Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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In this contract and tort action brought by the buyers of a business pursuant to a written purchase agreement the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment for the sellers and dismissing the sellers' agents, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion. Buyers bought a business from Sellers pursuant to a written purchase agreement. Buyers later bought this action against Sellers and their agents. Sellers counterclaimed for amounts owing under promissory notes. The Supreme Court dismissed the agents under Neb. Ct. R. Pldg. 6-1112(b)(6) and entered summary judgment for Sellers on all claims and counterclaims. The court then denied Sellers' motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) undisputed facts supported the summary judgments for Sellers; (2) the complaint stated no claim against the agent; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorney fees to Sellers. View "Nathan v. McDermott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts
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In this breach of contract action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc., holding that Allen Acklie's action was based on an unenforceable contract. In 1994, Greater Omaha terminated Acklie's employment. In 2016, Acklie turned sixty years old and demanded payment under the terms of a deferred compensation agreement entered into by the parties in 1989. Acklie argued that his right to deferred compensation vested upon his attaining the age of sixty and that payment became due on the first day of the first month following his attaining the age of sixty-one. After Greater Omaha refused payment, Acklie filed this action. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Greater Omaha. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the agreement lacked mutuality of obligation and therefore was unenforceable. View "Acklie v. Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Defendants breached two operating agreements, ordering an accounting for each, declining to dissolve either, and awarding Plaintiff damages, holding that there was no merit to the assignments of error on appeal. Plaintiff, the personal representative of the estate of Mark Benjamin, filed separate complaints against Douglas Bierman (Doug) and Sixth Street Rentals, LLC (collectively, Rentals) and against Doug, Eugene Bierman, and Sixth Street Development, LLC (collectively, Development) generally seeking an accounting to dissolve both Rentals and Development and damages. After the district court entered judgment, Plaintiff appealed and Defendants cross appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Brenda lacked standing to seek dissolution; (2) Defendants' assignments of error regarding fair market value were without merit; (3) there was no merit to Defendants' assignments of error related to breach of contract and specific performance; and (4) there was no merit to Defendants' remaining assignments of error. View "Benjamin v. Bierman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, Doug Bierman and Jim Hoppenstedt, on the issue of the enforceability of a buy-sell agreement, holding that the buy-sell agreement was clearly ambiguous. Mark Benjamin, Doug, and Jim entered into a buy-sell agreement providing for the sale and purchase of BD Construction, Inc. shares. After Mark died, Brenda Benjamin was appointed to serve as president of BD. One year later, Brenda terminated Plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against Brenda and BD, seeking, among other things, specific performance of the buy-sell agreement. Prior to trial, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a finding that the buy-sell agreement was enforceable. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs on that issue. The Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment, holding that the district court's determination that the buy-sell agreement was unambiguous was plain error. View "Bierman v. Benjamin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts
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In this case where a judgment creditor sought to garnish the judgment debtor's bank account, which, at one time, contained funds both exempt and nonexempt from garnishment, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court finding that the bank account consisted solely of exempt funds, holding that funds exempt from garnishment remain exempt, even when commingled with nonexempt funds, so long as the source of exempt funds is reasonably traceable. Plaintiff obtained a judgment against Defendant and sought to garnish Defendant's bank account. The court ordered that the non-exempt funds in the account be transferred to the court. Defendant requested a hearing, asserting that the funds were exempt from garnishment because the only funds in the account were Social Security payments. Plaintiff stated that at one point the account held non-exempt funds commingled with the Social Security funds but that the non-exempt funds had been spent. The county court ruled that the funds were exempt. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant met his burden to prove that the remaining funds in his account constituted exempt Social Security funds. View "Schaefer Shapiro, LLP v. Ball" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts
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In this case concerning the interpretation of a contingency fee for legal services between the City of Falls City, Nebraska and two law firms, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that no fees were due under the agreement or on the firms' equitable claim and granting summary judgment for Falls City as to the claims under the fee agreement, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing both the contract and equitable claims. This appeal centered around a fee dispute between Falls City and the attorneys representing Falls City in prior litigation. The district court concluded that the contingency under the fee agreement was not met and that, thus, the first were not entitled to a fee under the agreement. The district court further concluded that the firms had no equitable rights to assert against Falls City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no merit to the firms' claim that they were entitled to a fee under the agreement and that there was no merit to the firms' equitable claim. View "DH-1, LLC v. City of Falls City" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Midwest Renewable Energy, LLC's motion to quash execution of a judgment, holding that there was no merit in Midwest Renewable's appeal. In 2010, a judgment against Midwest Renewable, the judgment debtor in this case, was transcribed. This was the second appeal brought by Midwest Renewable challenging the ownership of that judgment. Midwest Renewable argued in the first appeal that the original judgment creditor, Western Ethanol, had no interest in the judgment because it had been assigned to Douglas Vind, the managing member of Western Ethanol who requested execution after Western Ethanol dissolved. Here Midwest Renewable argued that there was no valid assignment to Vind. The district court agreed, finding that the judgment had been assigned to Vind. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Midwest Renewable's assignments of error were without merit. View "Western Ethanol Co. v. Midwest Renewable Energy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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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 vacated the judgment of the district court in this action alleging breach of contract, conversion, and tortious interference with a business relationship of expectation, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action in his own name. Kim Hawley, the only named plaintiff, brought this action against John Skradski alleging that he purchased a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) business from an entity affiliated with Skradski and that, after Hawley ceased operating the business, Skradski began operating the business and converted the business's assets to his use. During trial, an asset purchase agreement was received into evidence showing that the HVAC business was purchased by KNR Capital Corp. and not by Hawley individually. The district court granted Skradksi's motion for a directed verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence of any of the three theories of recovery. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Hawley failed to prove his standing to bring this suit in his own name, and therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. View "Hawley v. Skradski" on Justia Law

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In this lawsuit filed by the purchasers of a home against the sellers the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court vacating an arbitration award entered in favor of Sellers and remanded with directions to confirm the arbitration award, holding that the district court erred by finding that arbitration provision in the purchase agreement was unenforceable, vacating the award, and failing to confirm the award. In this action, Purchasers alleged that several defects in the home they purchased had been concealed by Sellers. An arbitrator issued an award in favor of Sellers, finding that no credible evidence supported any of Purchasers' claims. Purchasers filed an application to vacate the arbitration award, and Sellers filed a motion seeking judicial confirmation of the award. The district court entered an order finding the arbitration void and vacating the award, holding that the arbitration provision in the purchase agreement was unenforceable under Nebraska's Uniform Arbitration Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court should have confirmed the arbitration award pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2612. View "Garlock v. 3DS Properties, LLC" on Justia Law