Tuesday, May 15, 2012


            As reported in the Concord Monitor on May 13th, the New Hampshire Legislature has proposed new legislation that will undue the centralized management that has been put in place in the New Hampshire Court systems over the past year. The proposal will not undue the newly implemented circuit court system, but it will eliminate the centralized management that is running the administrative side of New Hampshire’s courts presently.

House Speaker O’Brien has indicated that they have received complaints from Judge’s about their inability manage courthouse staff under the new system. He has also indicated that police prosecutors have complained about the Judge’s in place are no longer familiar with their communities. These concerns resulted in the proposal being submitted on Friday to undue the centralized management system.

            Judge Edwin Kelly fired back on Monday, stating that the new system has saved approximately $2.3 million dollars in the last ten months. Judge Kelly wrote, “We know change is not easy and that some people will be unhappy, but that is certainly no reason to suddenly abandon innovation, ignore the demonstrated success of the new system and turn back the clock, which is what this legislation would do.” Judge Kelly referenced how, “In 2010 the New Hampshire Supreme Court formed an Innovation Commission consisting of business leaders, legislators, members of the public, court staff and others. The charge was challenging, but clear: re-create the administrative model of the judicial branch using 21st-century business practices and take advantage of technology where possible to dramatically cut costs while also assuring full access to justice for all citizens.” Judge Kelly believes that the newly formed system meets those goals, but the battle still rages.

            How do you feel about the proposal to change our Court system again? Let your legislatures know whether you support or oppose the legislation, as the best laws are the ones with all of the public’s input. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Product Liability: Understanding the Three General Types of Defects

            Generally, product liability has three main causes of action. They are a design defect, a manufacturing defect, and a failure to warn (or marketing defect). Each of these defects provide a cause of action to a consumer who is injured by a company’s product. Understanding each of them is important in order to assess whether you or a friend has a claim.
            A design defect is something that is inherently dangerous about the design of the product that is causing injuries. Thus, no matter what is being manufactured, if the product has a design defect, then the product will be dangerous regardless of how it is used. A good example is lead paint. No matter how it is used or manufactured, it will also come with a serious and dangerous risk.
            A manufacturing defect is one that occurs during the manufacturing stage, or, better put, it is a defect that is caused by the manufacturing process. This involves poor materials or shoddy workmanship. Thus, a product may be designed very well, but when manufactured by a particular entity, it is manufactured lazily and it becomes a dangerous risk to others. An example of this could be a phone that is prone to electrocuting its owners due to an issue with the way the battery was manufactured.
            A failure to warn, or marketing defect, is when a product is dangerous no matter how you manufacture or design it, and thus the entity making it is responsible for warning consumers of the hazards using the product could have. The warning here is key. If it properly informs the consumer of the risks associated with a product (ex: don’t drop a hair dryer into water), then the maker of the product is generally protected. However, this brings to mind the old McDonald’s coffee case, where it was a failure to warn that the coffee was scalding hot that allowed the burned woman to recover. This is why the warnings on hot coffee have become so prevalent. While the commoner understands coffee can be hot, the Court in that case found there must be a warning as to how hot, as it is not expected that coffee could cause the damage that it did in that case (which were third degree burns).
            If you find yourself or someone you know injured by a product and you need help navigating the law, please contact the experienced attorneys at Parnell & McKay today. As always in injury cases, our consultation is free. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Modifying Your Parenting Plan in New Hampshire: Case law v. Statutes

            In 2009, a decision was reached by the New Hampshire Supreme Court In the Matter of Muchmore and Jaycox. The decision was based on the modification of parenting plan statute, titled RSA 461-A:11. At the time Muchmore was decided, the statute provided that only a substantial change in circumstances could justify a change to the parenting plan. In Muchmore, the father petitioned for a change in the parenting plan because it was in the best interests, he posited, of the minor child. The lower Court decided that a modification was appropriate, and granted his request. Our New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed, citing a strict application of the statute. The result was frustration by legal minds around New Hampshire, as the bar to hurdle for a modification was set too high.

            In the decision, the Court insinuates that they have no other choice but to apply the statute as written. Thus, the Court seemed to be saying, that the New Hampshire legislature must reexamine the statute. That is exactly what the legislature did.

            Over the past few months, the new version of RSA 461-A:11 has been in place. The changes made allows for minimal changes now, which was not present before. For instance, if the transportation location isn’t working for one party, the minimal change provision allows for a modification of this provision. This is important, as there are often subtle small changes that need to be made that helps all parties involved. The Court also included some language in the statutes that allows the Court to consider the best interests of the child in the context of the statute. The result has been a much smoother process, and it demonstrates that sometimes our legislature and Court system gets it right.

            If you find yourself in need of a modification, contact the experienced lawyers at Parnell & McKay.