Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Plaintiff Fat Bullies Farm, LLC (Fat Bullies), and the counterclaim defendants, Donald Gould and Peter Simmons, appealed certain superior court findings and rulings made during the course of litigation with defendants Alan and Donna Perkins and Lori and Bret Devenport, involving the sale of a 3.1 acre horse farm in North Hampton known as Runnymede Farm. When the Devenports purchased the property in 1998, they promised to operate it as a horse farm in perpetuity, and to allow the former owner to maintain an office on site. Simmons told the Devenports that he was interested in purchasing the property. The Devenports told Simmons they would only sell if the buyer agreed to the horse farm and on site office conditions. Simmons spoke with Gould about purchasing the property jointly with the intent to develop and/or resell it. The two created Fat Bullies “for the purpose of acquiring real estate for development or resale.” After amendments to the purchase contract, the Devenports reiterated that they would sell the property only if Fat Bullies committed to operating it as a horse farm. Despite their intentions to develop the property, Simmons and Gould agreed. The parties executed a sales agreement. No payment had been made on the property; word got back to Lori Devenport that Simmons had talked to others in North Hampton about purchasing the farm. The Devenports rescinded the agreement, believing Simmons lied to them about promising to operate Runnymede as a horse farm. Fat Bullies invoked an option, but the Devenports refused to sell. In 2011, the Devenports sold Runnymede to the Perkinses. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Devenports on Fat Bullies’ breach of contract claim, finding that Fat Bullies failed to prove the existence of a contract by a preponderance of the evidence, and a verdict in favor of Fat Bullies, Simmons, and Gould on the Devenports’ fraudulent inducement claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court with respect to a Consumer Protection Act violation decision; the Court reversed with respect to attorney fees related to that Act decision. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fat Bullies Farm, LLC v. Devenport" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Holloway Automotive Group (Holloway) appealed a circuit court order ruling that the liquidated damages clause contained in the parties’ contract was unenforceable. Holloway was an authorized franchisee of Mercedes-Benz North America. Defendant Steven Giacalone purchased a new vehicle from Holloway. At the time of the purchase, the defendant signed an “AGREEMENT NOT TO EXPORT:” “MBUSA prohibits its authorized dealers from exporting new Mercedes-Benz vehicles outside of the exclusive sales territory of North America and will assess charges against [Holloway] for each new Mercedes-Benz vehicle it sells . . . which is exported from North America within one (1) year.” By signing the agreement, defendant promised “not [to] export the Vehicle outside North America . . . for a period of one (1) year” from the date of the Agreement and, if he did so, to pay Holloway $15,000 as liquidated damages. The vehicle was subsequently exported within the one-year period. Holloway sued claiming breach of contract and misrepresentation and seeking liquidated damages in the amount of $15,000, plus interest, costs, and attorney’s fees. The trial court found that the Agreement was entered into “between the parties to protect [Holloway] from a claim by [MBUSA],” but that MBUSA did not, in fact, charge Holloway any fees despite the vehicle having been exported. The trial court declined to enforce the liquidated damages clause in the agreement. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the $15,000 liquidated damages provision was enforceable because Holloway’s damages resulting from the breach were not “easily ascertainable.” Accordingly, the Court held the trial court’s determination that the liquidated damages provision in the parties’ Agreement was unenforceable was not supported by the record and was erroneous as a matter of law. View "Holloway Automotive Group v. Giacalone" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jeffrey Smith appealed a circuit court granting judgment to defendant Milko Pesa d/b/a Auto Milko, on plaintiff’s small claim action seeking damages and other relief on the grounds that he validly revoked acceptance of the used motor vehicle the defendant sold him and that, by selling him the vehicle, the defendant violated RSA chapter 358-F. In February 2014, plaintiff purchased a 2004 Subaru from defendant “as is as seen.” Before purchasing it, he signed and/or initialed four documents, namely a receipt from defendant’s car dealership stating that plaintiff purchased the motor vehicle “as is as seen,” and containing statements in which defendant, as the seller of the motor vehicle, disclaimed “ALL WARRANTIES, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED.” After purchasing the motor vehicle, the plaintiff had it inspected by a Subaru dealership, and the vehicle failed inspection. Thereafter, the parties agreed that the vehicle would be inspected by an independent mechanic. According to plaintiff, the independent mechanic corroborated the opinion of the Subaru dealership that the vehicle was beyond repair. According to defendant, the independent mechanic opined that the vehicle required only the replacement of a missing part. Plaintiff subsequently brought a small claim action against the defendant, seeking damages and rescission of the sale. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court's order, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Pesa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jeffrey Roy appealed a circuit court order approving a recommendation of the Judicial Referee that judgment be entered in favor of defendant Quality Pro Auto, LLC on plaintiff’s small claim action. Plaintiff bought a used motor vehicle from defendant for $1,895. The bill of sale indicated that the vehicle was sold “As is As seen.” The sale also included a form from the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) titled “NOTICE OF SALE OF UNSAFE MOTOR VEHICLE.” In his small claims suit, plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the defendant had breached the implied warranty of merchantability when it sold the vehicle to him. Agreeing with the trial court that plaintiff waived this implied warranty, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Roy v. Quality Pro Auto, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant was a Michigan-based company that “assists corporations in complying with regulations associated with the conduct of corporate business by supplying annual corporate consent documents” by way of direct mail. Defendant mailed solicitations to potential customers. Its New Hampshire mailing address was “a private mailbox used as a clearinghouse to receive and bundle orders from New Hampshire customers.” According to defendant, as a result of these direct mailings, it made sales in New Hampshire totaling $12,625. A grand jury indicted defendant on 27 felony violations of the Consumer Protection Act, encompassing three sets of nine charges, all stemming from defendant’s allegedly deceptive use of the New Hampshire mailing address in 2013. The State appealed a Superior Court order dismissing the 27 indictments, ruling that the indictments were defective because they alleged that the defendant acted with the mental state of “knowingly,” and not “purposely.” Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment. View "New Hampshire v. Mandatory Poster Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mark Case appealed a superior court order that granted summary judgment to defendant St. Mary's Bank and denied his cross-motion for summary judgment on his claims that the bank engaged in trespass and violated state law and the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The matter arose from the bank's foreclosure on property Plaintiff leased from his landlord, Jean Marcelin. Months before the foreclosure sale, pipes burst in an apartment above plaintiff's, causing a flood. The City of Manchester turned off water and electricity to the building. Plaintiff spoke about the problem to Marcelin, who denied that he still owned the property. Plaintiff then spoke about the problem to a Bank representative; the representative asked plaintiff to allow her, a plumber, and an electrician into the building. The plaintiff complied with this request. The City placed a legal notice on the property’s front door, stating that it was unsafe and prohibiting occupancy. Plaintiff had not resided at the property since the flood, though most of his possessions remained at the property. When the Bank allowed him access to the apartment to remove his possessions, plaintiff observed that his apartment door was "wide open" and subsequently alleged that many of his possessions were missing. Finding no error with the superior court order, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision. View "Case v. St. Mary's Bank " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted an interlocutory appeal from the superior court that partially granted and partially denied the summary judgment motion filed by Defendants Lakes Region Water Company and Thomas Mason (collectively LRWC). The question before the Court was whether the superior court erred in concluding that Defendants were not exempt from the Consumer Protection Act to the extent that they allegedly misrepresented that the water they provided was safe for use and consumption. Answering in the affirmative, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of partial summary judgment as to the claims of the plaintiffs Jo Anne Rainville, Carl Beher, Lisa Mullins d/b/a The Olde Village Store, and approximately fifty others, under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) which sought damages for alleged misrepresentations about the quality of water provided. View "Rainville v. Lakes Region Water Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. appealed an award by the Commissioner of the State Banking Department in favor of Respondent Rachel Nicholson based on claims under the Consumer Protection Act. The issue stemmed from Respondent contacting Countrywide in 2005 in order to purchase a house. She spoke with two Countrywide agents who promised that they would "investigate and present her with the best [financing] program." At the hearing before the Commissioner, Respondent testified the agents orally approved her for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan at 6% interest. Thereafter, Respondent spoke with agents on a weekly basis regarding the property purchase and loan. The agents did not raise any problems with the loan application until two days before the scheduled closing date. On that day, despite the fact that there were no changes in Respondent's employment status or credit since the application had been filed, the agents informed her that Countrywide would not be able to grant a fixed interest loan for the amount she needed. They informed her that to purchase the home, she would need to apply for two different loans. On the scheduled closing date, as instructed by the agents, Respondent applied for two new loans at higher rates of interest but for shorter durations. After multiple hearings, the Commissioner ultimately entered an order ruling that Countrywide had committed "an unfair or deceptive practice" under state law, and ordered that Countrywide reimburse Respondent for all monies paid prior to, at and after closing, as well as discharge the first mortgage and void the second. Furthermore, Countrywide was ordered to quitclaim the property to Respondent. Finding that the Commissioner should not have granted a hearing on the merits of Respondent's claims, the Supreme Court vacated the award entered in her favor. View "Appeal of Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. " on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court considered an order of the superior court which denied Defendant Empire Automotive Group, Inc.'s motion to dismiss two indictments charging with with felony violations of the state Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Defendant was indicted by the grand jury on two counts of violating the CPA by allegedly placing inspection stickers (indicative of having passed inspection) on two automobiles sold to consumers under installment sales contracts when Defendant knew the vehicles had not passed the on-board diagnostic emissions tests required by the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles. Defendant moved to dismiss on the grounds that its conduct was exempt from the CPA and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the banking department, and that the department of justice which initiated the criminal proceedings, lacked authority to do so. Finding that the "trade or commerce" involved in this case involved the sale of motor vehicles and clearly brought Defendant's actions well within the scope of the CPA, the Supreme Court held that the trial record reflected substantial evidence to support Defendant's conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Empire Automotive Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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"Homes by George," run by Adelaide and Rick George, developed residential real estate known as "Esther's Estates" in Newton. Homes by George entered into a written contract with Defendant Al Hoyt & Sons, Inc., in which Defendant agreed to perform certain work in connection with the development. Defendant was paid but did not complete the work. Plaintiffs alleged breach of contract and claimed that Defendant violated the State Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Defendant counter-claimed that Plaintiff failed to pay amounts due in accordance with the contract. The trial court bifurcated the proceedings to allow a jury to first determine liability claims. A second trial was held on the contract claims. Plaintiffs won on all liability claims in the first trial, and received damages on its breach of contract and CPA claims at the second. Both parties appealed to the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs challenged the amounts of damages they were awarded by the trial court. Defendant argued that the trial court erred in its finding of violations under the CPA, and in its damages awarded to Plaintiffs. Upon careful consideration of the arguments and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed part and reversed part of the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court found that the grant of damages was appropriate in light of the terms of the contract, the state case law, and the evidence presented at trial. However, the Court questioned how the trial court arrived at the amount of damages. The Court remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings on its damages award to Plaintiffs. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other aspects of its decision.