Bar News - February 15, 2017
US District Court Decision Listing
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW; STANDING
Conservation Law Foundation v.
Continental Paving, Inc., d/b/a
Concord Sand & Gravel
Case No. 16-cv-339-JL, Opinion No. 2016 DNH 220
Plaintiff, an environmental protection organization, alleged that the defendant violated the Federal Water Pollution Control Act by discharging polluted water without proper authorization or permits. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff lacked organizational standing to sue because the Complaint failed to identify any injury to members of the organization. The court denied the motion, finding that declarations from members attached to plaintiff’s objection to defendant’s motion established organizational standing. 12 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.
Dewayne R. Clubb v. Southern
New Hampshire Health System
Case No. 16-cv-370-PB, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 010
Plaintiff asserted a claim under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking damages and injunctive relief. Defendant argued in response that Title III does not make damages available to private plaintiffs and that plaintiff lacked standing to sue for injunctive relief. The court agreed with defendant on both points. Plaintiff could not sue for damages under Title III. Moreover, plaintiff lacked standing to sue for injunctive relief because he had not adequately pleaded the prospect of repeat injury. 3 pages. Judge Paul J. Barbadoro.
Unity School District v. Vaughn
Associates, Inc., and Scott
Vaughn v. Excel Mechanical, Inc.,
and Superior Walls of Hudson
Case No. 15–cv-155-SM, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 013
In reliance upon defendants’ representations that they could design and construct a new elementary school for $4.7 million, voters in the Unity School District decided not to renovate an existing school and, instead, authorized plaintiff to raise the necessary tax revenue to cover the costs to construct a new school. Plaintiff then retained defendants to design and oversee construction of the school. Many of those designs failed to comply with state safety and educational design requirements and numerous delays ensued (including two stop work orders from the state fire marshal). Defendants eventually resigned and were replaced. Ultimately, plaintiff had to pay in excess of $9 million to complete construction of the school. It sued defendants for professional negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and unfair/deceptive trade practices. Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting plaintiff suffered no damages (i.e., it paid $9 million for a school worth approximately $9 million). The court denied that motion as to all claims except the Consumer Protection Act claim, concluding that defendants’ conduct did not rise to an actionable level of “rascality.” 22 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
MOTION TO RECONSIDER
Maureen McPadden v.
Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.
Case No. 14–cv-475-SM, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 002
Following a five-day trial, a jury found in favor of Maureen McPadden and against her former employer, Walmart, on four state and federal workplace discrimination claims. The jury awarded her substantial compensatory, enhanced compensatory, and punitive damages, and returned an advisory verdict on “front pay,” awarding her more than $500,000. The court concluded that award was far in excess of what the evidence would support and held that an award of $111,591.00 (representing three years’ salary) was at the outer limit of reasonableness. Plaintiff moved to reconsider, asserting that while front pay is an equitable issue (for the court) under Title VII, it is a legal issue (for the jury) under state law. Accordingly, she said, the jury’s verdict on front pay for those state law claims was binding on the court and could only be reduced by applying principles of remittitur. The court disagreed, finding that plaintiff was likely confusing “front pay” (an equitable remedy) with “lost future wages” (a legal remedy, which is a component of compensatory damages). Because plaintiff sought only front pay on her state and federal claims, that was an issue reserved to the court and the jury’s verdict was properly treated as advisory. Motion to reconsider denied. 17 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
RLUIPA; CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
Signs For Jesus, et al. v.
Town of Pembroke, et al.
Civil No. 15-cv-482-PB, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 016
Signs for Jesus and Hillside Baptist Church sued the Town of Pembroke after being denied an electronic sign permit. Plaintiffs alleged violations of the federal and state constitutions and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
The court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge irrelevant provisions of the sign ordinance. The Free Speech claim failed because Pembroke’s regulation of electronic signs is content-neutral and satisfies intermediate scrutiny. The Equal Protection claim failed because there was no similarly situated comparator, no evidence of religious discrimination, and any differential treatment advanced sufficient government interests. The RLUIPA claims failed because the defendants neither imposed a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ religious exercise nor implemented a land use regulation on less than equal terms with a similarly situated nonreligious comparator. The Due Process claim failed because the plaintiffs did not allege the unavailability of a constitutionally adequate state law remedy. 40 pages. Judge Paul Barbadoro.
Jodie Marie Nickerson v. Carolyn
W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
Case No. 15–cv-487-SM, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 003
Claimant moved to reverse or vacate the Acting Commissioner’s decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Claimant argued that the ALJ mishandled the medical opinion evidence. The court agreed, finding that the reasons given by the ALJ for assigning little probative weight to a certain medical opinion were either invalid or unsupported by the record. The court remanded on that basis. 18 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.
TRIAL UPON DEPOSITIONS
Joseph Bourget d/b/a Bourget
Amusement Company v.
Hillsborough County 4H
Case No. 11-cv-88-SM, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 012
Where chronic illness precludes plaintiff’s participation in and testimony at trial, and continued delay will unduly prejudice defendant’s interest in having the civil claims against it finally resolved, the case may be tried upon plaintiff’s deposition in his absence. 4 pages. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe.