Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court ruled that the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court did not err in determining that Bennett Construction, a sole proprietorship owned and operated by Mark Bennett, was neither Robert Kohout’s direct employer nor his statutory employer under the facts of this case. Kohout was injured as a result of falling from the roof of a barn on the property of Brian Shook and sought workers’ compensation benefits from Bennett Construction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Nick Bennett, Mark’s son, lacked apparent authority to enter into a contract with Shook on behalf of Bennett Construction; and (2) Nick did not enter into a joint venture with Mark or Bennett Construction concerning the Shook job. View "Kohout v. Bennett Construction" on Justia Law

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In this case brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act and the Federal Safety Appliance Acts (FSAA), the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in overruling Plaintiff’s motion for a directed verdict in his favor on the question of whether his employer, Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP), violated the FSAA. Plaintiff alleged that UP violated the FSAA because the quick-release lever on the handbrake on a railcar was inefficient, leading to his back injury. The Supreme Court concluded that because there was conflicting evidence on whether the handbrake failed to function in the normal, natural, and usual manner, the district court properly submitted that issue to the jury. View "Winder v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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This matter arose from Plaintiff’s termination against Nebraska Machinery Company (NMC) after thirty-eight years of employment. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against NMC seeking damages for wrongful discharge in violation of Nebraska’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (FEPA), and public policy. After a hearing, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of NMC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s assignments of error were without merit and that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of NMC. View "Oldfield v. Nebraska Machinery Co." 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 Douglas County Youth Center terminated Daniel Archie’s employment, Archie brought an administrative appeal. The Douglas County Civil Service Commission reversed the termination and ordered that Archie be reinstated. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed the decisions of the district court and the Commission and ordered that the termination of Archie’s employment be reimposed, concluding that the district court’s order was arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by sufficient, relevant evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that sufficient, relevant evidence supported the Commission’s decision and that the decision was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Douglas County v. Archie" on Justia Law

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Bruce Evertson was killed in a two-vehicle accident during the course and scope of his employment. Bruce’s estate filed a wrongful death claim against the insurer of the other driver. The county court accepted a settlement in the matter and allocated the proceeds among Bruce’s widow, Darla Evertson, and adult children. Darla received workers’ compensation benefits from Travelers Indemnity Company as a result of Bruce’s death. Travelers filed a subrogation claim to Darla’s settlement proceeds. The county court ordered that Travelers was not entitled to any distribution of Darla’s proceeds and did not provide Travelers any future credit against the workers’ compensation benefits it owed Darla. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and remanded with directions to vacate the order of the county court, holding that the county court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear and decide the subrogation matter. View "In re Estate of Evertson" on Justia Law

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Kristina Hartley filed a gender discrimination action against Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha (MUD) under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA), alleging that she was not promoted because of gender discrimination and that MUD’s stated reasons for promoting a male colleague instead of her were pretextual. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Hartley. The district court awarded Hartley $56,800 for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in excluding post promotional performance evaluations of Hartley; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict; and (3) the attorney fees awarded to Hartley were not excessive. View "Hartley v. Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a trooper with the Nebraska State Patrol, was an applicant for a lateral transfer to the position of “Executive Protection Trooper.” After another applicant was awarded the position, Plaintiff filed a public records request under Neb. Rev. Stat. 84-712 seeking records relating to the interview and selection process for the Executive Protection Trooper position. The State Patrol denied Plaintiff’s request. Plaintiff sought a writ of mandamus in the district court again seeking the records that were the subject of his public records request. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s petition, concluding that the records could be withheld under section 84-712.05(7). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Plaintiff’s petition for writ of mandamus because the records Plaintiff sought to view were exempted under section 84-712.05(7). View "Steckelberg v. Nebraska State Patrol" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Dennis Nichols injured his back while operating a forklift in the course of his employment. Nichols later underwent three surgeries on his back. Nichols filed a workers’ compensation claim for low-back and psychological injuries sustained as a result of the workplace accident. After a trial, the Workers’ Compensation Court entered judgment in favor of Nichols, finding that Nichols was permanently and totally disabled as a result of his workplace injury. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the compensation court but modified the award of temporary total disability to reflect a total of 81.854 weeks of temporary total disability, in accordance with the periods and amounts stipulated by the parties. View "Nichols v. Fairway Bldg. Prods., LP" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Wilmer Interiano-Lopez was living in Sioux City, Iowa, and working for Tyson at a meatpacking plant in Dakota City, Nebraska. One of his jobs involved cutting the stomach or “paunch” of cows to allow the contents to fall out as they were processed on the “dump paunch line.” One day, Interiano-Lopez was working with a trainee who was hanging meat incorrectly and it was falling off the hooks as it passed down the dump paunch line. Interiano-Lopez had to lift and place the meat back on the hooks to complete his work, and his hands and arms became increasingly fatigued. At one point, a paunch fell from the hook and hit Interiano-Lopez on the right shoulder. He felt a pop in his shoulder and began experiencing severe pain and loss of strength in his arm. Interiano-Lopez was taken to the plant infirmary and thereafter to a hospital emergency room. He was diagnosed with a shoulder separation and was referred for orthopedic evaluation and treatment. In March 2014, Interiano-Lopez, through counsel, filed a petition in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court seeking a determination of the rights and liabilities of the parties regarding the dump paunch line. Interiano-Lopez sought to be declared permanently and totally disabled or, in the alternative, to be awarded temporary total disability benefits, ongoing medical benefits, and vocational rehabilitation training. Tyson answered, including what it characterized as a counterclaim. Tyson denied liability, alleged Interiano-Lopez’ physical problems were caused by a preexisting condition, and alleged Interiano-Lopez had “received some workers’ compensation benefits for which [Tyson] is entitled to a credit.” The compensation court dismissed the petition but proceeded to trial on Tyson’s counterclaim and found Interiano-Lopez had failed to prove a workplace injury. Interiano-Lopez appealed. Because the Supreme Court concluded the compensation court acted without authority and in excess of its powers by proceeding to trial rather than dismissing the cause, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court and remanded the case with directions to dismiss. View "Interiano-Lopez v. Tyson Fresh Meats" on Justia Law