Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court finding that this action brought by Plaintiff against Janice German and Dawes County Abstract & Title, Inc. (collectively, German) arising from title abstracting and issuing commitments and title insurance services German performed for a series of transactions, holding that the district court did not err.The district court concluded (1) the amended complaint stated a single cause of action for professional negligence against German as an abstracter with several theories of recovery; and (2) Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2222, the two-year statute of limitations for professional negligence, applied, thus time-barring the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that Plaintiff was performing abstracter services during the time period in issue; and (2) abstracters of title provide "professional services" within the meaning of section 25-222. View "Mai v. German" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court dismissing Millard Gutter Company's suit against Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Company without prejudice, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the first-party bad faith claims for lack of standing.After a storm, Millard Gutter obtained assignments of the right to insurance proceeds due under policies of Shelter. Thereafter, Millard filed suit against Shelter in its own name, as assignee, alleging breach of contract and first-party bad faith in failing to settle the claims. The district court granted Shelter's motion to dismiss, concluding that the complaint did not contain sufficient factual allegations to establish standing to assert first-party bad faith claims. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Millard Gutter had stated a plausible claim for first-party bad faith. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Millard Gutter lacked standing to prosecute the policyholders' tort actions for first-party bad faith against Shelter. View "Millard Gutter Co. v. Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this action brought by Millard Gutter Company against Shelter Mutual Insurance Company seeking to recover damages for breach of insurance contracts and for first-party bad faith, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Millard Gutter did not have standing to assert first-party bad faith claims against Shelter.After a storm, Millard Gutter obtained assignments from various policyholders of Shelter. Thereafter, Millard filed suit against Shelter in its own name, as assignee, alleging breach of contract and first-party bad faith in failing to settle the claims. The district court granted Shelter's motion to dismiss, concluding that the complaint did not contain sufficient factual allegations to establish standing to assert first-party bad faith claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Millard Gutter lacked standing to prosecute the policyholders' tort actions for first-party bad faith against Shelter. View "Millard Gutter Co. v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing the complaint brought by Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. and its president (collectively, Great Plains) against Midwest Insurance Exchange, Inc. (Midwest), as well as UNICO Group, Inc. and one of its agents (collectively, UNICO), holding that Great Plains' action was ripe.Great Plains alleged that Midwest and UNICO negligently failed to transfer or procure an errors and omissions insurance policy, which would have covered the costs of defense for two lawsuits filed in another state against Great Plains. The district court dismissed the complaint as unripe because Defendants' liability and Great Plains' damages were currently unknown and because Great Plains may never be found liable in the out-of-state litigation. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that Great Plains' action was ripe. View "Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. v. Midwest Insurance Exchange, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of North Star Mutual Insurance Company and against Old Mill Bulk Foods, holding that the district court erred by not granting summary judgment in favor of Old Mill.In July 2018 a fire destroyed the premises of a deli-grocery store. Old Mill elected to renovate another building in which to relocate is business and sought $159,879 under the "extra expense" provision of its insurance policy through North Star. North Star denied coverage and then filed this declaratory judgment to determine the parties' rights and obligations under the policy. The district court denied the extra expenses. The Supreme Court held that the district court (1) erred by not granting summary judgment in favor of Old Mill as to the claimed extra expenses; and (2) properly granted summary judgment with respect to the claim for a walk-in cooler. View "North Star Mutual Insurance Co. v. Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court reversing the judgment of the county court dismissing the complaint brought by North Star Mutual Insurance Company without prejudice, holding that North Star violated the rule against claim splitting when it filed a subrogation action in its own name, without joining its insured.Julie Blazer, who was insured with North Star, was driving her vehicle when she was struck by a pickup truck driven by Travis Stewart. After paying Balzer insurance benefits as a result of the accident North Star filed suit against Stewart. North Star brought the negligence action in its own name as a subrogee of Blazer but did not join Blazer as a party. The county court dismissed the complaint without prejudice for lack of standing. The district court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the allegations of the complaint were insufficient to demonstrate that North Star had standing to commence this action in its own name. View "North Star Mutual Insurance Co. v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Neb. Rev. Stat. 44-3,128.01, which grants an insurer the right of subrogation, does not preempt a common-law rule, known as the common fund doctrine, allowing an attorney to collect a pro rata share of his or her fees from an insurer.A law firm sued an insurer in county county, alleging that its work in obtaining a recovery on behalf of the law firm's client, including the insurer's subrogation interest in the claim, created a common fund, that the insurer benefited from the law firm's work, and that a fair attorney fee under Nebraska common law was one-third of the amount recovered per the law firm's agreement with its client. The county court sustained the law firm's motion, and the district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err in failing to determine that the common fund doctrine was preempted by section 44-3-128. View "Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying a political subdivision's motion for summary judgment in this subrogation action, holding that summary judgment was improper.Great Northern Insurance Company filed this subrogation action seeking compensation from Transit Authority of the City of Omaha, d/b/a Metro Area Transit, under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 13-901 et seq., for funds paid on an insurance claim on behalf of its insured. Metro filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court denied the motion, finding that Metro had failed to demonstrate that there was no genuine issue concerning Great Northern's affirmative defense of equitable estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was not proper under the facts of this case. View "Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Transit Authority of Omaha" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that State Farm Fire & Casualty Company had no obligation to defend or indemnify TFG Enterprises, LLC and its principal, Jeffrey Leonard, in a lawsuit, holding that the district court correctly concluded that State Farm had no potential liability under the insurance policy at issue.Jeffrey Barkhurst filed a lawsuit against TFG and Leonard (together, Defendants) asserting that they were liable for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment. State Farm agreed to defend Defendants in a reservation of rights and then filed this action seeking a declaration that it owed no coverage obligations to Defendants under the rental policy State Farm had issued to TFG. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Stat Farm, finding that State Farm had no coverage obligations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the State Farm had no potential liability from the underlying lawsuit under the rental policy and thus had no duty to defend or indemnify Defendants. View "State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. TFG Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Allstate Indemnity Company, holding that property loss from Plaintiffs' tenants' producing or using methamphetamine indoors was not a covered peril under the insurance policy.Plaintiff filed an insurance claim alleging that his tenants damaged his rental house by producing or using methamphetamine indoors. Allstate denied the claim. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint against Allstate alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The district court granted summary judgment for Allstate, concluding that Plaintiff's property loss was excluded from coverage under certain portions of the insurance policy and was not covered by other portions of the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's assignments of error were without merit. View "Kaiser v. Allstate Indemnity Co." on Justia Law