Publications
December 15, 2016 Article

Recent NH Supreme Court Opinion Changes the Scope of Liability for the Construction Industry

Construction Alert

NH Supreme Court rejects City’s bid to expand nullum tempus

Earlier this week, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a significant opinion holding that cities and towns are not exempt from the State’s statute of limitations in contract disputes.

In City of Rochester v. Marcel A. Payeur, Inc. et al., the City of Rochester sued multiple parties after a water tower that it had built in 1985 sprung a leak. New Hampshire has adopted the doctrine of nullum tempus, which means that statutes of limitations do not apply against the State. The question for this case was whether cities and towns are immune from statutes of limitation.

In rejecting the City’s argument, the NH Superior Court had focused on the nature of municipalities under New Hampshire law and determined that the policy underlying nullum tempus did not support the doctrine’s application to municipalities. The NH Supreme Court took a slightly different tact in affirming the trial court’s decision. Instead of focusing broadly on the nature of municipalities and their rights and responsibilities, the NH Supreme Court focused narrowly on the fact that the claims at issue were contract claims. The NH Supreme Court concluded that applying the doctrine to a municipality’s contract claims was not supported by the public policy underlying nullum tempus and actually would undermine the public policy underlying statutes of limitations.

This decision is a significant win for the New Hampshire construction industry and should help to limit the scope of liability for design professionals, contractors and subcontractors working on municipal projects by allowing the statute of limitations to establish an outside date within which claims can be presented.

Preti Flaherty attorneys Ken Rubinstein and Nathan Fennessy represented an ENR 50 Contractor who was named as a defendant in the litigation. McLane Middleton, representing a co-defendant, and Gagliuso & Gagliuso, representing amici Associated Builders and Contractors, also played important roles in securing this victory. 

For more information contact Kenneth E. Rubinstein, co-chair of the firm's Construction Law group.

Firm Highlights

News

Attorney Jeffrey Thaler Named to 2024 Lawdragon Green 500: Leaders in Energy Law

Preti Flaherty’s attorney Jeffrey Thaler has been recognized by  Lawdragon  as one of the top 500 Leaders in Energy Law. This is Jeff’s third time named to this prestigious list since the first publication...

Event

Accessing Police Misconduct Records

Preti’s Sigmund Schutz will be one of the Maine panelists in New England First Amendment Coalition’s Accessing Police Misconduct Records series. This series continues NEFAC’s freedom of information lessons and builds on the information...

Publication

131st Maine Legislature End of Session Update

The First Regular Session of the 131st Legislature was expected to end on June 15th or soon after. Instead, the First Regular Session ended on March 30th, and the Governor signed the “continuing services&rdquo...

Event

Sigmund Schutz to moderate panel at 36th Annual Media and the Law Seminar: Under Attack! Existential Threats to Journalism and Free Speech

From unlawful searches and seizures of newsrooms and highly contentious litigation to physical harassment and calls for violence online, journalists and news organizations are under attack like never before. At the 36 th Annual...

Publication

FRBP 9006 Doesn't Take Vacations

Bodie Colwell of Preti Flaherty’s Creditors' Rights & Bankruptcy Group, has authored the article "FRBP 9006 Doesn't Take Vacations," appearing in the October 2023 issue of the American Bankruptcy Institute's Young & New Members Committee newsletter...

Press Coverage

Maine media groups challenge new law on foreign spending on referendums

Maine’s two largest media associations, represented by Preti Flaherty attorneys Sigmund D. Schutz, Benjamin S. Piper, Jonathan G. Mermin, and Alexandra A. Harriman, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging a Maine law burdening...

News

David Van Slyke Named to 2024 Lawdragon Green 500: Leaders in Environmental Law

Preti Flaherty’s Managing Partner David Van Slyke has been recognized by Lawdragon as one of the top 500 environmental lawyers in the U.S. It’s the third time he has been named to this prestigious...

Publication

November 7, 2023 Election Results

Maine’s November 2023 statewide elections were exclusively referendum questions, four were citizen initiatives, and four were proposed amendments to the Maine Constitution. Of these, Questions 5, 7 and 8 were placed on the ballot...

Publication

Maine Workers’ Compensation Update - November 2023

The following is an overview of developments with respect to proposed legislation as well as new procedures on independent contractor determinations, medical fee schedule updates, and the use of updated Board forms, including medical...

News

Preti Flaherty Welcomes Trust and Estate Attorney Elise Salek to the Firm

Preti Flaherty is pleased to announce that Elise Salek has joined the firm’s Trusts & Estates Practice Group. Practicing out of the firm’s Concord, New Hampshire office, Elise brings nearly three decades of experience...