Legal Briefs: News From Around NH

NH Supreme Court hears arguments in Saint-Gobain PFAS contamination case

The NH Supreme Court heard oral arguments Nov. 15 in a long-running case focused on contamination from PFAS chemicals emitted by manufacturing company Saint-Gobain.

The case is a proposed class action suit for residents exposed to PFAS contamination near Saint-Gobain’s Merrimack facility. Residents who say they’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals that contaminated their water are hoping the company will pay for medical monitoring for illnesses related to PFAS exposure, like certain cancers.

The case has been moving through New Hampshire District Court since 2016. But courts in the United States have been split on the issue of medical monitoring, so New Hampshire’s Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in on whether the state recognizes claims for medical monitoring as a remedy for people who were exposed to toxic substances.

They have also been asked to address whether those people must prove they have a present injury from the toxins, or if they can seek medical monitoring without a present injury.

In a brief filed ahead of the oral arguments, lawyers for the plaintiffs also argued that the exposure to toxins and the increased risk of illness that creates a medically necessary need for testing is itself an injury, eligible for compensation.

Bruce Felmly, a lawyer for Saint-Gobain, argued that allowing claims for medical monitoring without a present physical injury would deviate from 200 years of common law in New Hampshire.

U.S. Labor Department reports on health care employer crackdown

The U.S. Department of Labor says that the ongoing nationwide effort by its Wage and Hour Division to check compliance among residential care, nursing facilities, home health services and other care-focused industry employers has made significant progress in protecting workers’ rights and protections.

Since its 2021 launch, the initiative has completed more than 1,600 investigations and identified violations in 80 percent of its reviews. These investigations recovered more than $28.6 million in back wages and damages for nearly 25,000 workers, and led to assessments of nearly $1.3 million in civil monetary penalties for employers who willfully violated federal law.

Its reviews of residential care facilities, nursing facilities and home health providers found the most common violations discovered by investigators related to failures to pay overtime or federal minimum wages or the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The initiative found violations often hurt women of color – particularly in the Black, African American, Hispanic and Asian, including Filipina, communities – who are often employed as home care aides, certified nursing aides and licensed practical nurses.

In recent months, home health care firms in Lebanon and Keene faced serious fines after the office found violations.

Sheehan Phinney attorneys win NH Supreme Court case

Sheehan Phinney attorneys Christopher Cole and Megan C. Carrier recently secured a victory in the NH Supreme Court in which the justices affirmed that an employee’s complaints about and reporting upon the application of internal grading decisions by a private university do not implicate public policy considerations necessary to support a wrongful termination claim.

The case was Donovan v. Southern New Hampshire University.

The attorneys said the victory is important for the academic community because the court recognized that matters of academic judgment are better left to educational instructions than to the judiciary, and that the judiciary should accord academic institutions deference when such matters are at issue. Read the full decision here:

Carrier‘s practice focuses on business litigation and involves representing individuals and businesses in a wide range of disputes before state and federal trial and appeals courts, administrative tribunals, arbitrators, and in mediation. Cole serves as co-chair of the firm’s Business Litigation Group and has handled cases involving trade secrets related to software and software applications, the alleged misuse of company proprietary information and predatory employee hiring, among others.

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