Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Plaintiff Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners’ Association (Association), filed claims against defendant L.B.O. Holding, Inc. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort (Attitash), arising from Attitash’s alleged failure to maintain a cooling tower at the Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center (Condominium) in Bartlett. Attitash moved to dismiss the Association’s claims, arguing that they were barred by a provision, which required arbitration of certain disputes, in a management agreement between the parties. The trial court denied Attitash’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the Association’s claims fell outside of the scope of the provision. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners' Association v. L.B.O. Holding, Inc.. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Slania Enterprises, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to grant defendant Appledore Medical Group, Inc.’s motion to dismiss as time-barred a petition to recover damages stemming from an alleged breach of a commercial real estate lease. In October 2012, Slania, as the lessor, and Appledore, as the lessee, entered into a commercial real estate lease for an initial fixed term that ended on April 30, 2015. However, Appledore never took possession of the premises. Appledore paid rent due through January 2013, but then stopped doing so. In March 2013, Appledore communicated to Slania that it wished to terminate the lease. On April 12, 2013, Slania notified Appledore that it was in default on its rental payments. Appledore did not pay. On April 22, 2013, at the expiration of a 10-day cure period, Slania notified Appledore that, pursuant to Section 13.1(b) of the lease, it was electing, as its remedy upon default, to “keep the lease in effect and recover rent and other charges due [from Appledore] less the amount [Slania] may recover by re[-]letting the premises.” Slania re-let the premises from February 2015 through the end of the initial term of the lease, April 2015, for a lesser monthly amount. Approximately one year later, Slania filed a breach of contract action against Appledore for $82,527.87 in damages, which included rent, late fees, and utility costs due from May 2013 through April 2015. Appledore moved to dismiss, asserting that because the lease was breached no later than April 22, 2013, the claim was barred by a three-year statute of limitations. Slania objected, arguing that the lease was an installment contract, and, therefore, the statute of limitations did not bar a suit to recover payments due within three years of the date the complaint was filed. The trial court granted Appledore’s motion to dismiss, ruling that, because “a real estate lease of the type involved here is not an installment contract as that term is contemplated in the statute of limitations context,” the so-called “installment contract rule,” under which the statute of limitations runs only against each installment when it becomes due, did not apply. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded commercial real estate leases did not fall outside the bounds of the installment contract rule, and reversed the trial court’s contrary ruling. In rejecting Slania’s assertion that it could elect to keep the lease in place and sue for breaches that occurred within three years of the date it filed suit, the trial court did not mention anticipatory repudiation or material breach. The Supreme Court found this case raised issues of first impression regarding the interplay of the installment contract rule, a party’s election of contractual remedies, and anticipatory repudiation or anticipatory breach. It did not appear that these issues were fully explored by the trial court; accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s ruling with respect to Slania’s argument that, under the terms of the lease, it could keep the lease in effect and bring an action to recover for breaches that occurred no more than three years before the date it filed this suit. The case was remanded for such further proceedings, as the trial court deemed necessary. View "Slania Enterprises, Inc. v. Appledore Medical Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs were four companies with common owners and operators: Halifax-American Energy Company, LLC; PNE Energy Supply, LLC (PNE); Resident Power Natural Gas & Electric Solutions, LLC (Resident Power); and Freedom Logistics, LLC d/b/a Freedom Energy Logistics, LLC (collectively, the “Freedom Companies”). The defendants were three companies and their owners: Provider Power, LLC; Electricity N.H., LLC d/b/a E.N.H. Power; Electricity Maine, LLC; Emile Clavet; and Kevin Dean (collectively, the “Provider Power Companies”). The Freedom Companies and the Provider Power Companies were engaged in the same business, arranging for the supply of electricity and natural gas to commercial and residential customers in New Hampshire and other New England states. The parties’ current dispute centered on a Freedom Company employee whom the defendants hired, without the plaintiffs’ knowledge, allegedly to misappropriate the plaintiffs’ confidential and proprietary information. According to plaintiffs, defendants used the information obtained from the employee to harm the plaintiffs’ business by improperly interfering with their relationships with their customers and the employee. A jury returned verdicts in plaintiffs’ favor on many of their claims, including those for tortious interference with customer contracts, tortious interference with economic relations with customers, tortious interference with the employee’s contract, and misappropriation of trade secrets. The jury awarded compensatory damages to plaintiffs on each of these claims, except the misappropriation of trade secrets claim, and included in the damages award attorney’s fees incurred by plaintiffs in prior litigation against the employee for his wrongful conduct. Subsequently, the trial court awarded attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs under the New Hampshire Uniform Trade Secrets Act (NHUTSA). On appeal, defendants challenged: (1) the jury’s verdicts on plaintiffs’ claims for tortious interference with customer contracts and the employee’s contract; (2) the jury’s award of damages for tortious interference with customer contracts and tortious interference with economic relations, and its inclusion in that award of the attorney’s fees incurred in the plaintiffs’ prior litigation against the employee; and (3) the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to plaintiffs under the NHUTSA. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Halifax-American Energy Company, LLC v. Provider Power, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) appealed a superior court order upholding a wage claim decision issued by the New Hampshire Department of Labor (DOL) in favor of appellee Gary Khoury. As part of his work, Khoury sold IBM’s products to the federal government. Khoury testified that, prior to July 2014, IBM paid its sales representatives commissions based solely upon revenue-generating sales. According to Khoury, under this arrangement, sales representatives lacked an incentive to promote the deployment of IBM products that had previously been sold to an intermediary business partner (for which they received no commission), and a number of sales representatives had quit and found other jobs within IBM. In July 2014, IBM rolled out a new pilot program that allowed sales representatives to earn commissions on both the sale and deployment of IBM’s products. Under this program, sales representatives would receive a “primary” commission for reaching a revenue or sales quota and a “secondary” commission for reaching a deployment quota. Khoury testified that, approximately every six months, IBM sent each sales representative an individualized Incentive Plan Letter (IPL) defining the method by which the sales representative’s commissions would be calculated for sales and new deployments. IBM presented Khoury with an IPL for the period of July 1 to December 31, 2014. Pursuant to the terms of the IPL, Khoury would receive the “secondary” commission at issue in this case after meeting a quota of $571,000 for certain specified signings. The IPL contained several prominent disclaimers. By the end of the IPL period, he had met and surpassed his quota for the specified signings. At the DOL hearing, he testified that, in December 2014, his manager informed him that this entitled him to a commission payment of $154,124.21. That same month, he received $47,619.23 in advances from IBM towards this commission. Khoury testified that he subsequently made repeated unsuccessful inquiries about the additional funds. In March 2015, Khoury filed a wage claim with the DOL for $106,504.65, the balance of the commission. One month later, Khoury was informed that IBM planned to change his IPL terms by increasing the original quota from $571,000 to $1,000,000. Khoury testified that he was told that he could expect to receive a final payment of approximately $35,000 to $36,000. He stated that he then received a payment of $34,558.71 in May. Upon receiving this payment, Khoury reduced his wage claim against IBM from $106,504.65 to $71,946.27. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the superior court's order, and affirmed it. View "International Business Machines Corp. v. Khoury" 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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Plaintiffs Wayne and Ruth Ross, trustees of the Wayne Ross Revocable Trust and the Ruth Ross Revocable Trust, respectively, appealed a superior court order in favor of defendants Donald Ross and Rossview Farm, LLC (the LLC). Plaintiffs contested findings that the parties entered into a lease for the plaintiffs’ lifetimes and that they had no right to evict the defendants pursuant to RSA 540:2, II(d) or (e) (2007). The trial court found that plaintiffs conceded that a June 23, 2006 document satisfied the statute of frauds because, in their post-trial memorandum, plaintiffs explained their position that the June 23, 2006 document “is a writing signed by all the parties that states the terms of the parties’ agreement. This document satisfies the statute of frauds and governs their relationship.” The “clear” language of the June 23, 2006 document, plaintiffs posited, created a yearly lease. However, plaintiffs also argued in the post-trial memorandum that defendants’ introduction of parol evidence of the parties’ intent to create a perpetual lease violated the statute of frauds because “the intent of the parties to create a perpetual lease must be clear from the face of the document and there must be a document to satisfy the statute of frauds.” Thus, plaintiffs did not concede that the June 23, 2006 document satisfied the statute of frauds for all purposes; instead, they contended that it “satisfies the statute of frauds” if the document was read to create a yearly lease. The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated and remanded, finding the trial court’s finding that plaintiffs conceded the issue lacked evidentiary support, and concluded plaintiffs did not waive their statute of frauds argument by concession. View "Ross v. Ross" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment proceeding, petitioner Exeter Hospital, Inc. (Exeter) appealed a superior court order denying its motion for partial summary judgment as to the amount at which coverage was triggered under an umbrella policy (the policy) issued to Exeter by respondent Steadfast Insurance Company (Steadfast). In the spring of 2012, an outbreak of Hepatitis C infections among patients serviced by Exeter’s cardiac catheterization lab led investigators to discover that a technician had spread the virus to patients “through a clandestine drug diversion scheme.” The technician allegedly injected certain drugs into his body by way of intravenous needles, then reused the needles on patients, thereby infecting them with the virus. Numerous lawsuits were lodged against Exeter by affected patients. Exeter was primarily insured through a Self-Insurance Trust Agreement (SIT), which provided professional liability coverage in the amount of $1 million per medical incident, with a $4 million annual aggregate cap. Exeter also maintained the policy with Steadfast, which provided excess health care professional liability coverage. Steadfast maintained that it would pay damages only in excess of the $100,000 retained limit for each medical incident. Exeter filed this proceeding, seeking a declaration that it was not required to pay $100,000 retained limit per claim. The trial court interpreted the term “applicable underlying limit” as being a variable amount “dependent on the actual coverage remaining under [the] other [limits of] insurance,” here, the limits of the SIT. Because Exeter had paid out the limits of the SIT, the court found that the “applicable underlying limit” was zero, thereby rendering the $100,000 retained limit greater than the “applicable underlying limit.” Thus, the court determined that, pursuant to “Coverage A,” Steadfast was required “to pay damages in excess of $100,000 for each medical incident.” Exeter sought reconsideration of the court’s order, which the court denied. Although the New Hampshire Supreme Court did not agree with every underlying argument pressed by Exeter, it concluded that its overall argument regarding the interpretation of Coverage A was reasonable, and the trial court therefore erred in granting partial summary judgment as to the terms of Coverage A. View "Exeter Hospital, Inc. v. Steadfast Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fat Bullies Farm, LLC (Fat Bullies), and the counterclaim defendants, Donald Gould and Peter Simmons, appealed certain superior court findings and rulings made during the course of litigation with defendants Alan and Donna Perkins and Lori and Bret Devenport, involving the sale of a 3.1 acre horse farm in North Hampton known as Runnymede Farm. When the Devenports purchased the property in 1998, they promised to operate it as a horse farm in perpetuity, and to allow the former owner to maintain an office on site. Simmons told the Devenports that he was interested in purchasing the property. The Devenports told Simmons they would only sell if the buyer agreed to the horse farm and on site office conditions. Simmons spoke with Gould about purchasing the property jointly with the intent to develop and/or resell it. The two created Fat Bullies “for the purpose of acquiring real estate for development or resale.” After amendments to the purchase contract, the Devenports reiterated that they would sell the property only if Fat Bullies committed to operating it as a horse farm. Despite their intentions to develop the property, Simmons and Gould agreed. The parties executed a sales agreement. No payment had been made on the property; word got back to Lori Devenport that Simmons had talked to others in North Hampton about purchasing the farm. The Devenports rescinded the agreement, believing Simmons lied to them about promising to operate Runnymede as a horse farm. Fat Bullies invoked an option, but the Devenports refused to sell. In 2011, the Devenports sold Runnymede to the Perkinses. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Devenports on Fat Bullies’ breach of contract claim, finding that Fat Bullies failed to prove the existence of a contract by a preponderance of the evidence, and a verdict in favor of Fat Bullies, Simmons, and Gould on the Devenports’ fraudulent inducement claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court with respect to a Consumer Protection Act violation decision; the Court reversed with respect to attorney fees related to that Act decision. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fat Bullies Farm, LLC v. Devenport" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Holloway Automotive Group (Holloway) appealed a circuit court order ruling that the liquidated damages clause contained in the parties’ contract was unenforceable. Holloway was an authorized franchisee of Mercedes-Benz North America. Defendant Steven Giacalone purchased a new vehicle from Holloway. At the time of the purchase, the defendant signed an “AGREEMENT NOT TO EXPORT:” “MBUSA prohibits its authorized dealers from exporting new Mercedes-Benz vehicles outside of the exclusive sales territory of North America and will assess charges against [Holloway] for each new Mercedes-Benz vehicle it sells . . . which is exported from North America within one (1) year.” By signing the agreement, defendant promised “not [to] export the Vehicle outside North America . . . for a period of one (1) year” from the date of the Agreement and, if he did so, to pay Holloway $15,000 as liquidated damages. The vehicle was subsequently exported within the one-year period. Holloway sued claiming breach of contract and misrepresentation and seeking liquidated damages in the amount of $15,000, plus interest, costs, and attorney’s fees. The trial court found that the Agreement was entered into “between the parties to protect [Holloway] from a claim by [MBUSA],” but that MBUSA did not, in fact, charge Holloway any fees despite the vehicle having been exported. The trial court declined to enforce the liquidated damages clause in the agreement. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the $15,000 liquidated damages provision was enforceable because Holloway’s damages resulting from the breach were not “easily ascertainable.” Accordingly, the Court held the trial court’s determination that the liquidated damages provision in the parties’ Agreement was unenforceable was not supported by the record and was erroneous as a matter of law. View "Holloway Automotive Group v. Giacalone" on Justia Law

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Defendants, Markel Corporation, Markel Services, Inc. (Markel Services), and Essex Insurance Company (Essex), appealed a superior court order denying their motions for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to plaintiff Michael Newell, in this insurance coverage action. Newell was allegedly injured in a slip and fall accident at a property owned by Brames, Inc. (Brames) in Laconia. Brames was insured under an Amusement Park General Liability Policy issued by Essex. Essex was a subsidiary of Markel Corporation and Markel Services was Markel Corporation’s claims handling branch. Newell filed two personal injury actions arising from his slip and fall. The first action against Brames' co-owner and treasurer, was settled out-of-court. In the second lawsuit, Newell sued Ivy Banks, the person who allegedly cleaned the floor upon which Newell slipped and injured himself. Defendants received notice of the Banks action, but declined to defend Banks or intervene. Banks, although properly served, filed neither an appearance nor an answer and was defaulted. A default judgment was entered against Banks for $300,000, the full amount of damages sought by Newell. Newell brought suit against defendants to recover the amount of the default judgment, arguing he was a third party beneficiary under the insurance contract between Brames and Markel/Essex. On appeal, defendants argued the trial court erred in determining that the language of the Policy was ambiguous and that Banks was a “volunteer worker” under the Policy. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Newell v. Markel Corporation" on Justia Law