Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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In 2013, 15-year-old Sophia Christen attended a carnival operated by defendant Fiesta Shows, Inc. in a fenced-in area of the Ocean State Job Lot parking lot. After Sophia and her friends shared cotton candy, they began searching for a bathroom to wash their sticky hands; the carnival lacked public facilities with running water. The girls decided to leave the carnival and search for a bathroom. Although there were two nearby restaurants located on the same side of Manchester Road as the carnival, the girls decided to cross Manchester Road to go to a Burger King. At the intersection of the Ocean State access road and Manchester Road, the girls found that the pedestrian crossing signal was inoperative, but they decided to cross the road without the walk signal. While crossing the road, Sophia was struck by a vehicle and suffered fatal injuries. Fiesta had contacted the Derry Police Department to arrange for the presence of officers to provide “general public safety” at the carnival. Unlike organizers of other large events in Derry, Fiesta did not instruct the officers to engage in traffic control, pedestrian assistance, or other similar duties. One day after the accident, at the suggestion of the Derry Police Department, Fiesta arranged for additional police coverage to direct traffic and assist with pedestrian crossing on Manchester Road. Two days after the accident, two Fiesta employees reported to a Derry police officer investigating the signal that “they crossed the crosswalk regularly and had never seen the pedestrian crossing signal activate.” Plaintiff Elaine Christen, as administrator of Sophia’s estate, brought a wrongful death action against Fiesta, claiming negligence and also alleging that Fiesta’s conduct was wanton and reckless, entitling her to enhanced compensatory damages. Fiesta successfully moved for summary judgment, asserting that it violated no duty of care owed to Sophia. Plaintiff appealed, but finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Christen v. Fiesta Shows, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Arch Specialty Insurance Company (Arch) appealed multiple superior court orders granting summary judgment to defendants Triage Staffing, Inc. (Triage), Exeter Hospital, Inc. (Exeter), and American Healthcare Services Association (AHSA) on their petitions for declaratory judgment, and denying Arch’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The court ruled that Arch was required to defend and indemnify Triage, Exeter, and AHSA, pursuant to two insurance policies that Arch issued to Triage, for claims asserted against the defendants by patients of Exeter who contracted Hepatitis C (Exeter Patients). On appeal, Arch argued the trial court erred in finding inapplicable certain exclusions found in the insurance policies and in determining that the claims involved multiple occurrences under the policies. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Triage and Exeter regarding Arch’s duty to defend and indemnify them pursuant to the general liability coverage forms; the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Exeter regarding Arch’s duty to defend and indemnify it pursuant to the umbrella coverage forms; reversed in part and vacated in part the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Triage regarding Arch’s duty to defend and indemnify it pursuant to the umbrella coverage forms, and remanded all matters to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company v. American Healthcare Services Association" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an accident at a pond owned by the defendant, the Town of Chester, where Christopher Kurowski suffered injuries after being struck by a person using a rope swing attached to a tree on the shore. Plaintiff, Jay Kurowski, as father and next friend of his minor son, Christopher, appealed a superior court order dismissing his negligence and intentional tort claims against the Town, as barred by the recreational use immunity statutes. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the Town was entitled to immunity under RSA 212:34, and affirmed. View "Kurowski v. Town of Chester" on Justia Law

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Petitioner-claimant Jason Malo appealed a Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision reducing the rate at which his indemnity benefits were paid from the temporary total disability rate to the diminished earning capacity rate. On appeal, he argued that the CAB erred by: (1) finding that his physical condition had improved since he sustained the original, compensable, work-related injury; (2) determining that the change in his physical condition affected his earning capacity; and (3) failing to make specific findings of fact and rulings of law sufficient to allow meaningful appellate review. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Jason Malo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs William Weaver (individually and as administrator of the estate of his wife, Marceline Weaver) and James Sousa, appealed superior court decisions granting summary judgment in favor of defendants the Town of Pelham (Town), Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark, Pelham Police Officer Derek Gioia (collectively, the Pelham defendants), and Woody’s Auto Repair & Towing, Inc. This case stemmed from an automobile accident allegedly caused by Randall Stewart, the owner and driver of a vehicle that collided with plaintiffs. With respect to the Pelham defendants, the superior court concluded they were not immune from suit under RSA chapter 507-B (2010) or under the common law, they were entitled to summary judgment because of the lack of evidence that they proximately caused the motor vehicle collision that resulted in the plaintiffs’ injuries. After review of that decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that there was insufficient evidence that the Pelham defendants proximately caused the accident. Accordingly, the Court did not address the Pelham defendants’ cross-appeal on immunity. With regard to Woody's, the superior court granted summary judgment, concluding that: (1) because Stewart’s vehicle had been towed the night before the collision pursuant to RSA 262:32 (2014), rather than impounded pursuant to RSA 262:40 (2014), Woody’s was not required to obtain authorization from the police or a court prior to releasing the vehicle the next day to its owner; (2) Woody’s could not be liable for negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle because of the lack of evidence that a Woody’s employee knew, or should have known, that the owner was impaired when he picked up his vehicle from impound; and (3) given the absence of evidence demonstrating that Woody’s breached a duty owed to plaintiffs, it was not liable for negligence. The Supreme Court affirmed that judgment too. View "Weaver v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Seventeen of the 20 plaintiffs to this case were Somali Bantu refugees who were resettled to the United States in 2004. Three of the plaintiffs were born in the United States to Somali Bantu refugees. Plaintiffs lived in the defendants’ apartments during 2005-2006, and those apartments were contaminated by lead paint, a known health hazard. Plaintiffs had elevated levels of lead in their blood. In their complaints, which were consolidated for discovery and trial, plaintiffs, through their parents, alleged that they were injured by their exposure to lead paint while living in defendants’ apartments. In this interlocutory appeal, plaintiffs challenged a superior court order granting the motion to exclude the expert testimony of Peter Isquith, Ph.D. After evaluating the 20 plaintiffs, Isquith, a clinical neuropsychologist, determined that 17 of them suffered from neurological deficits and opined that lead exposure was, more likely than not, a substantial factor in causing those deficits. The superior court excluded Isquith’s testimony based upon its determination that his testimony was not “the product of reliable principles and methods,” and its finding that he did not apply “the principles and methods reliably to the facts” of this case. The superior court certified a question to the Supreme Court: whether the trial court abused its discretion by excluding the expert's testimony. The Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's order, and affirmed. View "Osman v. Lin" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Carlos Marti appealed a Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision to dismiss his claim for reinstatement to his job with respondent Nashua Foundries, Inc. Petitioner injured his elbow at work. He informed respondent’s president of his injury, was given an over-the-counter medication, and returned to work. Petitioner’s pain grew worse and, after approximately thirty minutes, he asked the president for permission to go to the local emergency room. The president refused the request, referring petitioner to an occupational health clinic pursuant to company policy and the collective bargaining agreement governing petitioner’s employment. Against the president’s directive, petitioner clocked out of work and went to the emergency room. He returned later with a doctor’s note for a four-day work absence, but was instead terminated for insubordination. Petitioner did not grieve his termination under the collective bargaining agreement. Respondent’s workers’ compensation insurer accepted the claim and paid petitioner’s medical bills. Petitioner requested a hearing on his claims for reinstatement and back pay; respondent moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The CAB found that petitioner failed to challenge his termination by grieving it pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement. Respondent contended that because petitioner failed to grieve his termination, he could not challenge its legitimacy. The Supreme Court, after review, disagreed with respondent's contention: "[i]f this were correct, the petitioner would be considered to have been legitimately terminated for cause, and, under our interpretation of the statute herein, would not be an “employee” eligible for reinstatement under RSA 281-A:25-a, I. We cannot determine, however, whether the petitioner’s failure to grieve forecloses a challenge to his termination because the collective bargaining agreement is not contained in the record before us." Accordingly, the Court vacated and remanded for a determination on that issue and for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Carlos Marti" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lynette Maryea was an inmate at the Strafford County House of Corrections. In January 2011, the County was transporting Maryea from the House of Corrections to the Federal District Court in Concord in an inmate transport van. Maryea rode handcuffed and shackled in the van’s back compartment, which was designated for inmates. The compartment had no seatbelts. During the drive, the van collided with Thomas Velardi’s vehicle, and Maryea sustained injuries. Maryea then brought negligence claims against Velardi and the County. In her negligence claim against the County, Maryea alleged that the County was liable for her injuries because the transport van was not equipped with seatbelts in the back compartment where she was required to be seated. Maryea appealed a Superior Court order ruling that defendant Strafford County was entitled to discretionary function immunity and granting the County’s motion for summary judgment in an action for damages arising out of an automobile accident. Maryea and Velardi eventually settled. The principal issue in this case was whether the provisions in RSA chapter 507-B waiving governmental immunity from tort liability arising out of, among other things, the operation of motor vehicles, abrogated the County’s common law discretionary function immunity. After review, the Supreme Court held that they do not, and, accordingly, affirmed. View "Maryea v. Velardi" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Raymond Cover appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board order denying his request for reinstatement to his former part-time position with the respondent, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission (Commission). Cover was a part-time employee of the Commission. In late May 2013, he sustained a work-related injury. The Commission sent him workers’ compensation forms on June 5 and warned him that he faced termination if he did not provide medical documentation by June 14 to justify his absence from work. On June 6, Cover gave the forms to his physician, who submitted them to the Commission on June 17, three days after the Commission’s deadline. Cover acknowledged that he did not submit any medical documentation to the Commission by June 14. On June 13, the Commission’s insurance carrier denied Cover’s workers’ compensation claim, stating that it had not received medical documentation concerning his injury. On June 17, the Commission terminated Cover’s employment. The board based its denial upon New Hampshire Administrative Rules, Lab 504.05(b)(3), which stated that part-time employees were ineligible for reinstatement under the Workers’ Compensation Law. On appeal, Cover argued that Lab 504.05(b)(3) conflicted with RSA 281-A:25-a and was therefore invalid. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the plain language of RSA 281-A:25-a supported Cover’s argument that the right of reinstatement extended to part-time employees. "By stripping part-time employees of the right to reinstatement provided by RSA 281-A:25-a, the rule cannot be characterized as a rule that merely 'fill[s] in the details to effectuate the purpose of the statute.' Rather, the rule impermissibly modifies the statute and is therefore invalid." The Court vacated the board’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Raymond Cover" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified a question of New Hampshire law to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The question arose from a dispute between Old Republic Insurance Company and Stratford Insurance Company as to their respective coverage and defense obligations arising out of a motor vehicle accident involving their insureds. Old Republic and Stratford each provided insurance coverage for a tractor-trailer that collided with a passenger vehicle. The owner of the tractor, Ryder Truck Rentals, had purchased an insurance policy from Old Republic. DAM Express, a for-hire motor company, had leased the tractor from Ryder. Although, pursuant to the lease agreement, Ryder was responsible for obtaining liability insurance for the tractor, DAM also purchased a separate insurance policy from Stratford. When the collision occurred, the driver of the tractor-trailer was employed by DAM, and the trailer was owned by Coca-Cola. The question posed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court was whether, under New Hampshire law, when was an excess insurer’s duty to defend triggered? Did New Hampshire follow the general rule that the excess insurer’s duty to defend is triggered only when the primary insurer’s coverage is exhausted? If not, what rule as to allocation of defense costs and timing of payment did New Hampshire follow? The New Hampshire Court responded that under New Hampshire law, the excess insurer’s duty to defend is triggered only when the primary’s insurer’s coverage is exhausted. View "Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Stratford Insurance Co." on Justia Law