Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Rosemary Henn filed a putative class action in a federal court alleging that American Family Mutual Insurance Company wrongfully failed to compensate her and others similarly situated by depreciating labor costs in calculation of “actual cash value” for loss or damage to a building under its homeowner’s insurance policies. The federal court certified a question to the Nebraska Supreme Court asking whether an insurer, in determining the “actual cash value” of a covered loss, may depreciate the cost of labor when the policy does not state explicitly that labor costs will be depreciated and the terms “actual cash value” and “depreciation” are not defined in the policy. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative, holding that the term “actual cash value” is unambiguous and that labor can be depreciated. View "Henn v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant was previously married to the decedent. Together, they had a son (Son). After the decedent died, Appellant filed a claim with the estate on Son’s behalf seeking one-half of Son’s reasonable secondary educational expenses not otherwise covered by his savings accounts. The estate disallowed the claim. Thereafter, Appellant filed suit against the estate, seeking that the court order that her previously filed order be “allowed” and that the court confirm the lien of the court’s judgment against real property owned by the estate. Appellant also sought to impose a constructive trust on the estate’s assets. The district court granted the estate’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the issue was not ripe for resolution because it was not possible for know the amount of “reasonable” educational expenses. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant’s action was ripe because the unknowns presented by this case were insufficient to make Appellant’s suit not ripe. View "Harring v. Gress" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and other crimes. Appellant was sentenced to death on each murder conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Appellant later filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that the State had withheld evidence and engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. The district court denied postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, holding that Appellant failed to show that his trial counsel was ineffective or that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. View "State v. Torres" on Justia Law
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The State filed motions for termination of Mother’s parental rights to her five children due to abandonment, neglect, and aggravated circumstances. After a hearing, the county court granted the State’s motions to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The consolidated order was issued on April 4, 2016. On April 28, 2016, the court issued a consolidated order nunc pro tunc, which stated that the April 4 order would be vacated and reissued under the date of April 28 to allow the parties to have an appropriate amount of time to file an appeal. No party moved to vacate the April 4 order. Mother subsequently filed notices of appeal from the court’s April 28 order nunc pro tunc, arguing that the county court erred in finding that it was in the children’s best interests to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, holding (1) the district court had no authority to issue its April 28 order; and (2) Mother failed to file notices of appeal within thirty days of the April 4 order, and therefore, this Court was without jurisdiction. View "In re Interest of Luz P." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment plus ten to twenty years’ imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences. Defendant later filed a motion seeking postconviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective in several ways. The district court denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Defendant’s allegations of error were without merit and in thus denying postconviction relief. View "State v. Watson" on Justia Law
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David Leon Frederick sent a public records request to the City of Falls City administrator requesting certain records in the physical custody of Falls City and the Falls City Economic Development and Growth Enterprise, Inc. (EDGE). The administrator provided records in the physical custody of Falls City, but EDGE’s executive director refused to provide the requested records to Frederick or Falls City, claiming that EDGE was not a public entity and that its records were not public records. The Supreme Court agreed with EDGE and reversed the district court’s order compelling EDGE to produce the requested records. After Frederick learned that Falls City did not produce all requested records in its possession pursuant to his public record request, he filed a motion to reopen his case against the City and EDGE. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Frederick’s motion to reopen the case because reopening the case would not lead to any remedy for Frederick. View "Frederick v. City of Falls City" on Justia Law

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Dan Anderson filed suit against Union Pacific Railroad Company under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, asserting that he suffered permanent injuries resulting from a fall during the course of his employment. The jury returned a special verdict for Anderson and awarded him damages of $920,007, which included $266,925 for past medical expenses. On appeal, Union Pacific challenged, among other things, the district court’s instructions to the jury on res ipsa loquitur. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court committed reversible error in instructing the jury on res ipsa loquitur and in overruling Union Pacific’s resulting motion for new trial. Remanded for a new trial. View "Anderson v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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After an adjudicative hearing, the juvenile court found the three children of Mother and Father were within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) as to both parents due to physical abuse. The State subsequently filed a supplemental petition alleging that all three children were within the meaning of section 43-247(3)(a). Father filed a motion to dismiss the supplemental petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the allegations were barred by claim and issue preclusion. The juvenile court agreed and dismissed the State’s supplemental petition. The Supreme Court vacated the order of dismissal, holding (1) the juvenile court erred by not converting the motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment and allowing both parties an opportunity to produce evidence supporting their arguments; and (2) the doctrine of claim preclusion should not be strictly applied in abuse and neglect cases when doing so would fail to protect children from continuing abuse or neglect. Remanded for further proceedings on the supplemental petition. View "In re Interest of Noah B." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and of driving under suspension. Defendant was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of ten years’ imprisonment to a maximum of fifteen years’ imprisonment on the possession of a controlled substance conviction and ninety days’ imprisonment for driving under suspension. Defendant appealed, asserting six assignments of error. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for driving under suspension, holding that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction because there was insufficient evidence to show when Defendant’s driver’s license was suspended. The Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects, holding that all of Defendant’s other assignments of error were either without merit or constituted harmless error. View "State v. Rocha" on Justia Law
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Appellants filed an amended complaint seeking to invalidate a contract between the City of North Platte, Nebraska and Priority Medical Transport, LLC on the ground that the City provided insufficient notice of its conflict of interest with Priority Medical Transport before awarding the contract. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the complaint contained causes of action under both Neb. Rev. Stat. 84-1411 of the Open Meetings Act and Neb. Rev. Stat. 49-14,102 of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act, and therefore, the district court erred in dismissing the amended complaint. View "Tryon v. City of North Platte" on Justia Law