Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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Plaintiff Mentis Sciences, Inc. appealed a superior court order dismissing its claims for damages representing the cost of recreating lost data and lost business and negligence against defendant Pittsburgh Networks, LLC. Plaintiff was an engineering firm that, among other things, designed, developed, and tested advanced composite materials for United States Department of Defense customers. Since entering this sector in 1996, plaintiff acquired “a vast amount of valuable data that was utilized in its operations.” In 2010, the defendant began providing the plaintiff with technological support or “IT” services. In August 2014, defendant notified plaintiff that a drive in one of its servers had failed and would need to be replaced; a controller malfunctioned, causing the corruption of some of plaintiff’s data. Defendant attempted to recover the corrupted data; however, the data was permanently lost because defendant had failed to properly back it up. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging breach of contract and negligence. In its complaint, plaintiff alleged that the lost data “represents valuable intellectual property compiled over many years and is of daily critical use in [the plaintiff’s] business.” Further, plaintiff alleged that, as a result of the data loss, it was required to conduct “massively expensive” testing in order to recreate the data and that, without the lost data, it was “unable to bid or participate in various projects worth potentially millions of dollars.” Plaintiff argued on appeal of the dismissal of its suit that the trial court erred by: (1) concluding that the damages representing the cost of recreating lost data and lost business were consequential; (2) concluding that the limitation of liability clause in the parties’ contract is enforceable; and (3) dismissing its claim for negligence. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed because the damages sought by plaintiff were consequential and the limitation of liability clause in the parties' contract precluded plaintiff from recovering consequential damages. The Court also concluded the economic loss doctrine barred plaintiff’s negligence claim. View "Mentis Sciences, Inc. v. Pittsburgh Networks, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Red Oak Apartment Homes, LLC, appealed a superior court decision dismissing its complaint against defendant Strategis Floor & Decor, Inc. (Strategis), and dismissing plaintiff’s claims against Strategis on grounds that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff contracted with New Hampshire-based Holmes Carpet Center, LLC to install plank-style flooring in approximately 195 of its apartment units. Holmes recommended vinyl plank flooring that it represented would withstand rental use for many years. The majority of the floors installed by Holmes consisted of Versaclic LVT vinyl plank flooring manufactured by Strategis. The flooring was sold with a fifty-year warranty for residential applications. Shortly after the flooring was installed, plaintiff’s residents and employees began noticing that the flooring was shifting and large gaps were appearing between the flooring planks, near walls, and in doorway thresholds. Holmes performed repair work on the flooring in two of the affected units. Plaintiff thereafter filed a complaint in New Hampshire against Holmes, alleging breach of contract and violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiff amended its complaint to add: (1) N.R.F. Distributors, Inc. (N.R.F.), a flooring distributor that sold the flooring at issue to Holmes and, although a foreign corporation, was registered to do business in New Hampshire and had a registered business address in Augusta, Maine; (2) eight other defendants, seven of whom were subcontractors hired by Holmes to perform the flooring installation at plaintiff’s properties; and (3) Strategis, a foreign corporation with a principal business address in Quebec, Canada, that marketed and sold the flooring to N.R.F. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred with the trial court that plaintiff failed to establish Strategis, through in-state contacts, purposefully availed itself of the protection of New Hampshire's laws. None of Strategis' actions, either separately or jointly, constituted purposeful availment sufficient for the court to exercise personal jurisdiction. Thus, the Court affirmed dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Strategis. View "Red Oak Apartment Homes, LLC v. Strategis Floor & Decor, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Bellevue Properties, Inc. appealed a superior court order affirming the Town of Conway’s decision to discontinue a public way that provided access to the plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff argued the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard to evaluate the Town’s decision and erred in concluding that the Town’s interests in discontinuing the road outweighed plaintiff’s interest in its continuance. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the trial court applied the proper legal standard, and its decision was supported by the record. View "Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. Town of Conway" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-landlords Richard and Janice Horton appealed a circuit court order dismissing their petition to evict defendants-tenants David Clemens and April Hanks, for nonpayment of rent on the ground that the eviction notice failed to comply with RSA 540:5, II because it did not contain the same information as was provided on the judicial branch form eviction notice. It was undisputed the language on the eviction notice at issue here was legally insufficient. According to the landlords, the information in the quoted paragraph “is outside the scope of any language necessitated by law and beyond the scope of the Circuit Court’s authority to create forms that comply with existing law.” The landlords asserted the missing quoted paragraph “essentially functions to provide tenants with unsolicited legal advice,” and “disrupts the careful statutory balance and the self-help provisions of RSA [chapter] 540 by informing the tenants that they are under no obligation to vacate the premises.” Alternatively, the landlords contend that even if the information from the quoted paragraph is required, dismissal of the eviction proceeding is not the proper remedy for their failure to include it in the eviction notice. The New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed with the landlords' interpretation of the statute, and affirmed the circuit court. View "Horton v. Clemens" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Matthew Kamil (Husband), appealed, and respondent Robin Kamil (Wife) cross-appealed various circuit court orders in their divorce action. The parties were married in September 2007 and had two children. Husband filed for divorce in 2015, and Wife cross-petitioned. Husband was awarded temporary primary residential responsibility for the children and Wife was awarded supervised visitation. The court also appointed a parenting coordinator. By March 31, 2017, “the parenting evidence was that [Wife] was not allowing the therapeutic reunification plan to succeed.” The court nevertheless continued to order supervised visitation for Wife at a visitation center, and, in January 2018, the court “appointed Tracey Tucker to serve in an evaluative, structured, scripted reunification capacity, focusing on the children’s needs to have safe and appropriate contact with their mother.” After only four sessions, Tucker cancelled the reunification work “when [Wife] made some impulsive and inappropriate comments to [her].” At that point, Wife’s supervised contact with the children ended. Meanwhile, the court held a series of hearings to determine the authenticity and enforceability of a prenuptial agreement executed by the parties approximately one month prior to their wedding. The court ultimately found the prenuptial agreement unenforceable. In October 2018, the circuit court issued a final divorce decree. After choosing a February 2015 asset valuation date, the court awarded Husband the marital residence, awarded Wife the entirety of her Roth IRA, and equitably divided the remaining assets between them. To effectuate the equitable division, Husband was ordered to pay Wife $1,011,359.88. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded Husband failed to meet his appellate burden of demonstrating reversible error with respect to all the issues he raised on appeal. The Court concurred with Wife that with respect to the supervised parenting time visits with Ms. Tucker: while the the trial court had already ordered a plan, it also gave Tucker the sole discretion to determine when and if the parties would resume following that plan. This constituted an improper delegation of judicial authority, and the Supreme Court vacated that portion of the final decree. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of Matthew & Robin Kamil" on Justia Law

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Defendant Monadnock District Education Association, NEA-NH (the Association) appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to plaintiff Monadnock Regional School District (the District), and denying the Association’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The superior court ruled that $392,381 in unexpended appropriations set aside over a period of four years pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement had lapsed. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the funds at issue did not lapse because they were encumbered by an enforceable obligation for their expenditure that arose prior to the end of the fiscal years for which they were appropriated. The Court therefore reversed trial court's ruling to the contrary. View "Monadnock Regional School District v. Monadnock District Education Association, NEA-NH" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Riverbend Condo Association appealed a superior court order dismissing its complaint against defendant Groundhog Landscaping and Property Maintenance, Inc., on res judicata grounds. In 2017, plaintiff brought a breach of contract action against defendant. Neither party appeared at the scheduled trial management conference set by the superior court. The superior court thus canceled trial and dismissed the case. Plaintiff filed a "motion to reopen," asking the court to reopen the matter and reschedule the trial management conference. The superior court denied the motion, stating that plaintiff's pleading constituted an untimely motion to reconsider. Plaintiff thereafter brought a second action, alleging among other things, breach of contact. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the action was barred by res judicata. The trial court ultimately granted defendant's motion. On appeal, plaintiff contended its complaint was not barred by the trial court’s dismissal of its first action against defendant, as that dismissal was not a final judgment on the merits. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Riverbend Condo Association v. Groundhog Landscaping & Property Maintenance, Inc." on Justia Law

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Eighteen petitioners appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) decision to dismiss their respective appeals of denials of applications for abatements of real estate taxes issued by respondent Town of Bartlett. he BTLA dismissed the appeals because the petitioners’ abatement applications failed to comply with the signature and certification requirement of New Hampshire Administrative Rules, Tax 203.02, and because the BTLA found that the petitioners did not demonstrate that these failures were “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” There was no dispute in this case that petitioners did not personally sign or certify their abatement applications. Instead, petitioners contested the BTLA’s ruling that they did not demonstrate that the lack of signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. "Although the question of whether reasonable cause or willful neglect exists in a particular case is one of fact for the BTLA, the questions of what elements constitute reasonable cause or willful neglect under Tax 203.02 are ones of law." Because the BTLA did not have the benefit of the construction of Tax 203.02(d) that the New Hampshire announced in its opinion of this case, BTLA's decisions were vacated, and each matter remanded for further consideration. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Union Leader Corporation and American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH), appealed a superior court order denying their petition for the release of “complete, unredacted copies” of: (1) “the 120-page audit report of the Salem Police Department . . . dated October 12, 2018 focusing on internal affairs complaint investigations”; (2) “the 15-page addendum focused on the [Salem Police] Department’s culture”; and (3) “the 42-page audit report of the [Salem Police] Department dated September 19, 2018 focusing on time and attendance practices” (collectively referred to as the “Audit Report”). The trial court upheld many of the redactions made to the Audit Report by defendant Town of Salem (Town), concluding that they were required by the “internal personnel practices” exemption to the Right-to-Know Law, RSA chapter 91-A, as interpreted in Union Leader Corp. v. Fenniman, 136 N.H. 624 (1993), and its progeny. In a separate opinion, the New Hampshire Supreme Court overruled Fenniman to the extent that it broadly interpreted the “internal personnel practices” exemption and overruled our prior decisions to the extent that they relied on that broad interpretation. Here, the Court overruled Fenniman to the extent that it decided that records related to “internal personnel practices” were categorically exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law instead of being subject to a balancing test to determine whether such materials are exempt from disclosure. The Court overruled prior decisions to the extent that they applied the per se rule established in Fenniman. The Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings in light of these changes. View "Union Leader Corporation v. Town of Salem" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Seacoast Newspapers, Inc. appealed a superior court order denying its petition to disclose an arbitration decision concerning the termination of a police officer by defendant City of Portsmouth. Seacoast primarily argued that the New Hampshire Supreme Court previously misconstrued the “internal personnel practices” exemption of our Right-to-Know Law. See RSA 91-A:5, IV (2013). In this opinion, the Court took the opportunity to redefine what falls under the “internal personnel practices” exemption, overruling its prior interpretation set forth in Union Leader Corp. v. Fenniman, 136 N.H. 624 (1993). The Court concluded that only a narrow set of governmental records, namely those pertaining to an agency’s internal rules and practices governing operations and employee relations, fell within that exemption. Accordingly, the Court held the arbitration decision at issue here did not fall under the “internal personnel practices” exemption, vacated the trial court’s order, and remanded for the trial court’s consideration of whether, or to what extent, the arbitration decision was exempt from disclosure because it is a “personnel . . . file[ ].” View "Seacoast Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Portsmouth" on Justia Law