Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The case involves a medical malpractice claim brought by Ivan J. Konsul against Juan Antonio Asensio, M.D. The claim arose from treatment Konsul received after being admitted to Creighton University Medical Center following a motor vehicle accident. Asensio, a trauma surgeon, placed an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) in Konsul to prevent migration of deep vein thrombosis. Konsul alleged that Asensio violated applicable standards of care in various respects, including unnecessary placement of the filter, improper location of the filter, and failing to inform Konsul of the long-term risks of the filter remaining in his body. Konsul claimed that due to Asensio's failures, the filter migrated throughout his body and became lodged behind his heart, causing physical pain, mental suffering, and additional health care costs.The case went to a jury trial. Konsul called Dr. David Dreyfuss as an expert witness to provide testimony regarding the standard of care applicable to Asensio. However, the district court ruled that Dreyfuss could not testify regarding the applicable standard of care in Omaha, as he was not familiar with the standard of care in Omaha or a similar community. Without Dreyfuss' testimony, Konsul provided no evidence of the standard of care, and the district court dismissed Konsul's case.Konsul appealed, claiming that the district court erred when it struck Dreyfuss as an expert witness and when it granted Asensio's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the case. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision, concluding that the district court did not err when it struck Dreyfuss as an expert witness and when it granted Asensio's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed Konsul's case. The court also found that any error regarding the deposition issues was harmless considering the proper dismissal of the action based on Konsul's failure to provide evidence of the standard of care. View "Konsul v. Asensio" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around an alleged business partnership between Elaine Clemens and the late Arthur Emme. Clemens and Emme were intimate partners who never married. Clemens began working at Emme's business, O'Neill Body and Frame, in 1990. They moved in together in 1992 and worked together on several ventures. After Emme's death in 2017, Clemens filed a lawsuit against Curtis Emme, the personal representative of Arthur Emme's estate, claiming that she and Arthur Emme had created a business partnership in 1992. She sought a declaration that a business partnership existed between her and Arthur Emme, with each owning equal interests in the partnership.The district court for Holt County, Nebraska, rejected Clemens' argument that Curtis Emme was judicially estopped from denying the existence of a business partnership between her and Arthur Emme. The court found that Arthur Emme never unequivocally stated in a prior action that Clemens was his business partner and that the courts in that action did not adopt the position that Clemens and Arthur Emme were business partners.The case then proceeded to a jury trial on the existence of a business partnership. The jury found that Clemens failed to meet her burden of proof establishing that a partnership existed. The district court entered judgment in favor of Curtis Emme and against Clemens. Clemens appealed, but the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment, finding no error in its rulings. View "Clemens v. Emme" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Dirt Road Development LLC (DRD) and Robert and Kathryn Hirschman over the construction and operation of a new feedlot in Howard County, Nebraska. The Hirschmans own several properties in the county where they operate feedlot facilities. They planned to construct and operate a new feedlot on a property that is separated from their existing feedlots by a quarter section of land owned by a third party. DRD, which owns a property near the proposed new feedlot, filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Hirschmans from constructing and operating the new feedlot without obtaining a conditional use permit from the Howard County Board of Commissioners.The District Court for Howard County heard the case initially. The court had to determine whether, under Howard County’s zoning regulations, the Hirschmans' new feedlot was “adjacent” to their existing livestock operations. If so, the regulations required the Hirschmans to obtain a conditional use permit before constructing and operating the new feedlot. The district court concluded that the new feedlot was adjacent to the Hirschmans’ other feedlots and that therefore, the Hirschmans were required to obtain a conditional use permit to build and operate the new feedlot. The court granted DRD’s motion for summary judgment and denied the Hirschmans’ motion.The Hirschmans appealed the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court. They argued that the district court erred in holding that under the Howard County zoning regulations, their new feedlot was adjacent to their other feedlots and constituted a single commercial livestock operation rather than a separate feedlot. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision, agreeing that the term "adjacent" as used within the zoning regulations is unambiguous and that the Hirschmans were required to obtain a conditional use permit for their new feedlot. View "Dirt Road Development v. Hirschman" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a residential eviction dispute between a landlord, MIMG LXXIV Colonial, LLC (Colonial), and a tenant, TajReAna Ellis. Colonial initiated eviction proceedings against Ellis for failing to pay rent, providing a seven-day notice as required by Nebraska’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). Ellis, however, argued that the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) imposed a 30-day notice requirement, superseding the state law. The county court rejected Ellis' argument and ruled in favor of Colonial. Ellis appealed to the district court, which reversed the county court's decision, agreeing with Ellis that the CARES Act required a 30-day notice.The case was then brought before the Nebraska Supreme Court. However, by this time, Ellis' lease had expired, and she had vacated the property. The court found that the case was moot as the relief sought by Colonial, a judgment for restitution of the premises, would have no practical effect since Ellis no longer resided in the property. Colonial argued that the case was not moot due to its interest in knowing whether it violated the law and the financial interest related to the district court's taxing of costs. The court rejected these arguments, stating that claims for costs are generally insufficient to avoid mootness.The court also considered whether to reach the merits of the case under the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine. However, it declined to do so, noting that the primary question in the case was a matter of federal statutory interpretation, over which the U.S. Supreme Court has final authority. The court also declined to apply the collateral consequences exception, which is typically used in criminal cases. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed. View "MIMG LXXIV Colonial v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a medical malpractice claim filed by Jillyn M. Woodward, individually and as Special Administrator of the Estate of Brian K. Woodward, deceased, against Saint Francis Medical Center and the doctors who treated Brian. Brian was admitted to the emergency room at Saint Francis Medical Center with a swollen tongue and difficulty swallowing. He was diagnosed with angioedema, a condition causing abnormal swelling of the tongue, mouth, and airway. Despite treatment, his condition worsened, and he had to be intubated. The intubation attempts were unsuccessful, leading to a delay in securing his airway. Brian later developed right-side semiparesis, including weakness and partial paralysis, which was attributed to an anoxic brain injury due to the delay in securing his airway.The District Court for Hall County granted summary judgment in favor of the doctors and Saint Francis Medical Center. The court also struck the affidavits of two expert witnesses provided by Woodward, citing inconsistencies with their earlier deposition testimonies. Woodward appealed the decision.The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision. The court held that the change in testimony of nonparty witnesses is an issue of credibility for a fact finder to make, and that later testimony will normally not be struck by the trial court. The court also noted that the document provided by Saint Francis Medical Center did not conclusively establish that the doctors were not employees or agents of the hospital. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Woodward v. Saint Francis Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between a landlord, Daniel Johnson, and his tenant, Tina Vosberg. Johnson filed a complaint under Nebraska’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) seeking restitution of the premises, unpaid rent, and statutory damages for willful holdover. The primary disagreement was over the duration of the lease agreement. Johnson presented a 90-day lease, while Vosberg claimed she had signed a 1-year lease. The county court held an expedited trial on the claim for possession and ruled in favor of Johnson. Vosberg appealed this decision.Vosberg's appeal was heard by the District Court for Douglas County, which affirmed the county court's decision. Vosberg then appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court. During the pendency of the appeal, the alleged 1-year lease period passed, Vosberg vacated the premises, and she stopped paying monthly rent pursuant to the supersedeas bond.The Nebraska Supreme Court found that it had appellate jurisdiction over the case. However, it ruled that the appeal was moot because the term of the alleged 1-year lease had expired, Vosberg had vacated the premises, and she was no longer paying the monthly rent under the terms of the supersedeas bond. The court also rejected Vosberg's argument that she suffered collateral consequences from the writ because a judgment of eviction on her record made it harder for her to find landlords willing to rent to her. The court dismissed Vosberg's appeal as moot. View "Johnson v. Vosberg" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the interpretation of the Michael Hessler Living Trust. Michael Hessler, the settlor of the trust, had three children: Heidi Shaddick, Amber Rocha, and Brock Hessler. He also had a romantic relationship with Lori J. Miller. After Hessler's death, the successor trustee of the trust, Robert Hessler, deeded a house to Miller and allocated all inheritance tax to the trust's residuary, which was to be divided among Hessler's three children. The children sued, arguing that the inheritance tax should be equitably apportioned among all beneficiaries, including Miller.The case was initially filed in Lancaster County, but the trustee successfully moved to transfer the case to Scotts Bluff County, where the trust was registered. The children challenged this decision, arguing that the case should have been heard in Lancaster County, where the real estate in question was located.The county court for Scotts Bluff County granted Miller's motion for partial summary judgment on the inheritance tax issue, ruling that the language of the trust was clear enough to override the statutory pattern that would otherwise presume equitable apportionment of inheritance tax. The court concluded that the trust's language indicated that all inheritance taxes were to be paid from the trust's residue, not by the individual beneficiaries. The children appealed this decision.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision. It ruled that the order transferring venue to Scotts Bluff County was not a final order and could be challenged in the appeal. The court also found no error in the lower court's decision to admit an affidavit from the attorney who drafted the trust. Finally, the court agreed with the lower court's interpretation of the trust, concluding that the trust's language clearly indicated that inheritance taxes were to be paid by the trust rather than by the individual beneficiaries. View "In re Hessler Living Trust" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, Saint James Apartment Partners, LLC, Central States Development, LLC, and John C. Foley, filed a civil action against Universal Surety Company, alleging that a notary public covered under Universal's bond engaged in negligent conduct. The plaintiffs did not include the notary public as a party to the action. Universal filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to join the notary public as a necessary party and that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court granted the motion to dismiss without prejudice, concluding that Nebraska law required the plaintiffs to join the notary public in the action.The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision. The court held that an involuntary dismissal for a lack of a necessary party, which leaves nothing remaining for the trial court to do, is a final order over which an appellate court may exercise jurisdiction. The court also held that Nebraska law does not require a person suing under the official bond of a notary public to join the notary as a necessary party to the action. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion. View "Saint James Apt. Partners v. Univeral Surety Co." on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal against a county court's decision to appoint a permanent guardian for Patrick W., an individual deemed incapacitated due to a stroke. The appellant, Patrick W., argued that the court erred in admitting a neuropsychological report as evidence over his hearsay objection and that without this report, the evidence was insufficient to prove his incapacitation.Previously, Adult Protective Services (APS) had opened an investigation into Patrick's medical needs and financial management. Concerned about Patrick's vulnerability to financial exploitation, self-neglect, and undue influence, APS contacted an attorney to inquire about establishing a guardianship. Becky Stamp was identified as a potential guardian. The county court appointed Stamp as Patrick's temporary guardian, and later, Patrick's cousin, Terry Crandall, was substituted as the temporary guardian. The court also ordered Patrick to undergo a neuropsychological evaluation.At the guardianship hearing, the county court received several exhibits into evidence and heard testimony from six witnesses, including Patrick. The court found clear and convincing evidence that Patrick was incapacitated and appointed Crandall as his permanent guardian.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the county court's decision. It held that the neuropsychological report was admissible in evidence under Nebraska Revised Statute § 30-4204, as it was a medical report obtained by the guardian ad litem regarding the person for whom she was appointed. The court also found sufficient evidence to support the county court's finding that Patrick was incapacitated and that a full guardianship was the least restrictive alternative to provide for his continuing care. View "In re Guardianship of Patrick W." on Justia Law

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The case involves Eduardo Castillo, the record owner of a property, and Libert Land Holdings 4 LLC (LLH4), which purchased a tax certificate for the property after Castillo failed to pay delinquent taxes. After the tax deed was issued, Castillo attempted to redeem the property, but the county treasurer refunded his payment because the tax deed had already been issued. Castillo then filed a declaratory judgment action, alleging that the tax deed was void due to a failure to comply with statutory notice requirements and sought to quiet title to the property in his name.The District Court for Douglas County found in favor of Castillo, declaring the tax deed void due to LLH4's failure to comply with the notice requirements under section 77-1801 et seq. of the Nebraska Revised Statutes. The court also ordered Castillo to pay taxes on the property and interest.LLH4 appealed the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court, arguing that it had complied with all statutory requirements for notice and proof of notice required for the issuance of a treasurer’s tax deed. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, concluding that LLH4’s application for the tax deed was deficient and that the deficiencies could not be cured by evidence adduced at trial. The court also noted plain error in the lower court's failure to determine the precise payment due from Castillo and remanded the case to the district court with directions to specify the precise amount of taxes and accrued interest to be paid by Castillo. View "Castillo v. Libert Land Holdings 4" on Justia Law