Bar News - March 18, 2011
US District Court Decision Listing - February 2011
ANSYS, Inc. v. Computational Dynamics, et al.
Case No. 09-cv-284-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 025
After the court denied plaintiff’s efforts to obtain temporary injunctive relief against defendants (and just prior to the close of discovery), plaintiff moved to withdraw its claims against defendants, with prejudice. Invoking New Hampshire’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act, defendants objected, at least in part, asking the court to condition such dismissal on plaintiff’s payment of costs and attorney’s fees, which totaled nearly $200,000. The court granted plaintiff’s request for dismissal, and denied defendants’ request for fees, concluding that defendants failed to demonstrate that plaintiff had acted in bad faith - a predicate to the award of fees under the state statute. 13 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
CIVIL MOTIONS: MISCELLANEOUS
Bourne v. Stewart Title et al.
Case No. 09-cv-270-PB, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 029
Samuel Bourne sued Laconia Savings Bank and Stewart Title Guaranty Company of Northern New England, claiming that Laconia fraudulently induced him to enter into a mortgage and that Stewart Title failed to defend his title to the same property under his title insurance policy. Bourne alleged numerous violations of statutory and common law based on these facts. Laconia filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings and Stewart Title filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Because Bourne had failed to adequately plead any claim against Laconia, the court granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings in its entirety. Stewart Title’s motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part, as Bourne had adequately pleaded a claim of breach of contract against Stewart Title but failed to adequately plead any of his other claims. 28 pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.
Harbour Capital v. Allied Capital
Case No. 08-cv-506-PB, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 019
Harbour Capital brought suit against defendants Allied Capital and Financial Pacific claiming tortious interference with contractual relations and unfair trade practices. Harbour alleged that the defendants improperly instructed their subsidiary to terminate its at-will contract with Harbour after Harbour had filed suit against another Allied subsidiary. Allied and Financial Pacific moved to dismiss the tortious interference claim invoking Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 769. The court held that Harbour’s complaint alleged a sufficiently improper motive to withstand the defendants’ motion to dismiss the tortious interference claim. However, the court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the unfair trade practices claim, holding that the alleged acts failed to qualify as an unfair trade practice under RSA 358-A:2. 14 Pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.
Wassouf v. United States of America
Case No. 11-cv-51-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 021
Petitioner is a citizen of Syria who was deported several years ago, after serving a 33-month term of imprisonment following his conviction (upon his guilty plea) for bank fraud. He seeks coram nobis relief, invoking the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Padilla, in which the court held that criminal defense counsel are obligated to inform their non-citizen clients of the deportation consequences of a guilty plea and resulting federal felony conviction. The court denied the petition, concluding that even if Padilla applies retroactively, and even if coram nobis review is available to petitioner, he could not demonstrate that he was prejudiced by counsel’s alleged failure to comply with Padilla’s requirements. The record reveals that, based upon his prior experience in state court (i.e., efforts to vacate a felony conviction to avoid deportation), petitioner had actual knowledge of the fact that, if his guilty plea were accepted and he was adjudicated guilty, he would be subject to deportation. 12 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
DEFAMATION (LIBEL; SLANDER)
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital v. Young & Novis, et al.
Case No. 10-cv-120-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 020
In a suit by a hospital against doctors and their professional association under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and New Hampshire common law, hospital moved to dismiss defendants’ counterclaims for defamation and false light. The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Defendants provided pathology services to plaintiff hospital. After a contract dispute between the parties and placement of the pathology lab on probation by an accrediting agency, the hospital brought suit, claiming that defendants, without authorization, removed information from hospital computers. Defendants counterclaimed for defamation and false light, claiming the hospital made false and misleading representations concerning them when it represented to the public that defendants were responsible for the pathology lab being placed on probation. On the hospital’s motion to dismiss the counterclaims, the court found that the hospital’s reported statements, taken in context, were capable of implying that one doctor was professionally deficient in failing to provide the required oversight of the pathology lab, and that the counterclaim stated facts supporting the allegation that the implication was false. As to other doctor, the court found that the hospital’s statements were not capable of placing him in an actionable false light, either directly or by implication. The court also denied a motion to dismiss the defamation claims, finding that the hospital’s alleged statement to a reporter that defendants returned data that had been "stolen" from the hospital was capable of fairly implying that defendants had committed criminal theft.
Huard v. Town of Allenstown et al.
Case No. 10-cv-144-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 022
The defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings on a former police officer’s claims that he was wrongfully terminated and defamed by his supervisors. The court granted judgment to the defendants on the defamation claim, concluding that the removal of the officer’s name from an organizational chart while he was suspended, but before his termination hearing, was not defamatory. But the court denied judgment on the wrongful termination claim, concluding that the officer’s allegations of demeaning treatment and unjustified discipline were sufficient to state a claim for constructive discharge under New Hampshire Supreme Court precedent, notwithstanding that the officer resigned during the termination hearing. 13 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.
Richards v. AT&T Mobility Disability Benefits
Case No. 10-cv-92-PB, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 027
Deanna Richards, a former participant in the AT&T Mobility Disability Benefits Program brought an ERISA action against the Program seeking to recover long-term disability benefits ("LTD") allegedly owed to her. Richards and the Program both moved for judgment on the record. The court granted the Program’s motion, holding that the Claims Administrator’s decision denying Richards’ claim for LTD was not arbitrary and capricious because sufficient evidence supported the Claims Administrator’s decision that Richards was able to perform her prior position. Additionally, the court held that the Claims Administrator did not err by relying in part on the opinions of three independent medical examiners. 22 pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.
William v. United States
Case No. 11-cv-3-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 024
Petitioner was convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana and crack cocaine. His conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. He then sought habeas corpus relief on newly discovered evidence grounds. The court denied the petition, holding that the issue pressed by petitioner - that he was subjected to an unlawful sobriety checkpoint - was raised before the court of appeals on direct appeal and resolved against him. Consequently, that issue is not the proper subject of a habeas corpus petition. And, beyond that, he points to nothing that could plausibly be viewed as "newly discovered evidence." 4 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
Warren v. United States
Case No. 10-cv-527-SM, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 030
Petitioner pled guilty to, and was convicted of, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. His convictions and variant sentence above the range recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines were affirmed on appeal. He then sought habeas corpus relief asserting, among other things, that he had been denied effective assistance of counsel at sentencing. Specifically, he says he was entitled to an additional one point under the Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility. The court denied the petition, concluding that even assuming that counsel’s representation was deficient (which it likely was not), petitioner cannot show any prejudice - given petitioner’s documented violent and anti-social history, the court would not have sentenced him any differently, even if he had been awarded the disputed additional point for acceptance. 7 pages. Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
Joseph Dube v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Case No. 10-cv-179-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 031
The plaintiff appealed the decision of an administrative law judge in the Social Security Administration denying him disability benefits. The plaintiff argued that the ALJ had erroneously concluded that, while the plaintiff suffered from a severe impairments, including depression, he was not disabled because he retained the capacity to do light work. The court agreed, ruling that the ALJ had erred by reaching that conclusion without accounting for the contrary medical opinion of a psychologist who had examined the plaintiff. The court therefore remanded the case to the ALJ to consider that issue. 24 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.
"YOUNGER" PREEMPTION; "COLORADO RIVER" PREEMPTION
Nadezda Montgomery and I.V. v. Scott Montgomery
Case No. 10-cv-536-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 023-P
The plaintiff, acting on behalf of herself and her minor son, sued the defendant, who was her husband and the boy’s stepfather, seeking specific performance of an "affidavit of support" under 8 U.S.C. § 1183(e)(1). The affidavit, which the husband had executed when he sponsored the plaintiffs’ application for lawful permanent residency in the United States, amounted to a federally enforceable contract for him to provide them with financial support for a specified period of time. The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the court should abstain from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), because the plaintiffs had already attempted to enforce the affidavit as part of a pending divorce action with the defendant in state court. Denying the motion, the court ruled that (1) enforcing the affidavit in federal court would not enjoin or interfere with the state-court proceedings so as to warrant Younger abstention and (2) the fact that the plaintiffs had initially sought to enforce the affidavit in state court did not itself justify abstention under Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976). 21 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.