Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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Plaintiff Scott Paine appealed a superior court decision granting judgment on the pleadings for his employment discrimination claim against defendant, Ride-Away, Inc. Plaintiff suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for many years, which substantially limited a major life activity. He was employed by defendant at its facility in Londonderry, New Hampshire as an automotive detailer in May 2018. In July 2018, his physician prescribed cannabis to help treat his PTSD, and plaintiff enrolled in New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis program. Plaintiff submitted a written request to defendant for an exception from its drug testing policy as a reasonable accommodation for his disability. Plaintiff explained that he was not requesting permission to use cannabis during work hours or to possess cannabis on defendant’s premises. Plaintiff was informed that he could no longer work for the company if he used cannabis. After plaintiff notified defendant that he was going to treat his PTSD with cannabis, his employment was terminated in September 2018. Plaintiff sued for employment discrimination, based on defendant’s failure to make reasonable accommodation for his disability. Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that, because marijuana use was both illegal and criminalized under federal law, the requested accommodation was facially unreasonable. After a hearing, the trial court granted defendant’s motion. The sole question before the New Hampshire Supreme Court was whether the court erred in ruling that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with New Hampshire law could not, as a matter of law, be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under RSA chapter 354-A. The Supreme Court held the trial court erred in determining that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with RSA chapter 126-X could not, as a matter of law, be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under RSA chapter 354-A. "[P]laintiff’s disability is PTSD, not the illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Paine v. Ride-Away, Inc." on Justia Law

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Respondent-father Nedim Suljevic appealed a circuit court order denying his motion for the court to exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction over the parties’ custody dispute pursuant to New Hampshire’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and granting petitioner-mother Senay Akin's petition to enforce the parties’ Turkish child custody order. The parties, who both have or previously had Turkish citizenship, were married in December 2010 and had a daughter the following year. According to Mother, the parties married in New Hampshire, and when she was pregnant with their daughter, she moved to Turkey while Father continued to reside in the United States. The parties’ daughter was born in Turkey in December 2011 and, until the events giving rise to this proceeding occurred in 2019, lived in Turkey continuously, attending school and receiving medical care there. The parties were divorced by a Turkish court in January 2015; the decree granted Mother sole custody of the child and allowed Father to have visitation with her. In 2019, Mother agreed that the daughter could spend July and August in the United States to visit Father. However, at the end of this two-month visit, Father refused to return the daughter to Mother. Mother made repeated overtures to Father for the daughter’s return, but he refused her entreaties. Mother accepted employment in Massachusetts during the 2020-2021 timeframe so that she could visit the daughter. During this time, Father continually rejected Mother’s requests for the daughter’s return to her custody. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulty finding a suitable attorney, Mother did not bring a court action for the daughter’s return until filing the underlying petition for expedited enforcement of a foreign child custody order in April 2021. Father was served with Mother’s petition, and then filed his own motion at issue here. As grounds for his motion, Father argued Mother physically abused the daughter while in the Mother's custody. Mother objected to Father’s motion, asserting that he had “refused repeatedly to return [her] daughter” and had issued threats. Mother asserted that Father “should not be allowed to litigate in New Hampshire when the Turkish order controls custody.” After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the circuit court's decision to deny Father's request, and to grant Mother's petition to enforce the parties' Turkish child custody order. View "In the Matter of Akin & Suljevic" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Patricia Crowe appealed a Superior Court order granting summary judgment to defendant Appalachian Stitching Company, LLC (Appalachian), on Crowe’s claim that Appalachian violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and RSA chapter 354-A by refusing to accommodate her sciatica. Crowe worked at Appalachian as an assembler, which required her to have the ability to bend, lift and turn freely. After a trip to the emergency room, Crowe returned to work and informed her supervisor she had been diagnosed with sciatica. Crowe requested the ability to sit until her pain subsided and she could resume standing. Appalachian requested a doctor’s note explaining her condition; she obliged with the emergency room discharge instructions that stated, “NO LIFTING, BENDING OR STOOPING FOR 1 WEEK.” After reviewing the discharge instructions, Appalachian sent Crowe home until she was released to work by her doctor. On June 1, 2017, after Crowe missed work for eight days without providing an update on her condition, Appalachian determined that she had voluntarily quit. The trial court granted summary judgment to Appalachian on the ground that Crowe had not established she was a “qualified individual” under the ADA or RSA chapter 354-A. On appeal, Crowe argued that she could have performed the essential functions of her job if Appalachian had not sent her home and, instead, continued to allow her to sit as requested. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found that an employer, did not need to provide futile or ineffective accommodations. "Once Crowe was on leave, Appalachian was entitled to rely on the doctor’s evaluation that Crowe was unable to return to work. ... although a request for leave can, in some circumstances, trigger an employer’s obligation to make reasonable accommodations under the ADA, Crowe’s doctor’s inquiry about the availability of FMLA was not such a request." Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court correctly determined that Appalachian was entitled to summary judgment on Crowe’s ADA and RSA chapter 354-A claims. View "Crowe v. Appalachian Stitching Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Maia Magee (tenant) appealed a circuit court order in favor of defendant Vita Cooper (landlord) on the tenant’s claim that the landlord willfully violated her right to quiet enjoyment of residential property. Tenant alleged that in retaliation for the August 4 continuance of an eviction proceeding, the landlord: (1) played “loud” rock music on an outdoor stereo system early in the morning and during the day from 8:30 a.m. on Friday, August 7 until 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 9, and “for several hours” after 6:00 p.m. on Monday, August 10; (2) yelled “GET OUT OF MY HOME!” loudly from her property on August 10; (3) either shot a gun or ignited firecrackers during the evening of August 9 and between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on August 10; and (4) had an unknown and unidentified man, carrying a camera, trespass on the leased property on August 9. Additionally, Tenant alleged that the landlord breached a term of her lease prohibiting the tenant from playing a “musical instrument, radio, television, or other like device in the leased premises in a manner offensive to other occupants of the building” or during certain hours. She assertet that, in finding to the contrary, the trial court improperly failed to consider the timing of the alleged “bad actions,” and misconstrued and mischaracterized certain items of evidence. Furthermore, Tenant contended the trial court erred by: (1) considering each of the landlord’s alleged “bad actions” individually, rather than considering whether, collectively, such actions violated her right to quiet enjoyment; (2) not considering whether the landlord’s alleged “bad actions” violated the parties’ lease; and (3) relying upon Tenant’s failure to submit evidence of a local sound ordinance. Finding that Tenant failed to meet her burden to establish that there was a question of law warranting reversal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Magee v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appeals a circuit court order denying her petition for guardianship of her great-nephew, a minor child, pursuant to RSA chapter 463 (2018 & Supp. 2020). On appeal, petitioner challenged the circuit court’s determination that she could not obtain guardianship because the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) already had legal custody of the child as a result of ongoing abuse and neglect proceedings. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that an award of legal custody pursuant to RSA chapter 169-C did not preclude the appointment of a guardian pursuant to RSA chapter 463. Accordingly, judgment was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Guardianship of B.C." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Tejasinha Sivalingam sued Frances Newton and Leigh Sharps (Selectwomen) and the Town of Ashland Board of Selectmen (Board), seeking the Selectwomen’s dismissal from and injunctive relief against the Board. Plaintiff alleged that, after the Board discussed in nonpublic session a complaint that he had submitted, information relating to that complaint was wrongfully disclosed in public session. The superior court granted the Selectwomen summary judgment, concluding they had not improperly disclosed any information, but denied their motions for judgment on the pleadings and attorney’s fees. The court also denied the Board’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, determining that the Board was required to notify plaintiff of the nonpublic session. Relying upon Superior Court Rule 46(c), the court then severed the adjudicated claim against the Selectwomen from plaintiff’s pending claim against the Board. In these consolidated appeals, plaintiff appealed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Selectwomen; the Selectwomen cross-appealed, arguing the superior court erred by denying their motions for judgment on the pleadings and attorney’s fees; and the Board, on an interlocutory basis pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 8, appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision denying the Selectwomen attorney’s fees. However, it reversed the superior court's decisions denying the Selectwomen’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and the Board’s motion to dismiss. View "Sivalingam v. Newton et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Bellevue Properties, Inc. (Bellevue) appealed a superior court order dismissing its petition to quiet title and for declaratory judgment brought against the defendants, 13 Green Street Properties, LLC and 1675 W.M.H., LLC (collectively, 13 Green Street). Bellevue owned and operated the North Conway Grand Hotel, which abutted Settlers’ Green, an outlet shopping center owned by 13 Green Street. Common Court, a road that encircled the hotel and much of Settlers’ Green, provided access to the properties. Half of the road is private, and half is public. A recorded easement allowed hotel guests to travel over a private road and the private section of Common Court. 13 Green Street planned to construct a mixed-use development in Settlers’ Green, including a supermarket and parking lot, on an undeveloped parcel of land (Lot 92) and an abutting lot (Lot 85). McMillan Lane ran through Lots 92 and 85. To construct a single, continuous development across both lots, 13 Green Street sought to replace McMillan Lane with a new private road that, like McMillan Lane, would run from Barnes Road to the public section of Common Court. In November 2019, Bellevue filed this petition to “[q]uiet title to the land” underneath McMillan Lane “by declaring that [Bellevue] has an easement in the form of a private right of access over same” pursuant to RSA 231:43, III. 13 Green Street moved to dismiss, arguing that Bellevue could not assert a statutory right of access under RSA 231:43, III because its property did not directly abut McMillan Lane. The trial court agreed with 13 Green Street and dismissed Bellevue’s petition. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment of dismissal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. 13 Green Street Properties, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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Eighteen petitioners (the Taxpayers) appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order issued following the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, 173 N.H. 362 (2020). In that decision, the Supreme Court vacated the BTLA’s prior dismissal of the Taxpayers’ property tax abatement appeals and remanded for the BTLA to further consider whether the Taxpayers omitted their personal signatures and certifications on their tax abatement applications to respondent Town of Bartlett (Town), “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” On remand, the BTLA found that “based on the facts presented, the Taxpayers [had] not met their burden of proving the omission of their signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect,” and again dismissed their appeals. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, et al." on Justia Law

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A New Hampshire circuit court issued an adjudicatory order finding that G.B., a minor, had been neglected, but that respondents, G/B/'s adoptive parents, were not at fault for the neglect. Subsequently, the court issued a dispositional order awarding legal custody of G.B. to the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and requiring DCYF to seek placement for G.B. in a residential treatment facility. DCYF appealed both orders, and G.B.’s guardian ad litem (GAL), Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA), joined in appealing the dispositional order. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it ruled that the respondents did not neglect G.B. The Court further concluded that, although the circuit court did not err by ruling G.B. a neglected child and ordering G.B.’s placement in a residential treatment facility, it failed to identify legally permissible primary and concurrent case plans in its dispositional order. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "In re G.B." on Justia Law

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Three defendants, Charles Richards, Chairman’s View, Inc. (Chairman’s View), and CoreValue Holdings, LLC (CoreValue), appealed a superior court order denying their motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, this action brought by plaintiff, Christine Seward. Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for claims related to the transfer of a patent. Plaintiff was a New Hampshire resident and was a former employee of Chairman's View; Chairman’s View was a Delaware corporation registered with the New Hampshire Secretary of State to do business in New Hampshire as a foreign corporation. Its principal office was located in White River Junction, Vermont. CoreValue was a Nevada limited liability company registered to do business in Vermont and has the same principal office address in White River Junction as Chairman’s View. Richards resided in Norwich, Vermont, and was the president, sole director, and majority shareholder of Chairman’s View and was the managing member, and either the sole or majority member, of CoreValue. In 2014, plaintiff loaned Chairman’s View $312,500 and an additional $58,000 at Richard’s request. In 2016, plaintiff made a formal demand for payment on both notes. Chairman’s View failed to honor the demands, constituting an event of default on both notes. To secure the payment of both notes, the parties entered into a Security Agreement which pledged all of Chairman’s View’s assets. The pledged assets included U.S. Patent No 960727842 for proprietary software (the Patent), which, the complaint alleged, on “knowledge and belief, . . . constitutes Chairman’s View’s nearly only—but significantly valuable—asset.” Due to continued nonpayment, plaintiff filed suit in superior court to collect on the notes. After a judgment in this suit was issued and became final, and without plaintiff’s knowledge or consent, Chairman’s View recorded an assignment of the Patent to CoreValue at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2018, the superior court granted plaintiff permission to attach the Patent, but it had already been assigned. Plaintiff contended defendants continued to receive license fees, and they continued to receive revenue from marketing the software covered by the Patent. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not err in denying defendants' motion to dismiss. View "Seward v. Richards et al." on Justia Law