NH court hears bid to reinstate officers’ lawsuit
LYNNE TUOHY, Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- A lawyer for four officers injured in a 2012 shootout with a suspected drug dealer who shot to death Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney argued before the New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday to reinstate their lawsuit against the man’s mother.
The officers say Beverly Mutrie, of North Hampton, knew her 29-year-old son, Cullen Mutrie, was dealing drugs out of the Greenland home he rented from her. They say she "facilitated" his criminal enterprise by supplying him with weapons and a car.
A superior court judge last May dismissed the officers’ lawsuit against her and her insurance carrier, saying her alleged wanton and reckless conduct did not constitute an accident the policy would cover.
But Christopher Grant, an attorney for the officers, argued Wednesday that the shootings can be classified as accidental because there was no certainty that the alleged conduct by Beverly Mutrie would lead to death and injury.
Police say Cullen Mutrie opened fire on the officers April 12, 2012, when they tried to execute a search warrant for drugs. He shot Maloney, 48, and wounded the officers before killing his girlfriend and himself, police say.
After the shootings, investigators found 27 grams of cocaine, three vials of anabolic steroids and seven grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the home, along with $14,000 in cash.
The justices did not say Wednesday when they would rule.
The officers injured were Dover Detective Gregory Turner, Newmarket Detective Scott Kukesh, University of New Hampshire Detective Eric Kulberg and Rochester Detective Jeremiah Murphy. They were assigned to the Attorney General’s Drug Task Force.
Sarah Murdough, a lawyer for the Amica Mutual Assurance Co., told the justices that Grant and the officers were alleging bad conduct by the mother to circumvent the Fireman’s Rule, a state law that ordinarily bars lawsuits by public safety officers injured in the line of duty.
She said the trial court erred when it rejected the insurance company’s argument that the involvement of illicit drugs in the shooting scenario should have automatically foreclosed the officers’ ability to recover damages from Beverly Mutrie’s policy. The lower court judge found the drug activity was more of a "coincidence" than a driving force in the shootings.
"There would have been no injuries absent Cullen Mutrie’s drug activity, which triggered service of the search warrant," Murdough wrote in a brief.
Attorney Bradley Lown, who represented Beverly Mutrie, maintained she played no role in the shooting.
The Attorney General’s Office determined that the gun Cullen Mutrie used in the shootings was a .357 magnum that his girlfriend had purchased at a Manchester gun show.
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