Eric Wind Attorney at NH Public Utilities Commission in Concord.

Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Eric Wind, Attorney at the NH Public Utilities Commission in Concord, N.H.

No. 2020-0320

September 2, 2021

Affirmed

 

  • Whether the trial court erred when it dismissed a claim brought under RSA Ch. 540-A on the ground that the sober living facility is exempt as a “group home” under RSA 540:1-a, IV(c).

 

Plaintiff participated in defendant’s sober living program that included sober living accommodations. Plaintiff agreed to abide by certain rules while engaged in the program, and signed a contract explicitly stating that he had no tenant rights. After being discharged from the program for violating rules, plaintiff filed a petition alleging defendant violated RSA Ch. 540-A by using “self-help” eviction procedures. Defendant moved to dismiss the petition because its facility is a “group home,” and therefor the plaintiff was not entitled to the protections of RSA Ch. 540-A. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff appealed.

Plaintiff claimed that the sober living facility is not a group home under RSA 540:1-a, IV(c), proposing a narrow definition of that term relating to group homes for children authorized by the Dept. of Health and Human Services pursuant to RSAs 47:11-b and 170-E:25, II(b). Plaintiff also argued that an emergency order relating to the COVID-19 pandemic also precluded the defendant from requiring him to vacate his room at the sober living facility.

The Court interpreted the term “group home” according to the plain meaning of the term, namely a residence for persons requiring care or supervision, and found that the sober living facility is a group home. The Court construed this definition across both RSA Ch. 540-A and 540-B in determining that the emergency orders offered the plaintiff no additional protections because “group homes” are excluded from the definition of “shared facilities” under RSA Ch. 540-B.

 

Shaughnessy Raiche, Bedford (Brian C. Shaughnessy on the brief and orally) for the plaintiff. Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, Concord (Craig Donais and Stephen Zacharias on the brief, and Craig Donais orally) for the defendant.