Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment for NIFCO Mechanical Systems, Inc., holding that the comparative negligence instructions constituted plain error. After a pipe in the sprinkler system of the City of Wahoo's public library burst, Wahoo brought suit against Cheever Construction Company and NIFCO alleging that Cheever negligently installed the sprinkler system and that NIFCO negligently failed to inspect and maintain it. NIFCO asserted as an affirmative defense that Wahoo's negligence was a proximate cause of any damages. The claims against Cheever were dismissed by stipulation during the course of trial, and the case was submitted to the jury with NIFCO as the sole defendant. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of NIFCO. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court's comparative negligence jury instructions were plainly erroneous. View "City of Wahoo v. NIFCO Mechanical Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this quiet title action, The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Joy Arnold and quieting title in favor of the Estate of Beverly Freiden, holding that Michael Walz, a tenant of Beverly's real property, did not exercise an option to purchase the property associated with the lease, and the real property remained in the Estate. Walz leased real property from Beverly under a lease that included an option to purchase the property at any time before the end date of the lease. Beverly died during Walz' tenancy. After the term of Walz' initial option ended, Walz and Jon Freiden executed several lease modifications that purportedly extended Walz' option to buy the real property. When Walz claimed he owned the property, Arnold, the personal representative of the Estate, petitioned the district court to quiet title to the property in the Estate. The district court granted summary judgment for Arnold. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to the fact that the real property remained in the Estate, and therefore, the district court did not err when it quieted title in the Estate. View "Arnold v. Walz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in this partition action, holding that partition in kind cannot be decreed using owelty - or a monetary payment to equalize values - without great prejudice to the owners. On appeal, Appellant argued, among other things, that the district court erred in determining that it did not have authority to award owelty to make partition in kind equitable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) owelty is permitted in partition cases but should be rarely utilized and only when it is equitably necessary; and (2) the district court did not err in rejecting the owelty award and ordering partition by sale because Appellee met its burden to establish that partition in kind could not be had without great prejudice. View "FTR Farms, Inc. v. Rist Farm, Inc." on Justia 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