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Bar News - February 18, 2011


US District Court Decision Listing - January 2011

* Published

COMMERCIAL LAW; SECURED TRANSACTIONS (U.C.C. ARTICLE 9), CIVIL PROCEDURE
1/24/11
Glenn L. Beane v. Alan F. Beane
Civil No. 08-cv-236-JNL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 012

The defendant counterclaimed against the plaintiff, asserting a variety of theories arising out of the plaintiff’s alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of a customer relationship and intellectual property belonging to a limited liability company owned by the parties. The plaintiff then (1) bought the lender’s interest in a loan to the company on which it had defaulted, and which was secured by the company’s accounts and general intangibles, (2) held an auction at which the plaintiff bought the collateral for the loan, including, purportedly, the very claims the company was asserting against him, and (3) moved to substitute himself as the counterclaimant on the theory that he, not the company, now owned the counterclaim. Denying the motion, the court ruled that, since the company’s security agreement with the bank did not adequately describe any commercial tort claims, they had not been included as collateral for the loan, and therefore could not have been bought by the plaintiff at the auction. The court also denied the defendant’s motion to amend his counterclaim to assert that the plaintiff’s actions had violated the automatic stay imposed as part of the defendant’s personal bankruptcy filing, because the claims purportedly purchased at the auction belonged to the company, not to the defendant individually, and were therefore not property of the bankruptcy estate subject to the stay. 28 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
1/13/11
John R. Griffin, Jr. v. Margaret Garrison
Case No. 09-cv-250-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 008

Plaintiff sued a N.H. Department of Employment Security hearings officer, claiming that when she denied his application for unemployment benefits, she violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Although he was fired from his private sector job "for cause" after having engaged in prohibited conduct - ordinarily a bar to the receipt of unemployment benefits - plaintiff characterized that conduct as protected "political speech." Accordingly, he claimed he had a constitutionally protected right to receive state unemployment benefits. The court disagreed, concluding that denial of unemployment benefits did not violate his constitutionally protected rights and, even if it had, the hearings officer would be entitled to qualified immunity, and probably quasi-judicial immunity. 14 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


CONTRACTS; DAMAGES
1/4/11
Healy v. Franklin Elec. Co.
Case No. 08-cv-503-PB, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 003

Following a bench trial where it was determined that Franklin Electric. Co. was liable to James Healy for breach of contract, Healy sought prejudgment interest on his damage award. There was no dispute over the amount that Healy was entitled to under the contract. The court found that under Indiana law prejudgment interest was appropriate because, as was found at trial, Franklin had wrongfully withheld payments to Healy that were required by the contract, and as a result it had deprived Healy of the use of that money. 8 pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.


DECLARATORY JUDGMENT; EMPLOYMENT
1/11/11
BAE Systems v. Mark Storer, et al.
Case No. 10-cv-215-PB, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 007

BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems, Inc. sued several of its former employees seeking a declaratory judgment that the defendants were at-will employees who were not owed any additional compensation based upon the circumstances of their termination. Because the dispute could be better resolved in a pending California state court action, the court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. BAE’s claims that the state case was not "pending" because it was filed after the federal action were rejected because the relevant question was whether there was a pending state case as of the time of the motion to dismiss, not at the time of filing. 6 pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.


HABEAS CORPUS
1/28/11
Torres-Mendez v. NHSP Warden
Case No. 09-cv-214-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 016

In 2008, petitioner was convicted in state court of arson. His conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. Subsequently, the N.H. Sentence Review Division increased his sentence. When the state supreme court declined to hear his appeal from that enhanced sentence, petitioner sought federal habeas corpus relief. Specifically, he claimed that, by increasing his incarcerative sentence, the review division violated his rights to due process and to not be placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense. The court denied his petition concluding that neither constitutional right was violated when his sentence was increased. 12 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


1/28/11
Wamala v. NHSP Warden
Case No. 10-cv-87-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 017

In 2007, petitioner was convicted in state court of multiple counts of sexual assault upon his then 14-year old daughter. His convictions were affirmed on appeal. He then sought federal habeas corpus relief, asserting that numerous constitutional rights were violated during the course of his trial, including that prosecutors called witnesses that they knew would provide exculpatory testimony, merely for the purpose of improperly impeaching them with earlier inculpatory statements they had given police, thereby prejudicing the jury. The court noted that, of petitioner’s five claims, three were subject to deferential review, while two were subject to de novo review. Nevertheless, none had merit. Accordingly, the court denied the petition and granted the State’s motion for summary judgment. 25 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


PERSONAL JURISDICTION
1/3/2011
Medicus Radiology v. Nortek Medical Staffing
Case No. 10-cv-300-PB, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 001

Medicus Radiology, a locum tenens staffing company based in New Hampshire filed a complaint against NorTek Medical Staffing, another staffing company based in Texas, claiming tortious interference with contractual relations. Medicus alleged that NorTek interfered with one of Medicus’s temporary staffing arrangements when NorTek placed a physician at a Florida hospital in breach of the physician’s non-compete agreement with Medicus. NorTek moved to dismiss, claiming that this court lacked personal jurisdiction as all of the offending acts occurred outside the forum state. The court dismissed the claim, determining that it lacked specific jurisdiction. While the plaintiff made a sufficient showing of "purposeful availment" and "relatedness," the relative weakness of these factors when compared with the "gestalt factors" required the court to dismiss the claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. 20 Pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.


1/24/11
Kurt West v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. et al.
Case No. 10-cv-214-JNL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 013

Following a helicopter crash in Bow, New Hampshire, the pilot brought claims of breach of warranty, negligent design and manufacture, and strict products liability against a number of out-of-state corporations who had manufactured the helicopter and certain of its components. One of the defendants, the alleged manufacturer of the helicopter’s fuel valve, moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that none of its New Hampshire activities bore any relationship to the crash. Granting the motion, the court agreed: none of the plaintiff’s claims arose out of the defendant’s New Hampshire activities and, indeed, the plaintiff did not even allege that the defendant had engaged in any activity in New Hampshire. Based on the absence of any such allegation, the court also denied the plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery. 10 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


PRODUCTS LIABILITY*
1/5/11
Bartlett v. Mut. Pharm. Co.
Case No. 08-cv-358-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 004

After a jury found it strictly liable for severe injuries caused by the prescription drug sulindac, the defendant drug manufacturer renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), arguing that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to support her products liability claim and that the claim was pre-empted by federal law. The defendant also moved for a new trial, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 59, arguing that trial errors tainted the jury verdict and that the jury’s $21 million damages award was excessive. The court denied both motions, concluding that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence for the jury to find the drug unreasonably dangerous, that the claim was not pre-empted, that the damages award was within the acceptable range, and that no trial errors warranted setting aside the verdict or retrying the case. 87 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS ACT
1/28/11
McDonough, et al. v. First American Title Insurance Co.
Case No. 10-cv-106-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 015

In this case, brought under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), plaintiff homeowners who refinanced their mortgages sued title insurance company for alleged overcharges on title insurance. Because plaintiffs alleged only a rimless "hub-and-spoke" arrangement between the title insurance company and title insurance agents, and did not allege any "relationship" among the agents, the court dismissed the RICO claim for failure to adequately allege a RICO enterprise. 17 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


SOCIAL SECURITY
1/7/11
Delafontaine v. Social Security
Case No. 10-cv-27-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 005

The claimant appealed the denial of disability benefits claiming that the administrative law judge: (1) erred in his assessment of the severity of the claimant’s impairments, (2) made a residual functional capacity determination that was unsupported by the evidence, and (3) improperly considered two treating source opinions. The Commissioner moved for an order affirming his decision. The court denied the claimant’s motion and granted the Commissioner’s motion. The court concluded that the administrative law judge properly considered the claimant’s severe impairments at Step 2 of the disability assessment, and properly considered the claimant’s impairments in determining the claimant’s residual functional capacity at Step 4. The court also concluded that the administrative law judge properly considered the medical evidence along with evidence of the claimant’s daily activities when he determined that the claimant was capable of light duty work. The court also determined that the administrative law judge did not ignore, improperly weigh, or fail to give "good reasons" for the weight assigned to the claimant’s treating source opinions. 43 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


1/14/11
Guziewicz v. SSA
Case No. 10-cv-310-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 010

Claimant appealed the Commissioner’s denial of his application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. The court remanded the matter to the Commissioner, concluding that the administrative law judge failed to properly assess claimant’s subjective complaints of pain and, as a consequence, erred in determining his residual functional capacity. 20 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


1/28/11
LaBreque, Jr. v. SSA
Case No. 10-cv-180-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 014

Claimant appealed the Commissioner’s denial of his application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. The court remanded the matter to the Commissioner, concluding that the administrative law judge’s decision to discount the opinion of an examining psychiatrist was based, in part, on a factual error. The court also cautioned the administrative law judge to explain on remand his resolution of apparent inconsistencies between medical source opinions. 20 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.


STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
1/14/11
National Pasteurized Eggs, LLC v. Davidson
Case No. 07-cv-103-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 009

After purchasing the assignee’s rights in contracts assigning certain inventions in a sale approved by the court overseeing the assignee’s bankruptcy, the plaintiff sued the defendant assignor, claiming that it was the rightful owner of those inventions, including a patent that had since issued in the assignor’s name. The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment, arguing that, because the defendant had failed to sue it to establish his ownership of the patent within three years of the sale, his claim to ownership was barred by the statute of limitations. Denying the motion for summary judgment, the court ruled that the plaintiff could not use the statute of limitations to establish its ownership of the patent, which the defendant had disputed during the bankruptcy proceedings based on his claim that the assignee had breached the contracts of assignment--nor did the statute prevent the defendant from raising the alleged breaches as a defense. The court also denied the defendant’s cross-motion for summary judgment, rejecting his argument that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff’s claim because it accrued when the plaintiff was put on notice of the defendant’s competing claim to ownership. 38 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

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