Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In these appeals for a series of condemnation proceedings initiated by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that the county court plainly erred by entering a judgment on remand regarding the issue of attorney fees without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that the county court should have considered all relevant evidence before making its determination on the motions for attorney fees. Condemnation proceedings took place in several counties through which TransCanada planned to construct an oil pipeline, including Antelope County. TransCanada ultimately voluntarily dismissed all of its condemnation actions without prejudice. This appeal concerned the motions of the condemnees in Antelope County for an award of attorney fees. The county court originally found in favor of the condemnees, but the district court reversed the award and remanded the matter for a "rehearing on the merits." Ultimately, the county court concluded that a rehearing was unnecessary and denied the condemnees their request for attorney fees. The district court reversed and remanded the matter with instructions to conduct an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court was correct to find plain error and to remand with instructions for the county court to hold an evidentiary hearing. View "TransCanada Keystone Pipeline v. Tanderup" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee and quieting title on certain property after issuance of a tax deed, holding that Appellee complied with the statutory notice requirements for obtaining a tax deed and that the statutory notice requirements are constitutionally sufficient. On appeal, Appellant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in finding that the notice provided complied with Nebraska statutes and in not finding the Nebraska tax sale statutory scheme violated the federal and state constitutions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the statutory notice requirements are reasonably calculated to apprise a property owner of a tax certificate holder's intent to apply for a tax deed, they are constitutionally sufficient; and (2) Appellant failed to meet his burden of establishing that the tax deed was invalid. View "HBI, LLC v. Barnette" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Appellant's placing an electric fence within the county's right-of-way extending into a ditch violated Neb. Rev. Stat. 39-301 and granting an injunction against Appellant's encroaching on the public road right-of-way, holding that injunctive relief was proper. Appellant repeatedly erected an electric fence within the ditch right-of-way alongside a county road. The district court granted a permanent injunction against encroaching on the public road right-of-way thirty-three feet in either direction from the centerline, including road ditches within that distance from the centerline, by placing fences. The court found that successive criminal prosecution had proved to be an inadequate remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) finding that placing the electric fence in the ditch violated section 39-301; and (2) failing to find that the County had an adequate remedy at law by way of criminal prosecution. View "County of Cedar v. Thelen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming Defendant's criminal misdemeanor convictions for violating Neb. Rev. Stat. 39-301 by repeatedly erecting an electric fence approximately three feet from the edge of a county gravel roadway and within the county's right-of-way extending into a ditch, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's convictions. On appeal, Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence presented to prove that he was the individual who placed the electric fence in the ditch and that the placement of the fence did not violate section 39-301. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the area of the ditch at issue in this case, which was within the county's right-of-way, was part of a "public road" for purposes of section 39-301; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Defendant was responsible for erecting the fences. View "State v. Thelen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming a county board of adjustment's decision affirming the zoning administrator's grant of a zoning permit for construction of a new residence within an agricultural intensive district, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. The zoning administrator approved a zoning permit for the new residence. Appellants appealed, arguing that the zoning permit was for a "non-farm residence," and therefore, the construction was not permitted under zoning regulations. The board affirmed the zoning administrator's decision, and the district court affirmed. At issue in this appeal was whether the proposed residence was a "non-farm residence" under the applicable zoning regulations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the board of adjustment correctly determined that the new residence was not a "non-farm residence." View "Hochstein v. Cedar County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between an out-of-state landlord and her tenant as to the duration of the parties' farm lease agreement the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in finding for the tenant and awarding damages for breach of contract. The court considered two writings as embodying the parties' agreement, one providing that the "lease period will go from January 2007 until December 2017 a ten year period" and the other stating that the land will be maintained "from January 2007 until December 2017." The district court concluded that there was an eleven-year lease. The landlord appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not lack jurisdiction over the action; (2) did not err in finding that the lease agreement was for a period of elven years; (3) did not err in finding that the agreement was not rescinded by the parties' modification in 2015 of the crops to be grown on the land; and (4) properly found that the tenant suffered $51,336.26 in damages as a result of the landlord evicting the tenant from the property a year early. View "TNT Cattle Co. v. Fife" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court determining that a tax deed obtained by Adair Holdings, LLC was void for incorrect notice and granting the counterclaim for quiet title filed by Dennis G. Johnson, the owner of record, holding that summary judgment in favor of Johnson's counterclaim was proper and that equity did not require relief to be granted to Adair Holdings. Adair Holdings' predecessor in interest attempted to provide Johnson with notice of the application for a tax deed via certified mail and then by publication. The notice, however, contained incorrect information about the timeframe in which Johnson could redeem the property. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Johnson and did not order Johnson to reimburse Adair Holdings for the delinquent taxes paid by Adair Holdings' predecessor in interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined as a matter of law that the tax deed issued to Adair Management was void; (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Johnson on his quiet title claim; and (3) because Adair Holdings did not raise below the issue of recovery for payment of delinquent taxes, equity did not require that relief be granted. View "Adair Holdings, LLC v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC), which reduced the county's $16.3 million valuation of commercial real estate used as an ethanol plant to $7.3 million based upon the taxpayer's appraisal, holding that there was no error appearing on the record. The original $16.3 million valuation in this case was based upon mass appraisal techniques. TERC reduced the value based upon the appraisal of the taxpayer, finding that because the appraiser performed the appraisal according to professional approved standards his appraisal report was competent evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption in favor of the Board of Equalization's determination affirming the county assessor's valuation of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that TERC's determination that the Board's valuation was unreasonable and arbitrary was supported by competent evidence and was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. View "Wheatland Industries v. Perkins County Board of Equalization" 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants in two actions brought under Nebraska's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 36-701 to 36-712, but reversed the court's grant of attorney fees as sanctions on the grounds that both actions were frivolous, holding that the fraudulent transfer actions lacked merit but that the district court abused its discretion in finding the actions as frivolous. The creditors here alleged that a blanket security agreement guaranteeing repayment of a loan by a wife to her husband was a fraudulent transfer under the UFTA. The district court concluded, after a trial, that there was no actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud any creditor under the UFTA and that the wife had proved good faith. The court then granted the wife attorney fees. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the award of sanctions, holding that the actions were not frivolous under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-824; and (2) affirmed the judgments of dismissal, holding that the creditors failed to identify and prove there was any "property" at issue in these cases and thus failed to prove that there was a "transfer" under the UFTA. View "Korth v. Luther" on Justia Law