Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Maddock, et al. v. Higgins
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
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
Brady v. Sumski
The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire certified two questions of law for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's consideration. This case began in December 2021 when plaintiff Katherine Brady filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. At the time of the petition, plaintiff resided with her husband and children in a single-family residence. The property was titled only in plaintiff’s name. On Schedule C of the petition, plaintiff claimed a homestead exemption under RSA 480:1 for $120,000. Subsequently, plaintiff amended her petition to claim an additional $120,000 homestead exemption on behalf of her non-debtor, non-owner spouse. The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee filed an objection to the second claimed homestead exemption. In March 2022, plaintiff converted her case to one under Chapter 13. Subsequently, plaintiff amended Schedule D of her petition to add a second secured claim for her spouse for $120,000 based upon her spouse’s claimed homestead exemption. Defendant Lawrence Sumski, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee, asserted the same homestead exemption objection as the predecessor Chapter 7 Trustee. Following a hearing, the Bankruptcy Court concluded that to maintain a homestead right pursuant to RSA 480:1, a person had to demonstrate both occupancy and ownership interests in the homestead property. Because plaintiff’s husband was not an owner of the property, the court concluded that he was not entitled to a homestead exemption under RSA 480:1, and plaintiff could neither assert a homestead exemption on behalf of her husband, nor claim that he possesses a lien that secures his interest in the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded RSA 480:1 included an ownership requirement that applied to all real property occupied as a homestead and a non-owning occupying spouse of another who held a homestead right, pursuant to the statute, did not hold a present, non-contingent homestead right of his or her own. With respect to the district court’s second question, the Supreme Court exercised its discretion and declined to answer because a response to that question was not “determinative of the cause then pending in the certifying court.” View "Brady v. Sumski" 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
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
Troy v. Bishop Guertin High School, et al.
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
AZNH Revocable Trust & a. v. Spinnaker Cove Yacht Club Association, Inc.
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
Raymond v. Town of Plaistow
Plaintiff Jeffrey Raymond, as Trustee of J&R Realty Trust, appealed a superior court order affirming a decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) for the Town of Plaistow denying the plaintiff’s variance request and upholding the zoning determination of the town’s Building Inspector (BI). Plaintiff argued the court erred in affirming the ZBA’s decision because: (1) the record supported plaintiff’s contention that its proposed use of the property falls within the definition of a Trade Business; and (2) the ZBA unlawfully considered prior zoning violations at other properties operated by plaintiff’s anticipated tenant when making its determinations. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, based upon the plain language of the town’s zoning ordinance, plaintiff’s proposed use of the property constituted a Trade Business. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order upholding the ZBA’s decision denying plaintiff’s appeal of the BI’s zoning determination. View "Raymond v. Town of Plaistow" on Justia Law
In the Matter of Albrecht
Petitioner Dana Albrecht appealed a circuit court order denying his post-final-divorce-decree motion alleging that Respondent Katherine Albrecht was in contempt of the parties’ parenting plan. Petitioner claimed that respondent had violated the parenting plan by, among other things, removing the children from school a few days early for a week-long vacation without first notifying him. The contempt motion was filed in 2019, but not scheduled for a hearing until 2022. In the meantime, numerous other post-divorce disputes and collateral proceedings arose between the parties. The motion was ultimately denied on July 22, 2022. The trial court observed that respondent and children, at that time, were coping with the recent death of a close family member, and that respondent had made appropriate arrangements with the children’s school for the vacation. Such conduct, according to the trial court, violated neither the joint decision-making provision nor the provision requiring the parties to promote healthy relationships between the children and the other parent. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion nor reversible error in that judgment and affirmed. View "In the Matter of Albrecht" on Justia Law
Posted in: Family 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