If that case seems obvious, another recent ruling at least seems somewhat troubling. The court was taken back to the ice storm of 2008, when Southern New Hampshire was coated with a glaze of ice and paralyzed for days with power outages. A motorist driving through the intersection of Routes 28 and 111, where the traffic signals were inoperable, was seriously injured in a collision.
The Supreme Court upheld dismissal of the man's lawsuit against the town of Windham, essentially pointing out the roadways are state highways. The town, having called the light failure in to the state, was off the hook.
The lawsuit against the state was dismissed on different grounds. "Discretionary function immunity" relieves the state and its agencies from liability where conduct involves the exercise or performance of a discretionary executive or planning function.
Decision-makers are immunized against liability where there is a "high degree of discretion and judgment" involved in weighing alternatives and making choices with respect to public policy.
So, the court agreed with the state's position that deciding how best to allocate limited state resources in response to widespread power outages caused by a severe ice storm is a discretionary function.
My disappointment was that the case never used words like "pandemonium" or "common sense." That's why justices write decisions and I write a local newspaper column. The case is Ford v. NH DOT, decided Feb. 24, 2012.
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Andrew Myers of Derry has law offices in Derry and North Andover. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.