Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant on the ground that Plaintiff's cause of action was time barred by the statute of limitations for professional negligence under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-222, holding that the district court erred in concluding that a massage therapist is a professional under section 25-222 and in granting summary judgment on that ground. Plaintiff, a customer of Defendant, a massage therapy establishment, alleged that Defendant's employee, a licensed massage therapist, improperly compressed a nerve on Plaintiff's neck, causing her to become unconscious, fall out of the massage chair, and sustain injuries. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, alleging that her injuries were caused by Defendant's negligence as the massage therapist's employer. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Plaintiff's claim was time barred by the application of section 25-222. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by finding that massage therapy is a "profession" within the meaning of section 25-222. The Supreme Court remanded the cause to the district court. View "Wehrer v. Dynamic Life Therapy & Wellness, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court in favor of Terrance Poppe in this legal malpractice action, holding that there was no merit to this appeal. Poppe represented Brenda Rice from Dale Rice. Thereafter, Rice filed this malpractice action against Poppe, alleging that Poppe did not advise her that a property settlement agreement waived her interest in Dale’s life insurance policies. The district court granted summary judgment for Poppe. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. After a bench trial, the district court found in favor of Poppe. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Poppe did not breach any duty owed to Rice and, even assuming a breach of duty, that Rice could not show that Poppe’s actions were the proximate cause of her injury. View "Rice v. Poppe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, a tax attorney and the accounting firm for which he worked, in this malpractice action, holding that Plaintiffs’ claims claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs, a dentist and his professional corporation, brought this suit alleging six acts of legal and accounting malpractice. The district court granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-222. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Plaintiffs’ action was barred by section 25-222. View "Colwell v. Mullen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s partial granting of Defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and modified the jury award in this case alleging legal malpractice and fraudulent misrepresentation. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Steven Howard and his law firm alleging that Howard committed legal malpractice. The jury found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded damages in the amount of $775,000. After trial, the district court partially granted Defendants’ JNOV motion, reducing the damages to $235,968.78. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the trial court did not err in reducing the jury’s award of damages, but the jury award is modified to $350,000; (2) the trial court did not err in overruling Plaintiffs’ postverdict motion for sanctions; and (3) the trial court did not err in failing to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint for want of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis that the action was not brought by the real party in interest. View "LeRette v. Howard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellants’ complaint alleging that the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) negligently failed to enforce Nebraska statutes and regulations against Pierce Grain Elevator, Inc. (PEI). The complaint was filed under Nebraska’s State Tort Claims Act (STCA). In dismissing the complaint, the district court concluded that Appellants’ suit was barred by the STCA’s discretionary function exception provided in Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,219(1). The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s determination that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case, holding that Appellants’ claims were grounded in a state agency’s alleged failure to suspend or revoke a license and that the Legislature has preserved sovereign immunity for such conduct. View "Amend v. Nebraska Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this legal malpractice action for himself and three other individuals for whom he served as attorney in fact (collectively, Plaintiff). Plaintiff named as defendants an attorney and the firm at which the attorney practiced at the time the alleged malpractice occurred (collectively, Attorney), claiming that Attorney negligently failed to obtain signatures on a guaranty for a loan that Plaintiff made to a third party and failed to inform Plaintiff of the missing signatures. When the third party defaulted on the loan, Plaintiff could not obtain a judgment against the intended guarantors for the full amount of the third party’s obligation. A jury returned a general verdict for Attorney. The district court granted Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, concluding that plain error permeating the proceedings. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s order sustaining Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial and remanded with instructions to reinstate the judgment for Attorney, holding that the district court incorrectly concluded that plain error permeated the trial and thus abused its discretion in sustaining Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. View "Balames v. Ginn" on Justia Law

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Appellant retained Attorney to represent him in several actions, including an action to obtain disability benefits from the city of Omaha. Appellant’s application for benefits was denied. Before an appeal or request for a rehearing were filed, Appellant terminated his relationship with Attorney. Appellant then filed suit against Attorney for professional malpractice. The district court granted Attorney's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Appellant never directed Attorney to file an appeal and that Attorney had properly preserved the record such that an appeal would have been possible. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant’s contention that Attorney failed to investigate and preserve the record for appellate purposes was without merit; (2) Appellant failed to produce evidence to show Attorney's actions in failing to file an appeal constituted neglect or that Appellant was harmed; and (3) the district court did not err in refusing to allow expert testimony on the issue of whether Attorney committed malpractice. View "Harris v. O'Connor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, relatives of Decedent, sought Attorney's services in the administration of Decedent's estate. Plaintiffs later brought this professional negligence case against Attorney and his firm (Defendants), claiming that Attorney failed properly to disclose a conflict of interest to Plaintiffs, Attorney erroneously advised Plaintiffs to execute disclaimers that should be regarded as invalid and ineffective, and Attorney caused the estate to incur additional taxes by failing to include the purportedly disclaimed property in the qualified terminable interest property election on the estate tax return. The district court (1) entered judgment in favor of Defendants on the conflict of interest claim, and (2) dismissed as time barred Plaintiffs' claims regarding the disclaimed property and associated tax return elections. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment regarding the conflict of interest; but (2) reversed the judgments on Plaintiffs' remaining claims, holding that the district court erred when it concluded that the statute of limitations barred the claims. Remanded. View "Guinn v. Murray" on Justia Law

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This was the second appeal in this case. Doctor, who was licensed to practice medicine in Nebraska and Washington, entered into an assurance of compliance with the Attorney General due to unprofessional conduct. The assurance of compliance was made part of Doctor's public record. Consequently, Doctor alleged that the Washington Department of Health learned via public record of the assurance of compliance and initiated a disciplinary action against him. Doctor was also made ineligible with the American Board of Family Medicine. Doctor filed a complaint against the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General alleging that the Attorney General fraudulently and negligently misrepresented the adverse effects of the assurance of compliance. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, finding the misrepresentation claims to be contract claims subject to, and barred by, the State Contract Claims Act (Act). Doctor again appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Doctor's claims were subject to, and barred by, the Act. View "Zawaideh v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law