Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Commercial Law

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James McCoolidge bought a used automobile over the Internet. After McCoolidge received the certificate of title, however, he had trouble registering the certificate in Nebraska. McCoolidge sued the man that sold him the car, a licensed dealer in Tennessee, and the insurer that had issued a surety bond to the dealership, alleging failure to deliver “clear title” for the vehicle. The district court entered judgment for Defendants, concluding that Defendants initially breached the warranty of title but that McCoolidge eventually received good title and that McCoolidge had failed to prove damages. McCoolidge appealed, arguing that even after he received a registrable certificate, certain defects cast a shadow on his title. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that McCoolidge did not prove the damages he suffered from these defects. View "McCoolidge v. Oyvetsky" on Justia Law

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Jack Irwin owed a warehouse that Shade rented to store personal property. West Gate Bank held notes payable from Shade that were secured by Shade’s personal property. Shade later defaulted on the notes. Irwin and West Gate subsequently agreed to move Shade’s personal property pursuant to an “Abandonment” document. When Shade filed for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court approved distribution of the proceeds in Shade’s personal property to West Gate, concluding that the Abandonment document was not an assignment or release of West Gate’s perfected security interest. Thereafter, Irwin filed this action against West Bank in district court alleging that West Gate breached its obligations under the Abandonment document by failing to pay the proceeds to Irwin. The district curt entered judgment in favor of West Gate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court’s determination regarding the preclusive effect of the bankruptcy court’s ruling with respect to an assignment or release of West Gate’s security interest in Shade’s property was not relevant to this appeal; and (2) the district court did not err in concluding that the Abandonment document was not an enforceable contract or a warranty.View "Irwin v. West Gate Bank" on Justia Law

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Heritage Bank sued Jerome Bruha on promissory notes that it had purchased from the FDIC. The FDIC had obtained the notes after it became a receiver for the failed bank that had initially lent the money to Bruha. The notes secured lines of credit for Bruha's benefit. The district court granted summary judgment to Heritage and awarded it $61,384 on one of the notes. The primary issues on appeal were whether the holder-in-due-course rule of Nebraska's Uniform Commercial Code or federal banking law barred Bruha's defenses to the enforcement of the note. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed in part, concluding that federal law barred Bruha's defenses; and (2) reversed in part because of a minor error in the court's calculation of interest. Remanded. View "Heritage Bank v. Bruha" on Justia Law

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The Lesiaks were farmers who suffered a reduced corn yield, allegedly due to the overapplication of herbicide to their crops by Central Valley Ag Cooperative, Inc. (CVA). The Lesiaks filed this action against CVA, asserting multiple theories of recovery, including negligence, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and breach of implied warranty of services. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CVA on the implied warranty of services and negligence claims. Following the Lesiaks' presentation of their case, the district court granted CVA's motion for a directed verdict on the Lesiaks' remaining claim for breach of implied warranty of merchantability. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the district court erred in granting a directed verdict in favor of CVA as there was evidence in the record which would allow a jury to find the overapplication of the herbicide damaged the Lesiaks' fields and also to reasonably estimate the extent of the damage; and (2) the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the Lesiaks' negligence claim, as it was not barred by the economic loss doctrine. View "Lesiak v. Central Valley Ag Coop., Inc." on Justia Law

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters sued Douglas Switzer, an attorney, and his law firm, Hathaway & Switzer (Hathaway Switzer), for failure to pay for court reporting services. The district court entered judgment for Thomas & Thomas. At issue on appeal was whether Hathaway Switzer was liable to Thomas & Thomas for its fees or whether Hathaway Switzer's clients were. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court's judgment to the extent that it held Hathaway Switzer rather than Hathaway Switzer's clients liable, as Hathaway Switzer had not disclaimed liability for those fees; and (2) reversed the court's judgment to the extent that it held Switzer personally liable. Remanded with directions to dismiss Thomas & Thomas' claim against Switzer as an individual. View "Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters, LLC v. Switzer" on Justia Law

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This appeal focused on the legality of a video gaming device known as Bankshot, which was developed and distributed by Appellees. Appellees filed this lawsuit after the State seized two Bankshot devices as alleged illegal gambling devices, seeking a declaration that they were not illegal. The state agencies and officers who were named as defendants filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration that Bankshot was a "game of chance" and therefore an unlawful gambling device. The district court (1) found that Bankshot was a game of chance when played in some modes but not when played by others; (2) ultimately concluded that Bankshot was a gambling device under Nebraska law; and (3) refused the State's request for injunctive relief, reasoning that there was no showing that Appellees knowingly used Bankshot to advance unlawful gaming activity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying injunctive relief because (1) where the Bankshot game was reconfigured to comply with the terms of the district court order, injunctive relief completely banning the development and distribution of Bankshot in any form was not warranted; and (2) Bankshot, as currently configured, was not a game of chance. View "Am. Amusements Co. v. Neb. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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McKinnis Roofing and Sheet Metal and homeowner Jeffrey Hicks entered into two contracts. The first contract related to Hicks' roof, and the second contract related to copper awnings on Hicks' residence. McKinnis filed a complaint in the district court alleging that Hicks breached both contracts after Hicks refused McKinnis' demand for advance payment. After trial, he district court determined that Hicks had breached both contracts, awarding McKinnis damages in the amount of $4,419 with regard to the roofing contract and $789 with regard to the awning contract. McKinnis appealed, arguing that the district court erred in calculating the amount of damages to which it was entitled. Hicks cross-appealed and claimed that the district court erred when it determined that he breached the contracts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that based on the facts and contract language, Hicks did not breach either contract. View "McKinnis Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc. v. Hicks" on Justia Law

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Chicago Lumber recorded a construction lien on JoAnn Selvera's home and sued to foreclose the lien. Selvera brought a counterclaim under Neb. Rev. Stat. 52-157, which provides a remedy against claimants who, in bad faith, file liens, overstate liens, or refuse to release liens. Chicago Lumber eventually withdrew its foreclosure action and released its lien, but Selvera maintained her suit. The district court granted summary judgment to Selvera, concluding that (1) because Selvera had not received a copy of Chicago Lumber's lien within ten days of its recording, the lien was invalid; and (2) Chicago Lumber's failure to dismiss its action and to release the lien before it received Selvera's documents clarifying that she had paid her debt in full constituted bad faith. The court awarded Selvera $10,000 in attorney fees. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Chicago Lumber had a reasonable belief that its lien was valid, at least before it received Selvera's clarifying documents, Chicago Lumber did not act in bad faith. The Court concluded that after Chicago Lumber received the clarifying documents, questions of fact existed whether Chicago Lumber was acting in bad faith. Remanded. View "Chicago Lumber Co. of Omaha v. Selvera" on Justia Law