In the June 18, 2014 opinion of England v. Brianas, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that an attack by a woman’s estranged boyfriend upon her new companion does not necessarily expose her to civil liability.
In the England case, Ms. Brianas had a former boyfriend who was demonstrating signs of jealously and instability. For example, he would leave abrasive and angry messages on her telephone, argued, and used profanities while she was in a public place, and may have even been stalking her. However, the estranged boyfriend at no time threatened Ms. Brianas or any third party with physical harm.
Ms. Brianas met the plaintiff and invited him to her home. Unbeknownst to Ms. Brianas or the plaintiff, the estranged boyfriend had broken into the house and was waiting for her in the basement. When Ms. Brianas and the plaintiff arrived home, the estranged boyfriend attacked the plaintiff and stabbed him.
The plaintiff sued Ms. Brianas alleging that her knowledge of the estranged boyfriend’s instability imposed an obligation on her to warn him of the situation. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that because Ms. Brianas did not have any idea that the boyfriend had broken into her house or that he would become physically violent, there was no liability. The Supreme Court, however, left open the question of whether liability could be imposed if Ms. Brianas knew the boyfriend was at the home when she invited the plaintiff in or knew that the boyfriend had threatened her or others with physical violence.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].