Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Northern Natural Gas Company's request for a declaratory judgment upholding its decision to withhold the maximum amount of liquidated damages allowable under its contract with U.S. Pipeline, Inc. for a delay in the completion of a relocation project, holding that Northern manifested a clear intent to waive the contractual liquidated damages provision. The parties in this case entered into a construction contract providing that the relocation project would be substantially completed by a certain date. The project was not substantially completed by that date, and based on the liquidated damages provision in the contract, Northern withheld $351,000 in liquidated damages and refused to pay certain costs requested by U.S. Pipeline related to extra work orders. The district court denied Northern's request for a declaratory judgment upholding its decision to withhold liquidated damages from U.S. Pipeline, holding that Northern waived its rights to these liquidated damages under the contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court's determination that Northern's conduct amounted to a waiver was supported by the evidence and was not clearly wrong. View "United States Pipeline v. Northern Natural Gas Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court finding that Defendant owed Plaintiff $1,214,056 in unpaid profits and that Plaintiff was entitled to prejudgment interest in the amount of $97,582 pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 45-104, holding that there was no error in applying section 45-104 to award prejudgment interest to Plaintiff but that there was an error in calculating prejudgment interest. Ten years after the parties agreed to farm together and share net profits equally Plaintiff brought this action. The district court awarded unpaid profits and prejudgment interest after a bench trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in awarding prejudgment interest under section 45-104 without also finding that Plaintiff's claim was liquidated under Neb. Rev. Stat. 45-103.02(2). The Supreme Court modified the amount of prejudgment interest to $460,210, holding (1) section 45-103.02 and section 45-104 provide separate and independent means of recovering prejudgment interest in Nebraska, and when a claim is of the type enumerated in section 45-104, then prejudgment interest may be recovered without regard to whether the claim is liquidated; and (2) prejudgment interest was properly awarded pursuant to section 45-104 in this case, but it was incorrectly calculated. View "Weyh v. Gottsch" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the probate court's dismissal of a golf course partnership's claim based upon an unfulfilled pledge agreement in a decedent's probate proceeding, holding that the partnership failed to state a claim based on contract but did state a claim based upon promissory estoppel. The decedent entered into a written pledge agreement with the golf course partnership under which the decedent would make a gift of $20 million so that the partnership could make improvements to the golf course it operated. The decedent died the next year, and the partnership filed a statement of claim against the estate for the $20 million pledge agreement. The estate denied the claim. The partnership then filed a petition for allowance of claim, claiming that the pledge agreement was an enforceable, binding obligation against the estate and, alternatively, that the petition should be granted under a promissory estoppel theory. The probate court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) because the partnership was not a charitable, educational, or like institution, its attempt to enforce the pledge agreement as a contract failed; but (2) the partnership stated a claim under a promissory estoppel theory. View "In re Estate of Ryan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting Prospect Funding Holdings, LLC's (Prospect) motions to confirm arbitration awards and for summary judgment in this interpleader action, holding that when Prospect moved to confirm the arbitration awards under section 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 through 16, the district court was required by the FAA to do so. After selling an interest in her personal injury claim to Prospect, Edrie Wheat settled her claim. When a dispute arose over the amount due Prospect, Prospect initiated arbitration proceedings against Wheat and Ronald J. Palagi, P.C., LLC (Palagi), the law firm representing Wheat. Awards were eventually entered against Wheat and Palagi in favor of Prospect. Wheat and Palagi then brought this interpleader action but did not seek to vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration awards. The district court granted Prospect's motion to confirm the arbitration awards and also granted Prospect's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) summary judgment was not premature; and (2) the district court did not err in failing to find the agreement was invalid and unenforceable. View "Ronald J. Palagi, P.C. v. Prospect Funding Holdings" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Greater Omaha Packing Company, Inc. (GOP) as to Meyer Natural Foods LLC’s breach of contract action following a purported E. coli contamination of beef owned by Meyer and processed by GOP, holding that although the district court incorrectly applied the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in regard to Meyer’s acceptance of adulterated meat under the parties’ processing agreement, the court nevertheless arrived at the correct result. Under the agreement, GOP would slaughter Meyer’s cattle, process the beef, and fabricate the beef into various beef productions. After testing resulted in a very high percentage of presumptive positive findings for E. coli, Meyer filed suit against GOP. The district court granted summary judgment for GOP. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court erred in finding that Meyer had accepted the contaminated beef under the agreement or under the UCC, but the court’s ultimate conclusion was correct, as Meyer failed to adhere to the terms to properly reject products under the agreement. View "Meyer Natural Foods v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to vacate and the subsequent reinstatement of the sentences originally ordered, holding that the district court did not err by not addressing Defendant’s constitutional challenge. In this procedurally complex case, Defendant’s original sentences were reinstated by the district court, and Defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction for discharge of a firearm in certain cities, villages, and counties under Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-1212.04 on the grounds that the statute was unconstitutional on its face was denied. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to vacate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in failing to consider the merits of Defendant’s federal equal protection challenge on the basis of state procedural grounds. View "State v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the order of the county court finding Thomas Anderson individually liable to Grady Photography under two oral contracts, holding that there was no plain error in the determination that the contracts had been breached by Anderson and in holding him liable. Thomas Grady Photography, Inc. sued Amazing Vapor, Ltd., MCJC Companies, Inc., Manuel Calderon, and Thomas Anderson for breach of contract for failing to pay on two oral contracts for photography services. The county court entered a default judgment in favor of Grady Photography against Amazing Vapor, MCJC, and Calderon. Thereafter, after a trial, the county court found that Anderson, who appeared in his individual capacity as a director of Amazing Vapor, owed Grady Photography $2,400 under two oral contracts. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the proper result was result, although this Court’s reasoning was somewhat different from the lower courts. View "Thomas Grady Photography v. Amazing Vapor, Ltd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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In this dispute in which an owner of one property sought to bind the purchaser of another property to the terms of a fifty-year lease agreement entered into between different parties, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the purchaser, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the statute of frauds barred the owner’s claim for breach of contract because there was no privity of contract and the purchaser did not expressly assume the lease; (2) equitable estoppel did not prevent the purchaser from raising the statute of frauds as a defense; and (3) there was no genuine issue of material fact, and therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the purchaser. View "Brick Development v. CNBT II" on Justia Law

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In this action for indemnification, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. the full amount of settlement payments in a lawsuit brought by employees of ConAgra Foods, Inc. against Jacobs arising from an explosion at a ConAgra plant, holding that the district court’s judgment was not in error. ConAgra contracted with Jacobs, an engineering firm, to provide engineering services. The engineering agreement contained mutual indemnification provisions. After the explosion at the ConAgra plant, dozens of employees sued Jacobs. Jacobs sought contractual indemnification from ConAgra, but ConAgra declined. Jacobs defended against and settled the claims then sued ConAgra for indemnification. The jury awarded Jacobs $108.9 million, and the court entered judgment on the verdict. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in finding that Jacobs had standing as the real party in interest; (2) the court did not err in finding ConAgra’s workers’ compensation immunity inapplicable; (3) Jacobs established that ConAgra’s refusal to indemnify breached the parties’ contract; and (4) the court did not err in declining to reduce the jury’s award of damages. View "Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. v. ConAgra Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts