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Bar News - August 13, 2010

US District Court Decision Listing - July 2010

* Published

Carol Skinner v. Salem School District,
Civil No. 09-cv-193-JL, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 111

After the court denied the school district’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, allowing the plaintiff to pursue an employment discrimination claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the school district moved for reconsideration or for certification of an interlocutory appeal. The court denied the motion, concluding that the relevant precedent from the court of appeals was sufficiently clear to make an immediate appeal unnecessary. 5 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

Thomas Mlodzinski et al. v. Michael F. Lewis et al.,
Civil No. 08-cv-289-JNL, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 114

The defendants, police officers who had executed a valid search warrant at the plaintiffs’ home, moved for summary judgment on their claims of unreasonable seizure and excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, and false imprisonment and assault and battery at common law. The plaintiffs, who were not the subjects of the investigation giving rise to the warrant, testified that certain officers pointed automatic rifles at them, handcuffed them, and kept them handcuffed for as long as one hour. The court ruled that, accepting that testimony as true, the plaintiffs had presented triable claims for excessive force and assault and battery based on the handcuffing and pointing of weapons and that the defendants were not entitled to qualified or official immunity on those claims, because they had not produced any evidence to justify that use of force against the plaintiffs. The court also ruled, however, that the officers were categorically authorized to detain the plaintiffs while executing the search warrant, without the need for probable cause. The court therefore entered summary judgment for the defendants on the unreasonable seizure and false imprisonment claims, but not on the excessive force or assault and battery claims. 59 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

Lifespan Corp. v. New England Medical Center, Inc,
Civil No. 06-cv-421-JL, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 117*

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment in this dispute between a healthcare system and one of its former hospitals over the terms of their separation. The court granted partial summary judgment to both sides, concluding that the healthcare system owed a fiduciary duty to the hospital during their affiliation, but that the hospital had released its tort claims in their separation agreement, in exchange for a broad indemnification provision. The court also rejected the hospital’s challenges to the enforceability of one of the agreement’s payment provisions. 38 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

Wentworth-Douglas Hospital v. Young & Novis, PA, et al.
Case No. 10-cv-120-SM, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 128

The defendants’ motion to dismiss claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was denied where the complaint adequately alleged that the defendants, who were nearing the end of their contract to provide pathology services to Wentworth-Douglas Hospital, downloaded data from the hospital’s computer system and erased data from that computer system, in violation of the hospital’s policy on computer use. 13 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.

Blue Athletic, Inc. v. Nordstrom, Inc. and NIHC, Inc.
Case No. 10-cv-36-SM, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 116

Respondent moved to dismiss a petition for declaratory judgment that trademarks were not infringing and were entitled to federal trademark registration. The petitioner’s claims were held to be ripe for decision because the petitioner did have a reasonable apprehension of an impending infringement suit. The court noted as well, that the Patent and Trademark Office’s jurisdiction over the question of the registrability of marks is not exclusive. 17 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.

CRMC Bethlehem, LLC and CommonWealth Bethlehem Energy, LLC v. North Country Environmental Services, Inc.
Case No. 09-cv-344-JL, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 129

This case involves the scope of certain rights granted under a contract between a landfill operator and an energy company planning to produce electricity from gas generated by landfill waste. The parties were unable to agree on the terms of the development of an energy recovery facility in, or near, the landfill. The plaintiffs filed an eight count complaint against the defendant landfill operator seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, contract damages, and damages under the state Consumer Protection Act. The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, concluding, inter alia, that the contract terms at issue were ambiguous, creating a genuine issue of material fact which precluded summary judgment. The court also concluded that summary judgment was inappropriate on the plaintiffs’ state Consumer Protection Act claim, because there existed, at the most basic level, a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendant acted in a deceptive or unfair manner. 9 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

Karen Bartlett v. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company, Inc.,
Civil No. 08-cv-358-JL, Opinions No. 2010 DNH 112, 123*, 125, and 130

The court issued a series of opinions and memorandum opinions in this products liability case against a generic drug manufacturer:

Partial summary judgment: First, the court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer on the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claims, finding no causation because the prescribing doctor did not read the drug’s label before prescribing the drug. But the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed to trial on her defective design claims, which alleged that the drug was unreasonably dangerous. Opinion No. 2010 DNH 112. 42 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

Expert testimony: The court ruled on the parties’ motions to exclude expert testimony, concluding that their experts had a sufficient foundation and qualifications to support most of their proffered opinions. Opinion No. 2010 DNH 123. 38 pages. Judge Laplante.

Evidence: The court ruled on the plaintiff’s motions in limine. Opinion No. 2010 DNH 125. 17 pages. Judge Laplante.

Reconsideration: partial summary judgment: Finally, the court denied the manufacturer’s motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment ruling, rejecting the argument that a plaintiff cannot prevail on a design defect claim where the drug is a molecule that cannot be changed. The court explained that unreasonable dangerousness is itself a design defect under New Hampshire Supreme Court precedent and that a plaintiff need not prove that an alternative design was possible. Opinion No. 2010 DNH 130. 13 pages. Judge Laplante.

Oliver Hooper v. Warden, Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility
Case No. 08-cv-426-JD, Opinion No. 2010 DNH 120

After his petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was denied, Hooper moved for reconsideration, arguing that the court misconstrued his Confrontation Clause claim. Specifically, Hooper argued that he claimed the state court violated his Confrontation Clause rights by precluding cross examination of the state’s expert witness about the rape kit test results and that the court mistakenly thought the defense sought to cross examine the expert about the victim’s prior sexual activity. Because the rape kit test results showed evidence of the victim’s prior sexual activity, the cross examination the defense sought would have disclosed the victim’s prior activity. Therefore, the claim was construed correctly, and reconsideration was denied. 5 pages. Judge Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr.

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