Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court

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Millard Gutter Company’s voluntary dismissal of its civil action against American Family Insurance Company had no effect on the district court’s authority to make further rulings, but the court erred in taxing technology expenses and jury expenses as costs. After Millard Gutter filed a voluntary dismissal without prejudice, the district court entered a judgment of dismissal and taxed costs to Millard Gutter, including expenses incurred by American Family in setting up courtroom technology and expenses incurred by the court in compensation prospective jurors. On appeal, Millard Gutter argued that once it filed a voluntary dismissal, the district court lacked authority to make any further rulings and, alternatively, that the district court erred in taxing technology expenses and jury expenses as costs. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part reversed, holding (1) because Millard Gutter had no statutory right to voluntary dismissal at the time it filed its dismissal, the district court’s authority to make further rulings was unaffected by that filing; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in taxing such expenses as costs. View "Millard Gutter Co. v. American Family Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the district court in this declaratory judgment action (1) a contract between Ray Anderson, Inc. (Anderson) and Buck’s, Inc. to supply “BP-branded” motor fuel did not prevent Anderson from contracting with a competitor, Western Oil, Inc., to rebrand fuel sold at some of Anderson’s facilities; and (2) Buck’s held a unilateral right to terminate the fuel supply agreement. Anderson’s complaint requested the district court to declare that the contract did not prohibit Anderson from rebranding fuel sold at some of its stations and to determine that if Anderson sought to terminate the contract, it could do so upon reasonable notice. The district court rejected Anderson’s argument that it may terminate the contract upon reasonable notice but that Anderson had a right to rebrand. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment. View "Ray Anderson, Inc. v. Buck's, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a default judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision denying Appellant’s motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, to set aside the default judgment on the basis of several defenses. Appellee filed a breach of contract action against Appellant. When Appellant did not file a responsive pleading, the district court granted Appellee’s motion for default judgment. Appellant filed a motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, to set aside the default judgment. In support of the motion to set aside, Appellant alleged several defenses, including lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. The district court overruled Appellant’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant made a showing sufficient to warrant setting aside the default judgment because Appellant made prompt application to set aside the default and demonstrated at least one meritorious defense in support of its motion. View "Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co., Inc. v. Oceanside Laundry, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the arbitration board finding that a discount to wholesale customers who renewed their contractual relationship with Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) was not discriminatory or an abuse of NPPD’s statutory rate-setting authority. Appellants were political subdivisions engaged in the distribution of electricity to retail electric customers and were wholesale customers of NPPD. Appellants brought this complaint after they elected not to renew their contractual relationship, alleging that the discount was discriminatory and that NPPD breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by charging them a different rate. The arbitration board determined that the discount was reasonable and nondiscriminatory and that NPPD did not breach the contract or the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that NPPD’s rate structure was fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory and that the rate structure did not constitute a breach of contract or the implied covenant of good faith. View "In re Application of Northeast Nebraska Public Power District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Appellant’s motion to dismiss or stay proceedings and compel arbitration, holding that the issue of whether the arbitration agreement in this case was enforceable was properly decided by the district court and not an arbitrator. Thomas Cullinane, as special administrator for the estate of his mother, Helen Cullinane, filed a wrongful death action against Appellant, Beverly Enterprises - Nebraska, Inc., doing business as Golden LivingCenter - Valhaven (GLCV). GLCV filed a motion to dismiss or stay proceedings and compel arbitration in accordance with the terms of a written arbitration agreement between GLCV and Helen. GLCV asserted that Eugene Cullinane, Helen’s husband, while acting as Helen’s attorney in fact, signed the agreement when he and Helen were admitted to the facility. The district court found that Eugene’s execution of the arbitration agreement could not be binding upon Helen, nor her estate, and thus dismissed GLCV’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the arbitration agreement was not binding upon Helen or her estate. View "Cullinane v. Beverly Enterprises - Nebraska, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court dismissing Appellants’ claim seeking damages for breach of contract, breach of warranty, and fraudulent misrepresentation after discovering hail damage to the roof of a real property they were under contract to purchase from Appellees. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice and without leave to amend, concluding that the damage was reasonably ascertainable by Appellants. In reversing, the Supreme court held that the district court erred when it granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim because Appellants alleged sufficient facts to state claims that were plausible on their face. View "Burklund v. Fuehrer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration, although for different reasons than those of the district court. In denying the motion to compel arbitration, the district court concluded that the agreement to arbitrate concerned or related to an insurance policy and was thus unenforceable under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2602.01(f)(4). On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration and in determining that arbitration agreement concerned or related to an insurance policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was a failure of proof regarding the arbitration itself because the record did not show that the relevant parties agreed to submit future disputes to binding arbitration. View "Zweiback Family L.P. v. Lincoln Benefit Life Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration, although for different reasons than those of the district court. In denying the motion to compel arbitration, the district court concluded that the agreement to arbitrate concerned or related to an insurance policy and was thus unenforceable under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2602.01(f)(4). On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration and in determining that arbitration agreement concerned or related to an insurance policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was a failure of proof regarding the arbitration itself because the record did not show that the relevant parties agreed to submit future disputes to binding arbitration. View "Zweiback Family L.P. v. Lincoln Benefit Life Co." on Justia Law

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In this breach of contract action brought by a homeowner (Plaintiff) against the company that laid his asphalt driveway (Defendant), the Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part reversed the judgment of the district court that significantly reduced the reduction of the award given by the county court. After Plaintiff’s driveway began to deteriorate prematurely, Plaintiff sued Defendant. The county court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The district court reversed the county court’s determination that Plaintiff’s damages included $26,189 for a two-inch overlay of the entire driveway and remanded the case with directions to enter judgment reflecting damages in the amount of $6,522. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the county court’s verdict should have been limited to plain error; (2) there was no plain error in the county court’s assessment of $26,189 in damages for the two-inch overlay; (3) there was sufficient evidence that it was reasonable and necessary for Plaintiff to contract for a stopgap repair of patchwork replacement of broken sections; and (4) there was no plain error in the county court’s award of discovery sanctions and repairs. View "Houser v. American Paving Asphalt" on Justia Law

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The district court erred in concluding that because of arbitration and venue provisions in an employment contract between the parties, it lacked jurisdiction. Nearly three years into the litigation in this case, the Douglas County District Court indefinitely stayed a claim for dissolution of one business entity, a party in the case, and dismissed sua sponte all other claims, noting that the employment contract contained arbitration and venue provisions that were outside the district court’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the stay and dismissal order and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that because no party sought to enforce the arbitration agreement, it was error for the district court to do so on its own accord. View "Boyd v. Cook" on Justia Law