant had been receiving. The hearing officer granted the carrier’s request to reduce benefits as it related to claimant’s changed condition. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Rancourt" on Justia Law
In re G.W.
Respondent G.W. had, in her lifetime, received a variety of mental health diagnoses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. In May and June 2019, G.W. was arrested on a number of criminal charges, including criminal threatening and violation of a protective order, based upon her conduct towards a man with whom she previously had a romantic relationship and that man’s current partner (the complainants). G.W.’s conduct leading to her arrest included trespassing on the complainants’ property, contacting them after a protective order was in place, placing two improvised explosive devices and one incendiary device in the complainants’ vehicles, and making a bomb threat to the workplace of one of the complainants. G.W. appealed a circuit court decision ordering her involuntary admission to the Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) of the New Hampshire State Prison for a period of three years with a conditional discharge when and if clinically appropriate. On appeal, G.W. challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court’s conclusion that she met the involuntary admission standard. She also argued the court erred when it ordered that she remain in jail, where she had been detained on pending criminal charges, until a bed became available at the SPU. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the admission. View "In re G.W." on Justia Law
In re E.R.; In re H.R.
The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA) appealed a circuit court order denying DCYF’s petitions to terminate the mother’s parental rights over E.R. and H.R. The mother had five children; E.R. and H.R. were the youngest. The fathers of E.R. and H.R. were unknown. In November 2019, the circuit court found the mother neglected four of her children, including E.R. and H.R. The circuit court held a nine-month review hearing in October 2020 and found the mother to be in partial compliance with a case plan filed at the beginning of DCYF's involvement. The court ultimately transferred legal custody to DCYF, and E.R. and H.R. were removed from the mother’s care. In October 2021, the circuit court held a permanency hearing. Both DCYF and CASA recommended adoption as the permanency plan and termination of the mother’s parental rights over E.R. and H.R. In denying the termination, the trial court concluded that while it is in the children’s best interest to remain out of their mother’s care, it is not in their best interest that her parental rights be terminated. DCYF and CASA moved for reconsideration, which the circuit court denied. Finding no abuse of discretion, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order. View "In re E.R.; In re H.R." on Justia Law
City of Portsmouth Police Commission/Department v. Portsmouth Ranking Officers Association, NEPBA, Local 220
Plaintiff City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire Police Commission/Police Department (the City) appealed a superior court's denial of the City’s request to modify, correct, or vacate an arbitrator’s award of backpay to Aaron Goodwin, a police officer who was previously employed by the City and who was a member of defendant Portsmouth Ranking Officers Association, NEPBA, Local 220 (the Union). The arbitration arose from a grievance filed by the Union challenging Goodwin’s termination. The arbitrator found that the City wrongfully terminated Goodwin and awarded him approximately twenty-six months of backpay. The superior court confirmed the arbitrator’s termination decision and backpay award. On appeal, the City argued the arbitrator committed plain mistake because she failed to correctly apply the after-acquired-evidence doctrine in determining the amount of the backpay award. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the City that the arbitrator committed a plain mistake of law in reaching the backpay award, it reversed in part, vacated the superior court’s confirmation of the arbitrator’s award, and remanded. View "City of Portsmouth Police Commission/Department v. Portsmouth Ranking Officers Association, NEPBA, Local 220" on Justia Law
Petition of M.P.
Petitioner M.P. sought review of a Department of Health and Human Services Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU) decision finding him ineligible to receive developmental disability (DD) services pursuant to RSA chapter 171-A (2022). Petitioner argued that: (1) the AAU’s determination that he did not have a qualifying DD pursuant to RSA 171-A:2, V was an unsustainable exercise of discretion; (2) the AAU erred in admitting certain testimony and considering the petitioner’s Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) status; and (3) the AAU’s failure to timely hold a hearing and issue a decision violated the Medicaid Act and his due process rights under the Federal and New Hampshire Constitutions. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the AAU’s eligibility decision was sustainable and that the contested testimony was immaterial and did not prejudice petitioner. Additionally, despite the significant delay that petitioner experienced waiting for a hearing and a final decision, the delay was largely attributable to the global pandemic and the protective measures imposed in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pursuant to the federal authority relied upon by petitioner, these circumstances constituted an “emergency” beyond the AAU’s control, thereby exempting the AAU from the statute’s scheduling requirement. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Petition of M.P." on Justia Law
Lonergan v. Town of Sanbornton
Plaintiffs Juliana and David Lonergan appealed a superior court order affirming a Town of Sanbornton’s (Town) Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approval of a special exception for an excavation site for property that intervenor, R.D. Edmunds Land Holdings, LLC, owned. As a threshold matter, the Town and the intervenor argued that the New Hampshire Supreme Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction based upon plaintiffs’ failure to timely move for rehearing with the ZBA as required by RSA 155-E:9 (2014). To this, the Supreme Court concluded that RSA 155-E:9 applied to plaintiffs’ motion for rehearing to the ZBA and that plaintiffs did not meet the ten-day filing deadline set forth in the statute. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and vacated the superior court’s order. View "Lonergan v. Town of Sanbornton" on Justia Law
Anthony, et al. v. Town of Plaistow
Plaintiffs Richard and Sanaz Anthony appealed a superior court order affirming a decision of the Town of Plaistow’s (Town) Planning Board granting site plan approval for the development and consolidation of two lots by the intervenor, Milton Real Properties of Massachusetts, LLC. Plaintiffs argued the superior court erred by: (1) ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to address plaintiffs’ argument that the proposed use was not permitted in the zoning district; (2) finding that the planning board made a sufficient regional impact determination pursuant to RSA 36:56 (2019); and (3) ruling that the planning board’s decision granting site plan approval was otherwise lawful and reasonable. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the superior court did not err in dismissing the plaintiffs’ zoning argument, in concluding that the planning board acted reasonably when it implicitly found that the project would not have a regional impact, and in finding that the planning board’s decision was otherwise lawful and reasonable. View "Anthony, et al. v. Town of Plaistow" on Justia Law