Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
Appeal of Tradz, LLC
Petitioner Tradz, LLC, appealed a New Hampshire Department of Safety, Bureau of Hearings (bureau) decision affirming the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) decision to deny petitioner’s applications for title to ten motor vehicles. Petitioner argued the bureau erred by concluding that New Hampshire’s abandoned vehicle statute, RSA 262:40-a (2014), did not provide a basis for it to obtain title to the vehicles. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Tradz, LLC" on Justia Law
Petition of Whitman Operating Co., LLC d/b/a Camp Walt Whitman et al.
Petitioners Whitman Operating Co., LLC d/b/a Camp Walt Whitman, Wicosuta Operating Co., LLC d/b/a Camp Wicosuta, and Winaukee Operating Co., LLC d/b/a Camp Winaukee (collectively, the Camps), challenged a decision of respondent the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (the Office for Emergency Relief), to deny their applications for money from the New Hampshire General Assistance and Preservation (GAP) Fund. In July 2020, the Governor authorized the allocation and expenditure of $30 million of CARES Act funds for the GAP Fund “to provide emergency financial relief to New Hampshire businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Camps applied for GAP funding at the end of July 2020. Their applications were denied on September 10, 2020. The form letters notifying the Camps that their applications had been denied stated that “having high liquid assets both personal and business” was one of “[t]he most common reasons” for denying an application. The Camps argued: (1) denying their applications violated their state and federal constitutional rights to equal protection; and (2) the Office for Emergency Relief’s decision deprived them of their state and federal rights to procedural and substantive due process. Finding no deprivation of petitioners' rights, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the Office for Emergency Relief. View "Petition of Whitman Operating Co., LLC d/b/a Camp Walt Whitman et al." on Justia Law
101 Ocean Blvd., LLC v. Foy Insurance Group, Inc.
Defendant Foy Insurance Group, Inc. appealed a jury's verdict rendered in favor of the plaintiff, 101 Ocean Blvd., LLC (Ocean), finding that Foy was negligent for failing to advise Ocean to purchase sufficient insurance coverage to rebuild a hotel, damaged in a 2015 fire, in compliance with the current building code and awarding damages to Ocean. After review of the superior court record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court's denial of Foy's motions for a directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict. View "101 Ocean Blvd., LLC v. Foy Insurance Group, Inc." 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
Fortune Laurel, LLC v. High Liner Foods (USA), Incorporated, Trustee
Yunnan New Ocean Aquatic Product Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd. and subsidiaries (YOK defendants) appealed a New Hampshire superior court order attaching funds held by High Liner Foods (USA), Inc. (High Liner USA), the trustee defendant. The YOK defendants argued the trial court erred by maintaining quasi in rem jurisdiction over the funds despite concluding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over them in the underlying action. In 2012, Fortune Laurel, LLC, a Massachusetts company, entered into contracts with the YOK defendants to broker the sale of fish processed by the YOK defendants to companies in the United States and Canada. One company was located in Massachusetts, (later acquired by a Canadian company, High Liner Foods, Inc. (Canada)). High Liner Canada rebranded its corporate acquisition High Liner Foods (USA) and moved to Portsmouth. High Liner USA solicited fish from High Liner Canada, which procured the fish from international sellers, including the YOK defendants. The YOK defendants shipped the fish to High Liner USA in Massachusetts or Virginia. Upon High Liner USA’s acceptance of the fish, the YOK defendants invoiced High Liner USA and the invoice was paid by High Liner Canada, which then invoiced High Liner USA. After the written contract between Fortune Laurel and the YOK defendants expired, the YOK defendants continued to use Fortune Laurel to broker its sales with High Liner USA until 2017, when “the YOK defendants decided to exclude [Fortune Laurel] from the relationship.” Fortune Laurel claimed that the YOK defendants failed to pay commissions in 2017, improperly caused High Liner Canada to revoke its access to High Liner’s online tracking system, sold it fish for resale in Massachusetts that failed to meet applicable standards, and made fraudulent insurance claims that have negatively affected its business. Fortune Laurel also filed a petition for an ex parte attachment of funds that High Liner USA owed YOK as payment for shipments. The trial court found that several of Fortune Laurel’s claims were “wholly unrelated” to New Hampshire and thus that “dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction was appropriate.” Nonetheless, the trial court ruled that it could continue to exercise quasi in rem jurisdiction over the attached funds. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed because the trial court’s limited exercise of jurisdiction over the attached funds comported with due process requirements. View "Fortune Laurel, LLC v. High Liner Foods (USA), Incorporated, Trustee" on Justia Law
Walker v. Day
Plaintiff Alexander Walker, Jr. appealed a superior court order dismissing his claim of conspiracy to defame on res judicata grounds after finding privity between defendant Aaron Day, and other defendants in a separate defamation action. While plaintiff’s defamation action was pending, he filed a lawsuit against defendant, alleging a claim of conspiracy to commit defamation and seeking enhanced compensatory damages. The complaint described the defamation, which provided the basis for the conspiracy claim, in much the same terms as the complaint in the separate defamation action, but also alleged facts to support the conspiracy claim. Defendant moved to dismiss the conspiracy action on the grounds of, inter alia, res judicata, arguing, in part, that he was in privity with the defamation defendants for res judicata purposes. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred by: (1) deciding the privity issue at the motion to dismiss stage; and (2) applying the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ privity standard, rather than New Hampshire precedent, to determine privity. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed that the trial court erred by applying the privity standard used by the First Circuit, and, therefore, vacated the trial court’s ruling and remanded. View "Walker v. Day" on Justia Law
Pro Done, Inc. v. Basham
Plaintiff Pro Done, Inc. appealed a superior court order dismissing its amended complaint against defendants Teresa Basham, individually and as non-independent trustee of the Paul R. Hooper 1998 GST Exempt Trust, Terrence Hooper, Timothy Hooper, and John Ransmeier, trustee of the Paul R. Hooper 1997 Trust, for breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations, and civil conspiracy. Specifically, plaintiff challenged the trial court’s ruling that an alleged violation of a certain contractual provision did not provide a basis for plaintiff’s claims. After their father's death, defendant each received a portion of their father’s one-third ownership interest in three companies known as the Pro-Cut entities, to be held in trust by John Ransmeier. In 2012, the sibling defendants negotiated with Joseph Willey, another owner of the Pro-Cut entities, to sell their ownership interests. They eventually agreed upon a sale price, and in November 2013, Ransmeier, on the sibling defendants’ behalf, executed fifteen Securities Redemption Agreements (SRAs) with the Pro-Cut entities, the terms of which were stated to be binding upon “the heirs, personal representatives, successors and assigns of the parties.” After these transactions, one of the Pro-Cut entities, Brake Solutions, Inc., acquired another Pro-Cut entity. It then changed its name to Pro-Cut International, Inc. In May 2014, three unrelated companies, collectively known as Snap-on, purchased the Pro-Cut entities. Pro-Cut was renamed Pro Done, Inc. Plaintiff alleged it was a successor to the Pro-Cut entities. After Snap-on’s purchase of the Pro-Cut entities, the sibling defendants filed a lawsuit, with the assistance of Ransmeier, in federal district court, against Willey and trustees of trusts that were members of the Pro-Cut entities at the time of the Snap-on transaction. Plaintiff thereafter filed the underlying lawsuit to this appeal. Its central arguments were mainly the trial court erred by ignoring express terms of the release agreements - in which the defendants “covenant[ed] not to sue and otherwise agree[d] not to enforce any claim” against the plaintiff - and denied the plaintiff the opportunity to seek consequential damages for breach of the contract, contrary to New Hampshire law. The parties’ arguments presented a question of first impression for this the New Hampshire Supreme Court: whether New Hampshire law recognized a cause of action for breach of contract based upon a covenant not to sue where the contract did not expressly provide that the non-breaching party was entitled to consequential damages for breach of the covenant. The Court held that it did, reversed the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pro Done, Inc. v. Basham" on Justia Law
TS & A Motors, LLC v. Kia Motors America, Inc.
In December 2007, Kia Motors America, Inc. (Kia) and TS & A Motors, LLC d/b/a Kia of Somersworth (Somersworth) entered into a Dealer Sales and Service Agreement (Dealer Agreement), which governed the franchise relationship between the parties. Under this agreement, Somersworth was required to employ certain parts and service personnel. In 2011 and Kia sent a series of letters notifying Somersworth of perceived staffing and training deficiencies. These letters referenced Somersworth’s failure to meet technician training requirements in 2009 and 2010, to adequately staff and train personnel in its parts and service department, and to meet the minimum number of technicians required to participate in Kia’s “Optima Hybrid Program.” During Somersworth’s tenure as a dealer, Kia employees overseeing Somersworth made note of its high employee turnover rates. The Board determined that over the course of its operations as a dealer, Somersworth violated the provision of the Dealer Agreement that required certain parts and service personnel “on an almost constant basis.” Kia management worked with Somersworth to remedy its staffing deficiencies. It sent numerous written notifications to Somersworth referencing the inadequacy of its parts and service staffing, met with Somersworth to discuss its concerns over staffing, and gave Somersworth the “benefit of the doubt” when the dealer promised to hire the appropriate number of staff members. Somerset appealed a superior court decision to affirm a New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Industry Board ruling that Kia properly terminated its franchise agreement with Somersworth. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the Board's decision. View "TS & A Motors, LLC v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Priceline.com, Inc.
The State of New Hampshire appealed a superior court order following a ten-day bench trial granting judgment to the defendants, the direct or indirect subsidiaries of Priceline.com, Inc., Orbitz, LLC, Expedia, Inc., and Travelocity.com, LLP, alleging that: (1) they violated the New Hampshire Meals and Rooms Tax Law by failing to remit meals and rooms taxes on transactions with hotel consumers and by bundling money collected from consumers as taxes with other amounts; and (2) the bundling of taxes with other fees also violated the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Online travel companies (OTCs) use either the “agency” or the “merchant” model to conduct business. Under the agency model, the consumer pays the hotel directly for the room; the hotel then pays the OTC a commission for the booking and remits to the State the meals and rooms tax on the full amount received from the consumer. Under the merchant model, the consumer pays the OTC for the room; the OTC collects payment from the consumer using the consumer’s credit card. The OTC, therefore, is the merchant of record. The hotel then has a certain number of days in which to send an invoice to the OTC for the net rate of the hotel room and the meals and rooms tax on that rate. The parties disputed whether the OTCs were subject to the meals and rooms tax law. The trial court ruled that OTCs were not subject to the law because they are not “operators” of hotels. The State challenged the trial court's conclusion that OTCs were not subject to the law as "operators." The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the State failed to show the trial court erred in its ruling as to the CPA. View "New Hampshire v. Priceline.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Atronix, Inc. v. Morris
Plaintiff Atronix, Inc. filed suit against defendant Kenneth Morris for, among other things, breach of contract, and sued defendant Scott Electronics, Inc. for tortious interference with contractual relations. Atronix appealed a superior court’s order dismissing its action for lack of standing. Morris started working at Atronix Sales, Inc. (Old Atronix) in 1982. He was promoted several times over the course of his employment, eventually becoming program manager in the sales department. That position entailed responsibility for the largest and most important of Old Atronix’s accounts. Accordingly, in 1997, Morris was required to sign a non-compete and non-solicitation agreement (the non-compete agreement), and a non-disclosure agreement. In 2011, Old Atronix merged with Atronix, Inc. (the Company). In 2016, Morris left his job with plaintiff and was hired as a general manager by Scott, one of the Company’s competitors. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the terms of Morris’ non-compete agreement was conveyed to the Company according to the terms of its asset purchase agreement, it was still pertinent to the success of the merger. The Company, therefore, had standing to enforce it against Morris. View "Atronix, Inc. v. Morris" on Justia Law