Union Leader Countersues Seacoast Newspapers in Printing Contract Dispute

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Carol Robidoux, Manchester Ink Link photo

New Hampshire Union Leader's entrance at 100 William Loeb Drive, Manchester.

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

The Union Leader Corp. is countersuing Seacoast Newspapers Inc. claiming it suffered financially because Seacoast failed to provide an industry standard product while it was printing the state’s daily newspaper, according to documents on file in Rockingham Superior Court.

Seacoast Newspapers denies the allegations. Seacoast Newspapers sued the Union Leader in March claiming it pulled out of its printing contract three months early giving only six days notice and began having the newspaper printed by the Concord Monitor while still owing Seacoast $1.6 million.

Now, the Union Leader is demanding a jury trial and seeking unspecified damages from Seacoast Newspapers Inc., according to the counterclaim filed June 3 by Union Leader attorney Gregory Sullivan.

“Between June 18, 2018, and February 21, 2019, Seacoast failed to produce industry standard printing products to Union Leader on at least forty-seven (47) different occasions,” the counterclaim alleges.

“Union Leader timely notified Seacoast each time it failed to produce industry standard printing products to Union Leader; Seacoast routinely ignored Union Leader’s complaints and made no efforts to ensure that it produced industry standard printing products to Union Leader,” the countersuit states.

Seacoast denied those allegations in its response, which was filed attorney Mark E. Melendy of Sheehy Furlong & Behm PC of Burlington, Vt.

The Union Leader counterclaim alleges breach of contract by Seacoast Newspapers for allegedly failing to produce industry standard products on 47 separate occasions in less than 12 months, which Seacoast also denied.

“Union Leader has suffered monetary damages as a direct result of Seacoast’s material breach of the agreement,” the Union Leader counterclaim states.

The Union Leader entered into the printing agreement with Seacoast Newspapers around April 2013 when it stopped printing its own newspaper. Four years later, the Union Leader sold its flagship building at 100 William Loeb Drive in Manchester and now rents back a portion of the building.

Seacoast breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing “by, among other things, routinely ignoring Union Leader’s complaints and failing to take adequate steps to ensure that Seacoast produced industry standard printing related services and products.

“Union Leader has suffered monetary damages as a direct result of Seacoast’s breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” the counterclaim alleges, which Seacoast also denies.

The Union Leader demand for a jury trial also seeks an unspecified amount of damages “to be determined by a trier of fact, and grant such other and further relief as this Court deems just.”

Seacoast, which publishes Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Portsmouth Herald, is also suing Newspapers of New England Inc., publisher of the Concord Monitor, for its alleged role in the contract dispute. The Concord Monitor started printing the Union Leader on March 24, 2019 for that Monday’s edition with printing costs 40 percent less than Seacoast, according to court records.

“(Seacoast Newspapers) will be forced by the unlawful actions of (Union Leader) to close its Dover facility resulting in the loss of employment for as many as 49 employees, because the Union Leader on six days notice will cease using that facility to print its newspaper as of Monday,” according to a motion seeking a temporary restraining order to force the Union Leader to stay with Seacoast until the end of the contract, which was denied by a judge.

Representatives of the Union Leader, Seacoast Newspapers and the Concord Monitor did not respond to requests for comment from InDepthNH.org. Click below to hear the hearing in Rockingham Superior Court in Brentwood for the temporary restraining order filed by Seacoast in March.

Introduction: Audio hearing on the motion for a temporary restraining order in Seacoast Newspapers Inc. v. Union Leader Corp. and the Concord Monitor March 25 in Rockingham County Superior Court, which was denied. This portion introduces Judge Andrew Schulman and the attorneys representing the Union Leader, and the Seacoast Newspapers. See below for the full hearing.

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