Mbahaba v. MorganAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff Regina Mbahaba, individually and as next friend of her minor daughter, Benita Nahimana, appealed a superior court order that dismissed her direct claims against Defendant Thomas Morgan, and granted him summary judgment in her action seeking to pierce the limited-liability veil of the company he managed. Defendant owned Property Management Services a/k/a Property Services Company, a limited liability company that managed an apartment building where Plaintiff and her family rented an apartment from 2005-2006. Plaintiff’s daughter, Benita, was poisoned by lead while living in the apartment, prompting an inspection by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, which revealed "lead exposure hazards" in the home. As a result of the alleged injury to Benita caused by the lead contamination, Plaintiff filed lawsuits against Defendant and Biren Properties. Shortly after Plaintiff filed Suit, Defendant formed another property management LLC, which Plaintiff alleged he created in an attempt to avoid liability from her suit. Defendant moved to dismiss the action against him personally, arguing that, because he supervised the property on behalf of the LLC, he could not be "held personally liable for the debts or actions of the company." Ultimately, the claims against Defendant individually were dismissed, but the trial court allowed the plaintiff’s claims against the LLC to proceed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Defendant's management of the apartment and his superior knowledge of its hazardous condition suffice to established an individual tort duty to avoid "exposing [the plaintiff] to an unreasonable risk of harm." Thus, because these allegations stated facts entitling Plaintiff to relief, her negligence claim survived Defendant’s motion to dismiss. With regard to Plaintiff's attempt to disregard Defendant's LLC to hold him liable, the Court concluded that Defendant correctly argued that he had every right to establish a new LLC and to transfer the original LLC’s clients to it. "However, that Defendant made this 'fresh start' when his company remained a party to this case, could permit a finding that the limited-liability identity was used to promote an injustice upon the plaintiff. Thus, based upon our review of the depositions and other evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we cannot conclude that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part the trial court's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings.