Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing First State Bank Nebraska's (First State) claims against MP Nexlevel, LLC seeking performance under a contract, holding that the district court erred in granting MP Nexlevel summary judgment and dismissing First State's complaint.MP Nexlevel contracted to pay Husker Underground Utilities & Construction, LLC for construction services. Due to separate loan agreements, First State held a security interest in Husker Underground's accounts. When Husker Underground failed to meet its loan obligations, First State sought direct payment of MP Nexlevel's obligations under the contract. However, MP Nexlevel continued to submit its payments to Husker Underground. First State ultimately brought suit against MP Nexlevel for performance under the contract. The district court concluded that First State lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-406(a) imposed a duty on MP Nexlevel to discharge its obligations under its agreement with Husker Underground by paying directly to First State; (2) MP Nexlevel breached its obligations to First State; and (3) First State was authorized by Neb. Rev. Stat. 9-607(a)(3) to step into Husker Underground's place and enforce MP Nexlevel's contractual obligations as adjusted by operation of section 9-406(a). View "First State Bank Nebraska v. MP Nexlevel, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court finding that the production of aggregate by Ash Grove Cement Company qualified as "processing" under the Nebraska Advantage Act (NAA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 77-5701 to 77-5735, and finding that Ash Grove's aggregate production did not qualify as "manufacturing" under the NAA, holding that the appeals in this case were without merit.Because Lyman-Richey, which sold aggregate products used for things like manufacturing concrete, was wholly owned by Ash Grove, Ash Grove was eligible to include Lyman-Richey in its application for NAA tax incentives. At issue in this case was whether the district court erred in (1) finding that aggregate production locations were not engaged in "manufacturing" under the NAA; (2) denying Lyman-Richey's claims for overpayment of sales and use tax based on the manufacturing machinery or equipment exemption; and (3) finding the aggregate production locations were engaged in "processing" under the NAA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) although Ash Grove did not engage in "manufacturing" when it produced aggregate without crushing, it did engage in the qualified business of "processing" under the NAA; and (2) Lyman-Richey failed to prove entitlement to overpayment of sales and use tax based on the manufacturing machinery and equipment exemption. View "Ash Grove Cement Co. v. Nebraska Department of Revenue" 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 affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling in favor of Plaintiff on his claim that Defendants failed to pay him for work he performed on their residence, holding that there was no merit to Defendants’ assignments of error on appeal.Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in finding that Plaintiff was entitled to recover under the theory of unjust enrichment when a contract existed between the parties and Plaintiff had a statutory remedy of foreclosure on his construction lien; (2) there was evidence to support the unjust enrichment recovery; and (3) the district court did not err in denying Defendants’ motion to transfer venue. View "Bloedorn Lumber Co. v. Nielson" on Justia 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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Homeowners obtained loans from Bank for the construction of a new home and entered into an agreement with Contractor to complete the new home construction. When Homeowners defaulted on payments owed to Contractor and on both loans, the house was sold at foreclosure, and Homeowners filed for bankruptcy. Contractor filed a fourth amended complaint against Homeowners, who were later dismissed as parties, and Bank. Following a trial the court granted summary judgment for Bank on Contractor’s claims of fraud and civil conspiracy. The Supreme Court reversed. After remand, Contractor filed a fifth amended complaint, which differed from the fourth amended complaint in several respects. The district court determined that the election of remedies doctrine and judicial estoppel required a dismissal of Contractor’s claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Contractor’s claims were consistently premised on the existence of a contract, and therefore, no election was required; and (2) Contractor’s claims were based on different facts and obligations, and therefore, both could be pursued. View "deNourie & Yost Homes, LLC v. Frost" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Omaha enacted an ordinance requiring contractors doing work within the City to obtain a license. Appellant challenged the ordinance on various grounds. As relevant on appeal, Appellant alleged that the passage of the ordinance did not comply with the procedural requirements of the Omaha City Charter, that the ordinance placed an unfair restriction on and monopolized the City’s contracting industry, and that the ordinance violated his constitutional rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the City on all but one of Appellant’s claims. After a bench trial, the district court ruled in favor of the City, concluding that the City was empowered to enact the ordinance and that the ordinance did not prevent Appellant from working on his own property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City had the authority to enact the ordinance. View "Malone v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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The Weitz Company, LLC, a general contractor, submitted a bid on a planned nursing facility. Weitz’s bid incorporated the amount of a bid submitted to Weitz by H&S Plumbing and Heating for the plumbing work and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning parts of the job. The project owner awarded the project to Weitz, but H&S reneged on its bid. Weitz used other subcontractors to complete the project at greater expense. Weitz later sued H&S, claiming breach of contract and promissory estoppel. The court determined that the parties had not formed a contract but enforced H&S’s bid under promissory estoppel, awarding Weitz damages of $292,492. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and the amount of damages, holding that the district court did not err by entering a judgment for Weitz on its promissory estoppel claim and correctly measured Weitz’s damages. View "Weitz Co., LLC v. Hands, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, homeowners, brought this action against Defendants, the company that constructed Plaintiffs’ home and the developer of the lot on which the home was built, alleging negligent construction of the home. Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that the action was barred by the four-year statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-223. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed as to the developer but reversed as to the construction company, finding the action against it was not barred by section 25-223. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to affirm the judgment of the district court, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the statute of limitations began to run on Plaintiffs’ claims at the expiration of the express one-year limited warranty issued by the construction company instead of the date the home was substantially completed. View "Adams v. Manchester Park" on Justia Law

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Debtors contracted with Builder to finish construction on a house. After Debtors defaulted on progress payments, Builder sued Debtors and Bank, claiming that Defendants falsely represented or concealed material information about whether Debtors could pay for the work. The district court sustained Defendants’ motions for summary judgment on Builder’s fraud and conspiracy claims. Debtors then confessed judgment on Builder’s breach of contract claim. After a bench trial, the district court ruled for Defendants on Builder’s equitable and promissory estoppel claims. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court erred in granting summary judgment to Debtors on Builder’s fraud claim and to Debtors and Bank on Builder’s civil conspiracy claim; and (2) during trial, the court did not err in finding that Builder had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Bank promised to fund Builder’s work that was definite enough to induce Builder’s foreseeable reliance on the statement, but these factual findings did not preclude Builder’s proof of the same facts for its fraud claims. Remanded. View "deNourie & Youst Homes, LLC v. Frost" on Justia Law