Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Plaintiff Quentin White filed an action to quiet title against defendants Brigitte Auger (formerly Gaudreau) and Joanne Jackson (formerly Labadie). In the spring of 1968, White met Perley Swett, the “Taylor Pond Hermit,” and explained that he needed food. White and his family provided that food. White refused payment from Swett; this gesture started an enduring friendship. Over the years, White helped Swett deliver gifts of money or deeds of land to people in the community — mostly to local children. Auger was one of the local children who repeatedly benefited from Swett’s generosity; at one point, Swett told Auger that he would give her a horse and some land. Swett often attempted to pay White for, in Swett’s words, his "services." White always refused payment, feeling that it was his neighborly duty to help. At one point, Swett attempted to give White a deed for a large parcel of land. After a heated discussion, White tore up the deed. In 1972, Swett gave White the deed at issue in this appeal in exchange for White’s services. White accepted the deed but did not intend to record it. Swett died in 1973, and had appointed White as executor of his will, which included several bequests to White, including part of Swett's "home farm." The probate proceedings became contentious, and White resigned as executor. Prior to resignation, however, White recorded the 1972 deed and entered into a Stipulation with Swett’s estate and heirs, thereby relinquishing any of his claims under Swett’s will and in connection with any unrecorded deeds. In 2016, White attempted to sell the land in the 1972 deed; the sale fell through because the prospective buyer, having become aware of the references to Auger and Jackson in the 1972 deed, was concerned that White might not hold the title free and clear of Auger’s and Jackson’s interests. White then brought an action to quiet title against Auger and Jackson. Jackson defaulted; Auger contested the action and brought counterclaims against White. The trial court ruled in favor of Auger in the quiet title action, reasoning that the deed, properly interpreted, contemplated transferring ownership of the land to Auger in the event that White did not live on or build on the land within ten years. The trial court also ruled in favor of Auger on her declaratory judgment and specific performance counterclaims. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's interpretation of the 1972 deed, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed quiet title in favor of Auger. View "White v. Auger" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs David and Katherine Dietz appealed a superior court order that upheld a zoning board of adjustment (ZBA) decision for defendant Town of Tuftonboro, which granted intervenor Sawyer Point Realty, LLC (collectively with Sawyer Point Realty Trust, its predecessor in interest, Sawyer Point), two equitable waivers related to two additions Sawyer Point constructed on its house in violation of the Town’s zoning ordinance requiring a fifty-foot setback from Lake Winnipesaukee. Sawyer Point’s house was located along the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee and within the Town’s Lakefront Residential Zoning District (District); the Dietzes owned the abutting property, also within the District. In 1999, Sawyer Point added a second floor addition over the eastern portion of the first floor of its house, aware that the existing structure was located within the setback, and that a second floor addition would also be within the setback. Prior to construction, Sawyer Point submitted a building permit application to the Town containing a rough sketch of the existing house, which also showed that the house was situated less than fifty feet from the lake. The Town’s building inspector granted the building permit, noting the addition would cause “no change in footprint.” In 2008-2009, Sawyer Point constructed a second addition to its house, again receiving permission from the Town to construct. In February 2014, Sawyer Point commissioned a survey which revealed, in regard to the 2008 Addition, more of the new structure was within the setback than had been represented to the ZBA. In December 2014, the Dietzes, after learning of this discrepancy, sought injunctive relief against Sawyer Point, claiming that Sawyer Point had built within the setback without obtaining the required approvals, and requesting that the court order the removal of the unlawful construction. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err when it sustained the ZBA and declined to weigh the cumulative effect of building within the lakefront setback throughout the Town. Moreover, relying on the evidence before it, the trial court agreed with the ZBA that there was little or no public benefit to be gained by correcting the violations. Because the Dietzes have failed to show that this finding was unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence, the trial court's decision was upheld. View "Dietz v. Town of Tuftonboro" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lakes Region Water Company, Inc. (Lakes Region), appealed a New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (Commission) order requiring Lakes Region to refund a second base charge it had imposed on its customer, Robert Mykytiuk, and prohibiting it from “imposing such charges unless and until they are included in the company’s tariff.” Lakes Region learned that Mykytiuk had constructed an additional structure on his property. To supply the new structure with water, Mykytiuk tapped into his primary residence’s service connection. Shortly after learning of the new construction, Lakes Region sent Mykytiuk an application for new service for the additional structure and requested to inspect the water service connection. Despite concluding that the new structure required a separate service connection, Lakes Region chose not to install one at that time. Rather, Lakes Region began billing Mykytiuk for an additional “base charge,” which referred to the “[m]inimum charge per customer per quarter” scheduled in Lakes Region’s tariff. Mykytiuk complained to the Commission, asserting that he was not required to have a second service connection. The Commission treated the matter as a formal complaint and held a hearing on the merits. At the hearing, Mykytiuk argued that Lakes Region could not charge him a separate base charge or require him to install a separate meter for the additional structure because neither was provided for in Lakes Region’s tariff. Finding no reversible error in the Commission’s order, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Lakes Region Water Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners’ Association (Association), filed claims against defendant, L.B.O. Holding, Inc. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort (Attitash), arising from Attitash’s alleged failure to maintain a cooling tower at the Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center (Condominium). Attitash moved to dismiss the Association’s claims, arguing that they were barred by a provision, which required arbitration of certain disputes, in a management agreement (the Agreement) between the parties. The trial court denied Attitash’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the Association’s claims fall outside of the scope of the provision. The trial court subsequently approved this interlocutory appeal. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners' Association v. L.B.O. Holding, Inc.. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners’ Association (Association), filed claims against defendant L.B.O. Holding, Inc. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort (Attitash), arising from Attitash’s alleged failure to maintain a cooling tower at the Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center (Condominium) in Bartlett. Attitash moved to dismiss the Association’s claims, arguing that they were barred by a provision, which required arbitration of certain disputes, in a management agreement between the parties. The trial court denied Attitash’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the Association’s claims fell outside of the scope of the provision. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners' Association v. L.B.O. Holding, Inc.. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort" on Justia Law

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The parties appealed and cross-appealed superior court rulings regarding claims of defendants, the direct or beneficial owners of real property on Great Island, to deeded or prescriptive easements to traverse a footpath (the Circle Trail) over the Great Island lot owned by plaintiff Dwight Stowell, Jr. Great Island was on Lake Sunapee and lay partially in Newbury and partially in Sunapee. Stowell’s lot was primarily in Newbury, although a small portion of it is in Sunapee. Some of the defendants had Great Island lots in Newbury (the Newbury defendants), while others have Great Island lots in Sunapee (the Sunapee defendants). Because Great Island had no public roads, footpaths were used to get from one place to another on the island. The Circle Trail went around the perimeter of the island. In ruling on pre-trial cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court decided that the Newbury defendants have deeded easements to use the Circle Trail as it crosses the Newbury portion of Stowell’s lot. The court rejected the assertion that those easements were extinguished because the purpose for which they were created (to provide access to steamboats) became impossible to achieve once the steamboat wharves were destroyed in a 1938 hurricane. Furthermore, the trial court ruled that: (1) only those Newbury defendants who testified at trial have prescriptive easements to use the Circle Trail over the Sunapee portion of Stowell’s lot; (2) only the single Sunapee defendant who testified at trial has a prescriptive easement to use the Circle Trail over both the Newbury and Sunapee portions of Stowell’s lot; and (3) Stowell has the unilateral right to relocate the Newbury defendants’ deeded easements from the front to the back of his property. Stowell appealed the ruling that the Newbury defendant had deeded easements to use the Circle Trail that crossed his lot; the defendants challenged the other rulings. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s rulings regarding defendants’ prescriptive easements and Stowell’s right to relocate the deeded easements, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stowell v. Andrews" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Rochester City Council appealed a superior court order affirming defendant City of Rochester Zoning Board of Adjustment’s grant of a variance to defendants Donald and Bonnie Toy. On appeal, the Council argued the trial court: (1) erred in affirming the ZBA’s decision to grant a variance to the Toys; and (2) unsustainably exercised its discretion in denying the plaintiff’s motions to expand the record. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rochester City Council v. Rochester Zoning Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs owned approximately 0.3 acres on the shore of Lake Waukewan in New Hampton. Per the town’s zoning ordinance, the property was subject to a twenty-foot side yard setback and a thirty-five-foot front setback along the road. It was also subject to a fifty-foot setback along the lake shore pursuant to the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act. The property was sloped and contained a house, a deck, and three plastic, movable sheds used to store various home and recreational items. Plaintiffs sought to replace the plastic sheds with a ten-by-sixteen-foot permanent shed, which they planned to construct on the western side of the property. The proposal would have placed the permanent shed within the twenty-foot side setback. Accordingly, plaintiffs sought a variance from the side setback requirement. They appealed when the Superior Court upheld the denial of their requested variance by the Town of New Hampton Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). They argued the proposed shed would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood because several other properties in the neighborhood had outbuildings within the setbacks. They maintained the existence of these outbuildings on neighboring properties, along with the lack of objection from the western abutters and the town fire chief, demonstrated the proposed shed posed no threat to the public health, safety, or welfare. The superior court concluded that the ZBA’s denial of plaintiffs’ variance on the public interest and spirit of the ordinance criteria was not unreasonable or unlawful. Given the evidence before the ZBA, and the considerable deference reflected in its standard of review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court could not find the superior court erred in concluding that the ZBA acted reasonably and lawfully in finding that plaintiffs’ requested variance would violate the spirit of the ordinance and would be contrary to the public interest. View "Perreault v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Richard Polonsky appealed, and defendant Town of Bedford (Town) cross-appealed a superior court order on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s petition for injunctive and declaratory relief and to quiet title to residential property that the Town acquired by tax deed in 2011. In 2008, plaintiff inherited residential property in Bedford New Hampshire that, at that time, was assessed at approximately $300,000. Because plaintiff failed to pay his real estate taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, tax liens were imposed on his property for each of those years. The Town notified plaintiff before each lien was imposed. In April 2011, the Town notified plaintiff that a tax deed was to be issued. In May 2011, a tax deed for the property was issued to the Town. Plaintiff continued to reside on the property without paying taxes. In 2013, plaintiff offered to pay back taxes, but requested the Town forgive additional charges. In July 2013, the Town rejected plaintiff’s request and decided to sell the property. In December 2013, the Town notified plaintiff of its decision to sell the property and of his right to repurchase it. Plaintiff received that notice, but did not act on it. In April 2015, the Town again notified plaintiff of its intent to sell the property and of his right to repurchase. Plaintiff proposed he purchase the property for only the amount he owed in taxes and that the Town waive the remaining amounts. The Town rejected the plaintiff’s proposal. The Town then asserted that plaintiff’s right to repurchase the property had terminated because more than three years had passed since the tax deed had been recorded. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff brought this lawsuit. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in ruling that the Town’s failure to provide timely statutory notice to him of its July 2013 “offering for sale,” as required by RSA 80:89, I (2012), did not invalidate the tax deed. Plaintiff also argued the trial court erred by failing to find that the penalty the Town may recover pursuant to RSA 80:90, I(f) (2012) (amended 2016) constituted “double taxation” in violation of the State Constitution. In its cross-appeal, the Town argued the trial court misinterpreted the three-year period set forth in RSA 80:89, VII (2012) when it determined that, although the tax deed was recorded more than three years ago, plaintiff could bring a claim for any amount the Town recovered from the property’s eventual sale in excess of the outstanding taxes, interest, costs, and statutory penalty owed (“excess proceeds”). The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that the tax deed was invalid, reversed its ruling construing the statutes as permitting plaintiff to recover excess proceeds from any future sale of the property, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Polonsky v. Town of Bedford" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Loon Valley Homeowner’s Association (the Association), appealed a superior court order denying its petition to quiet title to land owned by defendant Lewis Pollock and the decedent, Norman Wallack, based upon a claim of adverse possession. Pollock testified at trial that he and Wallack retained Lot 12 hoping to add it to the Association’s property to offset their loss. Pollock explained that after unsuccessfully seeking direct compensation from the members in exchange for adding Lot 12 to the Association, he and Wallack agreed to allow the members of the Association to use Lot 12 on the condition that the Association maintain the lot, pay the property taxes, and relocate the fence dividing Lots 11 and 12 to its current location, where it marked the approximate boundary between Lots 12 and 13. Following trial, the court found that the Association’s use of Lot 12 was permissive and that, even if the court were to assume that the Association’s use of Lot 12 was such that Pollock and Wallack should have known that the Association had repudiated their permission, it had failed to demonstrate that such use was exclusive for a twenty-year period. On appeal, the Association argued the trial court erred: (1) when it found “a permissive arrangement between Lewis Pollock and the Association, and thus that the Association’s use of Lot 12 was not adverse”; and (2) when it ruled that the Association “had not established that it had utilized Lot 12 exclusively” during the twenty-year prescriptive period. Finding no error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Loon Valley Homeowner's Association v. Pollock" on Justia Law