Boat Works Condominium Association v. Sanborn, 082019 NHSC, 2018-0154

Docket Nº:2018-0154
Party Name:Boat Works Condominium Association v. Evelyn Sanborn & a.
Judge Panel:LYNN, C.J., and HICKS, BASSETT, HANTZ MARCONI, and DONOVAN, JJ., concurred.
Case Date:August 20, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of New Hampshire

Boat Works Condominium Association


Evelyn Sanborn & a.

No. 2018-0154

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

August 20, 2019


Having considered the briefs and oral arguments of the parties, the court concludes that a formal written opinion is unnecessary in this case. Lisa Beaudoin, owner of one of the units in the Boat Works Condominium, appeals an order of the Superior Court (Howard, J.) denying the motion for summary judgment filed by Boat Works Condominium Association (Boat Works), which she supported, and granting summary judgment to Lisa Struble, owner of another unit in the condominium. We vacate and remand.

The material facts are not in dispute. The Boat Works Condominium was formed in 1981 and is comprised of three units. The declaration provided that the condominium "shall contain no limited common areas." At the time the present litigation began, Evelyn Sanborn owned Unit A, Lisa Beaudoin owned Unit B, and Linda Struble owned Unit C.

In 1982, the original declarants amended the Declaration of Condominium to declare certain common areas appurtenant to Unit C, including the land between Unit B and Unit C, as "limited common area for the benefit of Unit C" (hereafter, the 1982 amendment). The declarants did not file an amended site plan delineating the limited common area.

In 1984, 1997, and 2000, more amendments were filed purporting to create additional limited common areas. In 2004, an amendment was filed, signed by the owners of Units B and C, that purported to clarify and restate the limited common area designations for Units B and C. The amendment stated that, to the extent "past amendments were not unanimously approved by all Unit Owners, this Amendment complies with current condominium law, having been consented to by two-thirds of the votes in the unit owners' association, as required by RSA 356-B:19." See RSA 356-B:19 (2009). Sanborn, owner of Unit A, did not sign the amendment and she subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking to void it. In 2005, the Trial Court (Mohl, J.) found in Sanborn's favor, ruling that the amendment violated RSA 356-B:19 and was therefore invalid.

In 2017, Boat Works initiated the present litigation by filing a petition for clarification, to which Sanborn, Beaudoin, and Struble responded, to determine whether the 1982 amendment still "stand[s]" and, if it does, "the metes and bounds" of the limited common area, whether Unit B has an easement over the limited common area, and whether the ruling on the 2004 Amendment invalidated all of the previous limited common area grants. At issue primarily is a strip of land between Units B and C. Struble moved to dismiss, arguing that under the doctrines of collateral estoppel, equitable estoppel, and the statute of limitations, the petition should be dismissed. Boat Works and Beaudoin objected.

The Trial Court (Howard, J.) denied Struble's motion finding, in part, that the doctrine of collateral estoppel does not apply because the issues in the instant litigation are different than those in the 2004 litigation. The 2004 litigation involved the validity of an amendment that attempted to create additional limited common areas over the objection of a unit owner. The instant litigation involves the validity of the creation of limited common area for the benefit of Unit C by the original declarants and the precise dimensions of any such limited common area.

Subsequently, Boat Works filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that, under Holt v. Keer, 167 N.H. 232 (2015), none of the previously filed amendments were valid because all of the affected owners had to agree to change pre-existing common or limited common areas. Therefore, the strip of land between Units B and C "is common area to be utilized by all [o]wners." See RSA 356-B:16, :19 (2009) (amended 2018); Holt, 167 N.H. at 242...

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