Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
Tremblay v. Bald
In the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, the case involved Gail C. Tremblay, the plaintiff, and the Estate of Donald D. Bald, the decedent, and Allan Bald, the defendants. Tremblay and Donald Bald were engaged and lived together for over ten years but never married. During their relationship, they executed several agreements stating that if they were living together at the time of Bald's death, Tremblay would receive certain properties. Upon Bald's death, Tremblay initiated legal action, arguing that the agreements were enforceable contracts. The defendants disagreed, asserting that the agreements lacked consideration, and the Superior Court sided with the defendants.Upon review, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the lower court's decision, concluding that the agreements are enforceable. The court stated that a valid enforceable contract requires an offer, acceptance, consideration, and a meeting of the minds. While the defendants argued that the agreements lacked consideration because the couple was already living together when the agreements were executed, the court disagreed. The court held that the plaintiff's continued cohabitation constituted a benefit to the decedent, thereby satisfying the requirement for consideration. Furthermore, the court stated that either party's ability to end the relationship prior to the decedent's death did not affect the enforceability of the agreements. As a result, the court reversed the lower court's ruling and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tremblay v. Bald" on Justia Law
CC 145 Main, LLC v. Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company
Defendant Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company appealed a superior court grant of summary judgment to plaintiff CC 145 Main, LLC, in a declaratory judgment action regarding the interpretation of an insurance policy exclusion. CC 145 Main owned an apartment building and purchased a “Businessowners Coverage” insurance policy that included “all risk” property insurance, which provided that Union Mutual would “pay for direct physical loss of or damage to” the covered property, unless coverage was specifically limited or excluded by the policy. The insured property sustained damage when a tenant poured cat litter down a toilet, clogging an interior pipe and causing water to overflow from a shower and toilet. The property required significant cleaning and repair, and tenants were required to temporarily relocate. CC 145 Main filed a claim with Union Mutual for water damage, which Union Mutual denied pursuant to a provision in the insurance policy excluding coverage for damage caused by “[w]ater that backs up or overflows or is otherwise discharged from a sewer, drain, sump, sump pump or related equipment.” CC 145 Main filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the water exclusion does not apply to its claim. Union Mutual filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the damage at issue was caused by water that overflowed from “drains” within the meaning of the exclusion. The trial court concluded it was unclear whether the word “drain” in the water exclusion applied to shower and toilet drains and, therefore, the water exclusion was ambiguous and had to be construed in favor of CC 145 Main. Defendant challenged the trial court’s ruling that the policy’s water damage exclusion was ambiguous and its decision to construe the policy, therefore, in favor of CC 145 Main. But finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "CC 145 Main, LLC v. Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Schleicher & Stebbins Hotels, LLC, et al. v. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co., et al.
In an interlocutory appeal, multiple hotel operators challenged a superior court’s orders in a suit against defendants, multiple insurance underwriters, all relating to the denial of coverage during the COVID-19 world health pandemic. Plaintiffs owned and operated twenty-three hotels: four in New Hampshire, eighteen in Massachusetts, and one in New Jersey. Plaintiffs purchased $600 million of insurance coverage from defendants for the policy period from November 1, 2019 to November 1, 2020. With the exception of certain addenda, the relevant language of the policies was identical, stating in part that it “insures against risks of direct physical loss of or damage to property described herein . . . except as hereinafter excluded.” For periods of time, pursuant to governors’ orders, hotels in each of the three states were permitted to provide lodging only to vulnerable populations and to essential workers. These essential workers included healthcare workers, the COVID-19 essential workforce, and other workers responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Beginning in June 2020, plaintiffs’ hotels were permitted to reopen with a number of restrictions on their business operations. Plaintiffs, through their insurance broker, provided notice to defendants they were submitting claims in connection with losses stemming from COVID-19. Plaintiffs sued when these claims denied, arguing that the potential presence of the virus triggered business loss provisions in their respective policies. To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed, finding that “[w]hile the presence of the virus might affect how people interact with one another, and interact with the property, it does not render the property useless or uninhabitable, nor distinctly and demonstrably altered.” View "Schleicher & Stebbins Hotels, LLC, et al. v. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law
Keene Auto Body, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
Plaintiff Keene Auto Body, Inc. appealed a circuit court order that dismissed its complaint against defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Keene Auto Body, acting as an assignee of Caleb Meagher, who insured his vehicle through State Farm, sued State Farm for breach of contract for failing to cover the full cost of repairs to the insured’s vehicle. State Farm moved to dismiss the suit on grounds that, because of an anti-assignment clause in the insured’s policy, the insured’s assignment of his breach of contract claim to Keene Auto Body was not valid, and that, even if it was, Keene Auto Body did not sufficiently state a claim for breach of contract. The trial court granted the motion. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found the anti-assignment clause at issue here was ambiguous, and construed it against the insurer. Therefore, the clause did not prohibit the insured from assigning his post-loss claim to Keene Auto Body. Given this holding, the Supreme Court determined Keene Auto Body's factual allegations were sufficient to survive State Farm's motion to dismiss. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Keene Auto Body, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company" on Justia Law
O’Malley-Joyce v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co.
Plaintiffs-homeowners Dylan O’Malley-Joyce and Eileen Nash appealed a superior court order granting the summary judgment motion filed by defendant Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company (the insurer), on their claims for damages and declaratory relief. The insured residence was damaged by two leaks — one in November 2017 and the other in early January 2018. The homeowners filed claims under the policy as to both leaks. Thereafter, the parties disagreed about the cost and scope of repairs. In November 2018, the insurer sought to settle the parties’ dispute by providing a contractor “who [was] willing and able to complete the work” and by “paying up to the replacement cost figures on the [contractor’s] estimates less the deductibles for each of the claims.” The policy’s appraisal provision provided, in pertinent part, that if the parties “fail to agree on the amount of loss, either may demand an appraisal of the loss.” Because the parties were unable to reach an agreement, the insurer demanded that they participate in the appraisal process set forth in the homeowners’ policy. In November 2019, the homeowners brought a two-claim complaint against the insurer. In one claim, the homeowners sought a declaratory judgment, and in the other, they sought damages for “breach of contract, bad faith, statutory violations.” Because, on appeal, the homeowners did not contest the grant of summary judgment on either their claim for declaratory judgment or their claim that the insurer violated certain statutes, the New Hampshire Supreme Court focused solely on their claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Because the homeowners filed neither an objection to the insurer’s summary judgment motion nor a motion to reconsider the trial court’s order, the Supreme Court determined they failed to preserve their appellate arguments for review. Nonetheless, the Court reviewed their arguments for plain error, and finding no plain error, the Court affirmed. View "O'Malley-Joyce v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Seward v. Richards et al.
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
St. Onge v. Oberten, LLC
Plaintiff Robert St. Onge appealed a circuit court order dismissing his claim brought under RSA chapter 540-A against defendant Oberten, LLC, on the ground that the sober living facility it operated, and in which the plaintiff lived, was a “group home” under RSA 540:1-a, IV(c) and, therefore, exempt from RSA chapter 540-A.Plaintiff was one of 12 residents at defendant’s Manchester, New Hampshire location. All program participants agreed to certain rules for living at the home. The contract plaintiff signed explicitly provided that it was not a lease and that “residents of Live Free Structured Sober Living have no tenant rights.” Despite being aware of, and agreeing to, the home's rules, plaintiff violated them and, as a result, was discharged from the program and required to vacate the sober living facility. He subsequently filed a petition alleging defendant violated RSA chapter 540-A by using “self-help” to evict him. Defendant moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that because its facility was a “group home,” it was not a “landlord” required to bring an eviction proceeding under RSA chapter 540, and plaintiff was not a “tenant” entitled to the protections of RSA chapter 540-A. The trial court agreed with defendant. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "St. Onge v. Oberten, LLC" on Justia Law
Short v. LaPlante
Plaintiffs Chad and Kelly Short (Buyers) appealed a superior court order denying their requests for specific performance and attorney’s fees and costs in connection with an alleged contract to purchase real estate from defendants John and Lori LaPlante, as trustees of the LaPlante Family Revocable Trust (Sellers). Buyers visited the Sellers’ Concord home for the first time on May 24, 2018, and that day submitted an offer to purchase it for $690,000. After negotiations, but before the purchase and sale agreement (P&S) was executed, the parties agreed that the Buyers would purchase the property for $690,000 and would submit $10,000 as a deposit, and the Sellers would furnish up to $7,250 in closing costs. On June 1, the Sellers located a property in Stratham that they thought would suit their needs. They submitted an offer on that property on June 3. Also, on June 3, the parties fully executed the final P&S for the Sellers’ Concord property, which included the following provision (the Disputed Provision): “This agreement is subject to Sellers finding suitable housing no later than July 14, 2018.” On June 5, the Sellers sent an email apologizing to the Buyers “for wanting to cancel the P&S . . . at this stage.“ Buyers interpreted the Sellers’ attempt to cancel the P&S as an indication the Sellers received a better offer; Buyers subsequently brought this action. The trial court found that the P&S was not “a binding and enforceable contract” because “[t]here was no meeting of the minds regarding the Disputed Provision.” The Buyers unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, and this appeal followed. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the superior court’s order and affirmed. View "Short v. LaPlante" on Justia Law
Mentis Sciences, Inc. v. Pittsburgh Networks, LLC
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
Teatotaller, LLC v. Facebook, Inc.