This bill establishes a cause of action against the state for violations against individual rights. It creates a new chapter in the law, Chapter 507-H, which supersedes certain defenses and immunities in existing law. Under this new chapter, a government employer can be held liable for injuries caused by a government employee who violates a right under the laws or constitution of New Hampshire or the United States. An individual can seek legal, equitable, or other relief in a New Hampshire court for such violations. The government employer, not the government employee, is the proper defendant in these actions. The bill also establishes that a government employee cannot be found financially liable for a violation of rights. The government employer must notify the government employee within 10 days of being served with a claim, and the employee has the right to intervene in the action. The burden of proof is on the individual seeking relief, and a claim must be brought within three years of the date a claim can be brought for the deprivation of a right. The bill prohibits class actions and states that a claim under this chapter is not subject to various immunities and limitations on liability or damages. It also clarifies that a government's judicial or legislative immunity is not affected by this chapter. The bill establishes that any action under this chapter arises out of state law and falls under the jurisdiction of the New Hampshire judicial system. The court's order must be supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law. When evaluating a government employee's use of force, the court must consider the reasonableness of the employee's actions from the perspective of a reasonable government employee on the scene. The court cannot use perfect hindsight or consider facts and circumstances that were later discovered. The bill also addresses attorney fees, stating that if a plaintiff's claims prevail, the state or a political subdivision is liable for reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs. The court may dismiss a frivolous claim and award attorney fees and costs to the defendant. The bill establishes that a court's finding that a government employee violated a right under this chapter is per se evidence that the government employer has just cause for terminating the employee's employment. The termination does not affect the government's liability under this chapter. Finally, the bill requires that all documents related to claims under this chapter be subject to public disclosure. The fiscal impact of the bill is indeterminable, but it is expected to result in an increase in the number of cases filed, requiring additional judicial and staff resources. The Department of Justice anticipates an increase in litigation costs and the cost of paying financial damages.

This bill would eliminate governmental immunities, require the government to pay for attorney's fees in any circumstances where the government settles or loses in court, and eliminate collective bargaining protections for employees whose actions are subject to penalty under this legislation. The bill also allows employees to become intervenors in cases against the government and removes protectionary standards, which would require additional training for governmental employees. The New Hampshire Municipal Association predicts a significant increase in costs for municipalities due to an increase in claims against them and the removal of incentives to settle cases. The New Hampshire Association of Counties also anticipates an increase in lawsuits from residents at county jails or nursing homes.