Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Plaintiff Lorettann Gascard appealed a superior court order dismissing her complaint against defendants, Andrew Hall and Newspapers of New Hampshire, Inc., d/b/a Concord Monitor (Concord Monitor). The plaintiff asserts that the trial court erred in determining that a statement attributed to Hall and published in the Concord Monitor did not constitute defamation. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gascard v. Hall et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners Javier Vasquez and his employer, Matosantos International Corporation (MIC), appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) determination that it could not order respondent, The Hartford Insurance Company, to pay workers’ compensation benefits to Vasquez. The CAB concluded that the Department of Labor (DOL), and therefore the CAB, lacked jurisdiction under the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Law to interpret the workers’ compensation insurance policy that MIC had purchased from The Hartford. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the CAB did have jurisdiction to consider and resolve the coverage dispute between MIC and The Hartford, it vacated the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration, in the first instance, of whether the policy purchased by MIC covered Vasquez when he was injured while working in New Hampshire. View "Appeal of Vasquez" on Justia Law

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Claimant Caitlyn Wittenauer, appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision denying her workers’ compensation benefits. In 2019, Claiming injured her left shoulder lifting boxes at her job with Nike, Inc. An MRI disclosed that her “left shoulder was dislocated, with the ball joint out of place.” She received corrective surgery on December 17, 2019, followed by months of physical therapy treatments. On April 21, 2020, the claimant’s treating physician approved her return to full-time work with restrictions on lifting. She returned to work at Nike in May. The claimant received temporary total disability benefits beginning October 16, 2019, and ending May 4, 2020. On September 3, 2020, the claimant reported to her treating physician that her shoulder was feeling stiff and she was experiencing pain “when she tries to do anything overhead.” He limited her work to five hours a day with no other restrictions. On September 25, the claimant complained of pain in the left side of her neck, and her treating physician took her out of work. On November 19, the physician reported that his examination of the claimant did not demonstrate “any overt shoulder instability” and noted that the shoulder was “really significantly better since surgery and really no evidence of any gross instability.” claimant sought temporary partial disability benefits for the period September 4, 2020 to September 25, 2020, and temporary total disability benefits beginning September 26, 2020. The CAB ruled that the claimant did not meet her burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence “that the medical treatments starting on 9/3/2020 and out of work order by [the treating physician] [was] causally related to the work injury on 8/15/2019.” On appeal, the claimant argues that the CAB erred: (1) by placing a burden upon her to demonstrate another work incident occurring between her return to work in May 2020 and her second onset of disability in September 2020; and (2) in failing to analyze and make findings as to whether her disability in September 2020 was due at least in part to the work injury she suffered in August 2019. The New Hampshire Supreme Court's review of the record supported the CABs determination. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Appeal of Wittenauer" on Justia Law

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Petitioner The Lawson Group, the third-party administrator for the self-insured petitioner, Summit Packaging Systems (the employer), appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) that upheld a decision by respondent, the State Special Fund for Second Injuries (Second Injury Fund), to decline to reimburse The Lawson Group for benefits paid to the claimant. The employer hired the claimant in 2005 as a laborer and machine operator. The claimant was injured at work in January 2016, when she tried to catch a 65-pound spool of tubing as it fell. The claimant was out of work following the surgery, but returned in December 2016 in a modified duty capacity. In 2017, the CAB found that the claimant’s “surgery and subsequent treatment were and are related to the work injury” she suffered in January 2016. In August 2018, The Lawson Group applied to the Second Injury Fund for reimbursement. In a February 2019 letter, the Second Injury Fund denied The Lawson Group’s application because The Lawson Group had failed to: (1) establish that the claimant’s surgery constituted a subsequent disability by injury; and (2) demonstrate that the employer knew that the claimant had any permanent impairment before her surgery. Following a March 2020 hearing, the CAB upheld the Second Injury Fund’s denial of reimbursement. After a review of the CAB hearing record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the denial of reimbursement. View "Appeal of The Lawson Group, et al." on Justia Law

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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

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Plaintiff Debbie Banaian appealed a superior court order granting motions to dismiss filed by defendants Aaron Bliss, Shannon Bossidy, Bryan Gagnon, Jacob D. MacDuffie, and Katie Moulton. The sole issue on appeal was whether defendants, who retweeted a defamatory tweet initiated by another individual, were “users” within the meaning of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) (2018) (CDA), and therefore entitled to immunity from plaintiff’s claims for defamation and reckless infliction of emotional distress. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the retweeter defendants were “user[s] of an interactive computer service” under section 230(c)(1) of the CDA, and thus plaintiff’s claims against them were barred. Accordingly, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s granting of the motions to dismiss because the facts pled in the plaintiff’s complaint did not constitute a basis for legal relief. View "Banaian v. Bascom et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Russell Blodgett appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Cincinnati Specialty Underwriters Insurance Company (CSU). Blodgett argued the trial court erred by concluding that the terms of a commercial general liability policy issued by CSU clearly and unambiguously excluded coverage for Blodgett’s damages in a separate personal injury action against CSU’s insured resulting from Blodgett’s fall from an alleged negligently constructed staircase. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, pursuant to the policy’s clear and unambiguous language, CSU had no duty or obligation to defend or indemnify its insured in the underlying litigation. View "Cincinnati Specialty Underwriters Insurance Company v. Best Way Homes, Inc. & a." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Janet Bisceglia appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendants' the New Hampshire Secretary of State and the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (collectively the State). The court ruled that the State was immune from liability for plaintiff’s negligence claim under New Hampshire’s recreational use statute. Plaintiff and her family visited a historic lighthouse situated on land in New Castle, which was owned by the United States. That federal land was adjacent to Fort Constitution, which was owned and operated by the State. While plaintiff was standing on the federal land next to the outer wall of Fort Constitution, a portion of the wall fell on top of her, causing her substantial injuries. The trial court determined that because the State “held Fort Constitution out to the public at no charge” and the wall “was maintained as part of the historic site for the use and enjoyment of the public,” RSA 508:14, I, shielded the State from liability, “regardless of whether Plaintiff was physically on [the State’s] property at the time of the injury.” The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed, finding it was undisputed that plaintiff did not use the State’s land; the trial court erred in granting the State’s motion for summary judgment based on RSA 508:14, I. View "Bisceglia v. New Hampshire Secretary of State & al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner AmGUARD Insurance Group (Carrier), insurer of Pelmac Industries, Inc. (Pelmac), appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision awarding workers’ compensation death benefits to the respondent, the decedent-employee’s estate. The Carrier argued that the decedent’s original June 5, 2018 injury was not a work-related injury, and, in the alternative, that his subsequent death by suicide did not result from the original injury. The Carrier also argued that the CAB violated its due process rights. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Pelmac Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Estate of Peter Dodier, appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) order denying the estate’s claim for workers’ compensation and death benefits following Peter Dodier’s death. The CAB denied the estate’s claim based on its determination that Dodier’s anxiety and depression were not a compensable injury. It therefore did not reach the issue of death benefits. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that Dodier’s anxiety and depression were compensable, it reversed the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration of whether the estate was entitled to death benefits. View "Appeal of Estate of Peter Dodier" on Justia Law