Under RSA 106-H:14 There is a Categoric Exemption for 911 Recordings from the Right-to-Know Law. This Exemption Applies Not Only to the Name, Number and Location of the Caller But Also to the Content of the Recording.

B&C Management v. NH Division of Emergency Services
New Hampshire Supreme Court Case No. 2020-0052
Wednesday, February 23, 2022

This case originated when a guest at a B&C facility was injured in a fall. The injured party’s attorney informed B&C they would be investigating the fall and B&C subsequently requested a copy of the 911 call made at the time of the fall. The Division denied this request. The Plaintiff, B&C Management appealed a decision of the Superior Court that 911 audio recordings are exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law according to RSA 106-H:14.  

The Court began with a statutory interpretation of the Right-to-Know Law and its relation to RSA 106-H:14. The plaintiff argued that the intent of the statute was only to exclude the callers’ fixed-location data from Right-to-Know, and not the entirety of the 911 recording. However, the State argued, and the Court agreed that if the legislature intended this exemption under RSA 106-H:14 to only apply to this very specific information they would have said so in the statute. Instead, 106-H:14 specifically says that information under “this chapter” is exempt, which the Court interpreted to mean the chapter as a whole to include the recording of a 911 call.  

Next, the Court moved on to B&C’s argument that the trial court erred by denying its request for equitable discovery of the 911 audio recording. B&C argued that it has no remedy available at law to obtain the 911 call and that it needs the recording to avoid “pre-suit costs” and prejudice to its “negotiating position” with the injured guest. The Court ruled that there are two requirements for a party to be granted equitable relief. First, the party must show that they have no adequate remedy available under the law. Next, they must establish that equitable relief is appropriate under the circumstances of the particular case. The Court ruled that because there was no currently pending lawsuit and B&C failed to adequately establish the necessity for obtaining the 911 call information.  



Additional Information: 

Practice Pointer: This case does recognize a categoric exemption for 911 recordings from RSA 91-A. This does not mean, however, that there is no way of obtaining a copy of a 911 recording through the discovery process. The Court left the door open for the possibility that a 911 recording would be subject to disclosure under the equitable discovery doctrine.