Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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In this case concerning the interpretation of a contingency fee for legal services between the City of Falls City, Nebraska and two law firms, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that no fees were due under the agreement or on the firms' equitable claim and granting summary judgment for Falls City as to the claims under the fee agreement, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing both the contract and equitable claims. This appeal centered around a fee dispute between Falls City and the attorneys representing Falls City in prior litigation. The district court concluded that the contingency under the fee agreement was not met and that, thus, the first were not entitled to a fee under the agreement. The district court further concluded that the firms had no equitable rights to assert against Falls City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit to the firms' claim that they were entitled to a fee under the agreement and that there was no merit to the firms' equitable claim. View "DH-1, LLC v. City of Falls City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Midwest Renewable Energy, LLC's motion to quash execution of a judgment, holding that there was no merit in Midwest Renewable's appeal. In 2010, a judgment against Midwest Renewable, the judgment debtor in this case, was transcribed. This was the second appeal brought by Midwest Renewable challenging the ownership of that judgment. Midwest Renewable argued in the first appeal that the original judgment creditor, Western Ethanol, had no interest in the judgment because it had been assigned to Douglas Vind, the managing member of Western Ethanol who requested execution after Western Ethanol dissolved. Here Midwest Renewable argued that there was no valid assignment to Vind. The district court agreed, finding that the judgment had been assigned to Vind. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Midwest Renewable's assignments of error were without merit. View "Western Ethanol Co. v. Midwest Renewable Energy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that Defendants owed damages to their general contractor and two of its subcontractors (collectively, Plaintiffs) for the construction of a residential home, holding that judgment was correctly entered for Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed construction liens and brought contract suits claiming unpaid balances for construction services rendered. The district court determined that the contract was a cost-plus agreement, that defects in workmanship were punch list items and not a breach by the general contractor, and that Defendants committed the first material breach of contract and owed damages to Plaintiffs. Defendants appealed, arguing that the contract was a fixed-price contract breached by the general contractor and that, even under a cost-plus contract, the general contractor breached a fiduciary duty to provide a full account for its bills when it requested draw payments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it found that the construction contract was a cost-plus contract and that Defendants breached that contract when they failed to pay draws required under the contract; and (2) the general contractor met its obligations under the contract. View "Goes v. Vogler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court in this action alleging breach of contract, conversion, and tortious interference with a business relationship of expectation, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action in his own name. Kim Hawley, the only named plaintiff, brought this action against John Skradski alleging that he purchased a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) business from an entity affiliated with Skradski and that, after Hawley ceased operating the business, Skradski began operating the business and converted the business's assets to his use. During trial, an asset purchase agreement was received into evidence showing that the HVAC business was purchased by KNR Capital Corp. and not by Hawley individually. The district court granted Skradksi's motion for a directed verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence of any of the three theories of recovery. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Hawley failed to prove his standing to bring this suit in his own name, and therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. View "Hawley v. Skradski" on Justia Law

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In this lawsuit filed by the purchasers of a home against the sellers the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court vacating an arbitration award entered in favor of Sellers and remanded with directions to confirm the arbitration award, holding that the district court erred by finding that arbitration provision in the purchase agreement was unenforceable, vacating the award, and failing to confirm the award. In this action, Purchasers alleged that several defects in the home they purchased had been concealed by Sellers. An arbitrator issued an award in favor of Sellers, finding that no credible evidence supported any of Purchasers' claims. Purchasers filed an application to vacate the arbitration award, and Sellers filed a motion seeking judicial confirmation of the award. The district court entered an order finding the arbitration void and vacating the award, holding that the arbitration provision in the purchase agreement was unenforceable under Nebraska's Uniform Arbitration Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court should have confirmed the arbitration award pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2612. View "Garlock v. 3DS Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Northern Natural Gas Company's request for a declaratory judgment upholding its decision to withhold the maximum amount of liquidated damages allowable under its contract with U.S. Pipeline, Inc. for a delay in the completion of a relocation project, holding that Northern manifested a clear intent to waive the contractual liquidated damages provision. The parties in this case entered into a construction contract providing that the relocation project would be substantially completed by a certain date. The project was not substantially completed by that date, and based on the liquidated damages provision in the contract, Northern withheld $351,000 in liquidated damages and refused to pay certain costs requested by U.S. Pipeline related to extra work orders. The district court denied Northern's request for a declaratory judgment upholding its decision to withhold liquidated damages from U.S. Pipeline, holding that Northern waived its rights to these liquidated damages under the contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court's determination that Northern's conduct amounted to a waiver was supported by the evidence and was not clearly wrong. View "United States Pipeline v. Northern Natural Gas Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court finding that Defendant owed Plaintiff $1,214,056 in unpaid profits and that Plaintiff was entitled to prejudgment interest in the amount of $97,582 pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 45-104, holding that there was no error in applying section 45-104 to award prejudgment interest to Plaintiff but that there was an error in calculating prejudgment interest. Ten years after the parties agreed to farm together and share net profits equally Plaintiff brought this action. The district court awarded unpaid profits and prejudgment interest after a bench trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in awarding prejudgment interest under section 45-104 without also finding that Plaintiff's claim was liquidated under Neb. Rev. Stat. 45-103.02(2). The Supreme Court modified the amount of prejudgment interest to $460,210, holding (1) section 45-103.02 and section 45-104 provide separate and independent means of recovering prejudgment interest in Nebraska, and when a claim is of the type enumerated in section 45-104, then prejudgment interest may be recovered without regard to whether the claim is liquidated; and (2) prejudgment interest was properly awarded pursuant to section 45-104 in this case, but it was incorrectly calculated. View "Weyh v. Gottsch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the probate court's dismissal of a golf course partnership's claim based upon an unfulfilled pledge agreement in a decedent's probate proceeding, holding that the partnership failed to state a claim based on contract but did state a claim based upon promissory estoppel. The decedent entered into a written pledge agreement with the golf course partnership under which the decedent would make a gift of $20 million so that the partnership could make improvements to the golf course it operated. The decedent died the next year, and the partnership filed a statement of claim against the estate for the $20 million pledge agreement. The estate denied the claim. The partnership then filed a petition for allowance of claim, claiming that the pledge agreement was an enforceable, binding obligation against the estate and, alternatively, that the petition should be granted under a promissory estoppel theory. The probate court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) because the partnership was not a charitable, educational, or like institution, its attempt to enforce the pledge agreement as a contract failed; but (2) the partnership stated a claim under a promissory estoppel theory. View "In re Estate of Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting Prospect Funding Holdings, LLC's (Prospect) motions to confirm arbitration awards and for summary judgment in this interpleader action, holding that when Prospect moved to confirm the arbitration awards under section 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 through 16, the district court was required by the FAA to do so. After selling an interest in her personal injury claim to Prospect, Edrie Wheat settled her claim. When a dispute arose over the amount due Prospect, Prospect initiated arbitration proceedings against Wheat and Ronald J. Palagi, P.C., LLC (Palagi), the law firm representing Wheat. Awards were eventually entered against Wheat and Palagi in favor of Prospect. Wheat and Palagi then brought this interpleader action but did not seek to vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration awards. The district court granted Prospect's motion to confirm the arbitration awards and also granted Prospect's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) summary judgment was not premature; and (2) the district court did not err in failing to find the agreement was invalid and unenforceable. View "Ronald J. Palagi, P.C. v. Prospect Funding Holdings" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Greater Omaha Packing Company, Inc. (GOP) as to Meyer Natural Foods LLC’s breach of contract action following a purported E. coli contamination of beef owned by Meyer and processed by GOP, holding that although the district court incorrectly applied the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in regard to Meyer’s acceptance of adulterated meat under the parties’ processing agreement, the court nevertheless arrived at the correct result. Under the agreement, GOP would slaughter Meyer’s cattle, process the beef, and fabricate the beef into various beef productions. After testing resulted in a very high percentage of presumptive positive findings for E. coli, Meyer filed suit against GOP. The district court granted summary judgment for GOP. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court erred in finding that Meyer had accepted the contaminated beef under the agreement or under the UCC, but the court’s ultimate conclusion was correct, as Meyer failed to adhere to the terms to properly reject products under the agreement. View "Meyer Natural Foods v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law