Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
Moscicki v. Leno
Sandra Moscicki appealed a superior court order denying her motion to exclude expert testimony proffered by the appellees, Charles and Heidi Leno. In July 2008, the Lenos’ twin children, a boy and a girl, were born. In September 2009, the Lenos and their children moved into an apartment owned by Moscicki’s trust. Shortly thereafter, when the children were approximately eighteen months old, Heidi Leno “expressed concerns” regarding their son’s “speech and development.” Charles Leno had also observed that their son exhibited “significant developmental problems in the months before his eighteen-month checkup.” In October 2009, both children were tested for lead. The test revealed that both children had elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs). The children were again tested for lead in July 2010, shortly after their second birthday. This test revealed that they again had EBLLs, higher than previously recorded. Thereafter, the Lenos and their children moved out of Moscicki’s apartment. Moscicki brought an action against the Lenos, seeking unpaid rent. The Lenos then filed an action against Moscicki, alleging that their children suffered harm as a result of lead exposure while living in the apartment. The trial court consolidated these actions. The interlocutory question transferred to the New Hampshire Supreme Court called for the Court to decide whether for an expert opinion on causation to be admissible in a toxic tort case, the expert had to consider the “dose-response relationship” in reaching that opinion. The Supreme Court answered in the negative and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Moscicki v. Leno" on Justia Law
Appeal of Elizabeth Doody
Claimant Elizabeth Doody worked for the Laconia School District as an elementary school speech assistant for over a decade. Her job required her to accompany students from their location to a special services room as well as to supervise a locked side entrance door at the beginning of the school day when students arrive and at the end of the school day when they depart. Of the school’s 300 students, approximately 125 students typically used the side entrance, which consisted of an outside concrete area, an exterior door that accessed a small atrium with a floor mat, and an interior door that accessed the corridor. In winter weather, the outside concrete area was treated with sand and ice melt product. On April 18, 2017, Claimant fell twice while walking down the corridor toward the side entrance, once at approximately 8:30 a.m. and again at approximately 3:00 p.m. Both falls occurred in the same location. The morning fall did not injure Claimant, but the afternoon fall fractured her right arm, which had to be repaired surgically. Claimant was taken out of work by one of her doctors the day after the injury and was released to part-time work with modifications. Because the District was unable to accommodate the restrictions, Claimant remained out of work until school resumed in the fall. Despite the surgery and a subsequent course of physical therapy, Claimant remained unable to lift her right hand over her head and continued to experience pain. Claimant appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision to deny her claim for indemnity benefits and payment of medical bills. The parties disputed whether Claimant’s injury arose out of her employment. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the CAB misapplied the applicable law with respect to on-the-job injuries, and because applying that test required further fact-finding, it vacated the CAB’s decision and remanded for further factual findings and for the correct application of the “increased-risk test” to those facts. View "Appeal of Elizabeth Doody" on Justia Law
Bloom v. Casella Construction, Inc.
Plaintiff Eileen Bloom appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendant Casella Construction, Inc. (Casella), ruling that the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and was not otherwise liable to her pursuant to Section 324A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Plaintiff worked as a nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). On December 30, 2013, she parked her car in an employee parking lot. She exited the vehicle, took two steps, and fell on a patch of ice. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff suffered injuries that required surgery. At the time of the plaintiff’s accident, DHMC had a “Snow Plowing Agreement” with Casella (the contract). “Snow Plowing Guidelines” (guidelines) were attached to the contract, calling for salting and sanding of DHMC grounds, and stating that “[e]mployee lots shall be kept plowed as clear as possible and accessible at the start of each shift change”; and “[g]enerally salt is applied to parking lots prior to or at the start of a storm and after storm cleanup or as directed by DHMC Grounds Supervisor or his designee.” Plaintiff alleged the contract obligated Casella to keep the employee parking lot in which she fell clear, and Casella breached that obligation. To the extent the trial court reasoned that there was no duty under the contract because Casella did not assume DHMC’s entire responsibility to keep its property free from unreasonable risks of harm, the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed. Whether DHMC directed Casella to apply sand and salt to the parking lot where plaintiff was injured raised a genuine issue of material fact which precluded the entry of summary judgment. For this reason, the Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bloom v. Casella Construction, Inc." on Justia Law
Rankin v. South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc.
The trial court certified a question of law to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on interlocutory transfer. John Rankin (Rankin) and his wife MaryAnne (collectively, plaintiffs)sued after Rankin fell while leaving a business located at 70 South Main Street in Hanover, New Hampshire (the property). The property was owned by South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc. (South Street). In March 2017, plaintiffs sued South Street for negligence and loss of consortium, alleging that Rankin fell on an “inadequate and dangerous ramp or partial stair” that “did not meet applicable building codes.” The trial court asked the Supreme Court whether RSA 508:4-b (“the statute of repose”) as amended in 1990 applied to and bar third party actions by a property owner defendant (in a premises liability action) for indemnity and/or contribution against architects involved in the design of the improvement to real property which the injured plaintiff alleges was dangerous and did not meet applicable building codes. The Supreme Court concluded that it did. View "Rankin v. South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law
Virgin v. Fireworks of Tilton, LLC
In March 2016, plaintiff James Virgin filed a personal injury lawsuit against defendants Fireworks of Tilton, LLC (Fireworks of Tilton) and Foursquare Imports, LLC d/b/a AAH Fireworks, LLC (Foursquare). As pertinent to this appeal, the complaint alleged breach of the implied warranty of merchantability for damages purportedly sustained as a result of an incident involving fireworks sold by Fireworks of Tilton, and distributed by Foursquare. In May 2017, Foursquare made a “DeBenedetto” disclosure pursuant to the case structuring order identifying a Chinese company as the manufacturer of the fireworks that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff moved to strike the disclosure arguing, among other things, that apportionment of fault did not apply to breach of warranty claims. The trial court denied the motion, but later granted plaintiff’s request to file an interlocutory appeal, which the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted. The Supreme Court concluded RSA 507:7-e (2010) did not apply to personal injuries that alleged breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under RSA 382-A:2-314 (2011), thus permitting a named defendant to apportion fault to a non-litigant. View "Virgin v. Fireworks of Tilton, LLC" on Justia Law
Appeal of Panaggio
Petitioner Andrew Panaggio appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (board). Petitioner suffered a work-related injury to his lower back in 1991; a permanent impairment award was approved in 1996 and in 1997, he received a lump sum settlement. Petitioner continued to suffer ongoing pain as a result of his injury and has experienced negative side effects from taking prescribed opiates. In 2016, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services determined that Panaggio qualified as a patient in the therapeutic cannabis program, and issued him a New Hampshire cannabis registry identification card. Panaggio purchased medical marijuana and submitted his receipt to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for reimbursement. The respondent-carrier, CNA Insurance Company, denied payment on the ground that “medical marijuana is not reasonable/necessary or causally related” to his injury. The board denied his request for reimbursement from the respondent.On appeal, Panaggio argued the board erred in its interpretation of RSA 126-X:3, III, and when it based its decision in part on the fact that possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. Specifically, the Court determined that because the board found that Panaggio’s use of medical marijuana was reasonable, medically necessary, and causally related to his work injury, the board erred when it determined the insurance carrier was prohibited from reimbursing Panaggio for the costs of purchasing medical marijuana. The Court determined that because the board’s order failed to sufficiently articulate the law that supported the board’s legal conclusion and failed to provide an adequate explanation of its reasoning regarding federal law, it was impossible for the Court to discern the grounds for the board’s decision sufficient for it to conduct meaningful review. Accordingly, the case was remanded to the board for a determination of these issues in the first instance. View "Appeal of Panaggio" on Justia Law
Santos v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Ins. Co.
Defendant Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company (Metropolitan), appealed a superior court order partially granting and partially denying its summary judgment motion as well as a cross-motion filed by plaintiff Joseph Santos. Santos held a personal excess liability policy with Metropolitan that included excess underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. After Metropolitan denied a claim made by Santos for excess UIM benefits after Santos was hurt in a motorcycle accident, he brought this declaratory judgment action. The trial court ruled that Metropolitan was liable to Santos for excess UIM benefits. Metropolitan argued the trial court erred in so holding because Santos’s policy required, as a precondition to receiving excess UIM benefits, that he carry a certain amount of underlying insurance coverage, and Santos did not do so. Santos argued his lack of sufficient underlying coverage allowed Metropolitan to reduce its excess UIM liability but not escape it altogether. Finding no error in the superior court's judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed partial summary judgment. View "Santos v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Anderson v. Estate of Mary D. Wood
Plaintiff Monica Anderson appealed a superior court decision dismissing her personal injury action against the defendant, the Estate of Mary D. Wood, as time-barred. Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident with a vehicle driven by Mary Wood. The complaint was mistakenly served on Wood’s daughter, who was also named Mary D. Wood. The daughter moved to dismiss on the grounds that Wood had passed away on January 22, 2015, and the plaintiff had no cause of action against the daughter, who was neither the administrator of Wood’s estate nor had any legal relationship with, or legal duty to, plaintiff. Plaintiff moved to amend her complaint to substitute the Estate of Mary D. Wood for Mary D. Wood as the defendant. Plaintiff’s motion alleged that she had filed a petition for estate administration for the Estate of Mary D. Wood and that she would serve notice of the action on the estate once the circuit court ruled on that petition. The trial court dismissed the action, ruling, sua sponte, that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The court noted plaintiff’s concession that she had filed the action against the wrong defendant, but concluded that it could not grant her motion to amend because there was “nothing in the record to suggest . . . that an Estate of Mary D. Wood presently exists.” The parties did not dispute that Wood died intestate and no estate had been opened immediately following her death. The court acknowledged the plaintiff’s allegation that she had sought to open an estate, but noted that plaintiff had not provided “any documentation demonstrating that the [circuit court] ever issued a grant of administration of said estate.” Accordingly, the court dismissed the action, ruling that “there is presently no legal entity that can be properly substituted for the current defendant such that this Court would possess subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to RSA 556:7.” In August 2016, a certificate of appointment was issued, naming an administrator of the Estate of Mary D. Wood. Plaintiff filed her complaint in the case underlying this appeal on April 4, 2017. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations had run on the claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined plaintiff’s claim was not time-barred by RSA 508:4 at the time of Wood’s death and her injury suit was brought within three years of Wood’s death. Therefore, the action was timely. View "Anderson v. Estate of Mary D. Wood" on Justia Law
Franciosa v. Hidden Pond Farm, Inc.
Plaintiff Anthony Franciosa, as father and next friend of Vaneesa Franciosa, appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment filed by the defendants, Jessica Elliott and Hidden Pond Farm, Inc. a/k/a Hidden Pond Farm, and denying plaintiff’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment. The trial court ruled that, pursuant to RSA 508:19 (2010), defendants were entitled to immunity from liability for the injuries Vaneesa sustained in a horseback riding accident. Vaneesa was thirteen at the time of the accident; she had been riding horses for eight years and taking weekly riding lessons from Elliott, an expert equestrian, for almost two years. Approximately once a week, Vaneesa went on a "free ride," one that did not involve a lesson. On free rides, Elliott was not always present, and she rode unsupervised. After riding for approximately 30 minutes, Vaneesa fell off her horse trying to dismount. She was seriously injured when the horse stepped on Vaneesa. In its order, the trial court concluded that Vaneesa’s injuries resulted from the “inherent risks of equine activities.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the superior court order. View "Franciosa v. Hidden Pond Farm, Inc." on Justia Law
Grady v. Jones Lang Lasalle Construction Co., Inc.
Plaintiff Steven Grady appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendants, Jones Lang LaSalle Construction Company, Inc. (Jones Lang), and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. (collectively, “Liberty Mutual”), in this tort action for damages on the ground that defendants did not owe plaintiff a duty of care to provide supervision, training, or safety equipment. In 2012, Liberty Mutual contracted with Jones Lang to complete a construction project on premises owned by Liberty Mutual in Dover (the general contract). In January 2013, Jones Lang subcontracted the roofing work for the project (the subcontract) to A&M Roofing and Sheet Metal Company, Inc. (A&M). Plaintiff was an A&M employee when A&M began working on the project. On a cold, windy February 21, 2013, plaintiff began to perform flashing and insulation work on the roof. Because of the cold weather, plaintiff wore cotton gloves to keep his hands warm while he worked. After igniting a torch a few times with a lighter without incident, he lit the torch again as a gust of wind came, and the glove on his right hand ignited. As a result, plaintiff was injured. Sometime thereafter, plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits from A&M for his injuries. In February 2016, he brought the present action for negligence against defendants. In May 2017, the trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, ruling that they did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Grady v. Jones Lang Lasalle Construction Co., Inc." on Justia Law