Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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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finding that the lease agreement was for a period of elven years; (3) did not err in finding that the agreement was not rescinded by the parties' modification in 2015 of the crops to be grown on the land; and (4) properly found that the tenant suffered $51,336.26 in damages as a result of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 dismissed this appeal from an order disapproving the parties' application for an order approving a lump-sum settlement on the grounds that the application was not in compliance with the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-101 et seq., holding that the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court's order of disapproval was not a final, appealable order. Plaintiff filed a petition seeking benefits for injuries she sustained while working for Employer. The parties eventually agreed to settle the dispute for a lump-sum payment of $150,000, along with the establishment of an interest-bearing account for additional medical payments. The parties filed a joint stipulation, but the stipulation did not include the amount of fees and costs. The compensation court disapproved the lump sum settlement application and joint stipulation, finding that the application and joint stipulation were not in compliance with the Act and not in the best interests of Plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the compensation court's order of disapproval, standing alone, was not a final, appealable order. View "Loyd v. Family Dollar Stores of Nebraska, Inc" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the separate juvenile court adjudicating Appellant for the act of attempted theft by unlawful taking, $5,000 or more, holding that Appellant was not entitled to reversal of her convictions. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the juvenile court did not err by (1) overruling Appellant's motion to quash; (2) denying Appellant's demand for jury trial; and (3) finding that Appellant committed the act of attempted theft by unlawful taking, $5,000 or more because the State presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of property involved was $5,000 or more. View "In re Interest of Zoie H." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that Defendants owed damages to their general contractor and two of its subcontractors (collectively, Plaintiffs) for the construction of a residential home, holding that judgment was correctly entered for Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed construction liens and brought contract suits claiming unpaid balances for construction services rendered. The district court determined that the contract was a cost-plus agreement, that defects in workmanship were punch list items and not a breach by the general contractor, and that Defendants committed the first material breach of contract and owed damages to Plaintiffs. Defendants appealed, arguing that the contract was a fixed-price contract breached by the general contractor and that, even under a cost-plus contract, the general contractor breached a fiduciary duty to provide a full account for its bills when it requested draw payments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it found that the construction contract was a cost-plus contract and that Defendants breached that contract when they failed to pay draws required under the contract; and (2) the general contractor met its obligations under the contract. View "Goes v. Vogler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Employer and dismissing two former employees' complaint seeking paid time off (PTO) compensation under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act (Wage Act), holding that the employees did not meet the written employment agreement's stated conditions to earn PTO. As an affirmative defense to Employees' claims, Employer argued that Employees' claims were barred by the terms of the agreement. Specifically, Employer argued that because Employees did not have billable hours and did not bill hours to a client no PTO accrued under the agreement. The district court sustained Employer's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Employees did not bill to clients more than forty hours of work per week Employees did not earn PTO under the terms of the employment agreement. View "Drought v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence for assault by a confined person, holding that the district court did not err in its challenged evidentiary rulings and that there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant's conviction. On appeal, Defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction and asserted that the district court erred when it refused his proposed self-defense instruction and when it admitted a recording of a telephone call he made from jail. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence didn't support a self-defense instruction, and therefore, the district court did not err when it refused the instruction proposed by Defendant; (2) the district court did not err when it admitted the recording of the telephone call into evidence; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's conviction. View "State v. Case" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court dismissing Plaintiff's petition alleging that she had sustained a severe and permanent brain injury as a result of an accident with a nail gun while she was at work for Builders Supply Company, Inc., holding that the compensation court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff had been willfully negligent. The workers' compensation court dismissed Plaintiff's petition upon finding that she intentionally shot herself in the head with the nail gun. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness as a discovery sanction; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant Plaintiff a second continuance; and (3) did not err in finding that Plaintiff acted with willful negligence. View "Eddy v. Builders Supply Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for testing under Nebraska's DNA Testing Act and his motion for the appointment of counsel, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for DNA testing. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes. Defendant later filed his motion for DNA testing pursuant to the DNA Testing Act, seeking to have certain items taken from the crime scene tested in order to exclude himself as a donor of any biological material. Defendant additionally claimed that the State withheld findings of biological evidence from him and asked that counsel be appointed. The district court denied relief, determining that the requested testing would not produce noncumulative exculpatory evidence. The court further determined that the State did not withhold evidence and denied Defendant's request for counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNA testing requested by Defendant would not result in noncumulative exculpatory evidence relevant to his wrongful conviction claim. View "State v. Myers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing as time barred this action brought under the State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,209 to 81-8,235, holding that the savings clause of Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-201.01 does not apply to an action under the STCA. It was undisputed that Plaintiff's lawsuit was filed outside the statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,227(1). At issue was whether Plaintiff could satisfy the requirements of the savings clause in section 25-201.01. The district court dismissed the action as time barred, finding that section 25-201.01 did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's STCA action was not timely commenced under the STCA and that the district court did not err in not applying the savings clause under section 25-201.01. View "Saylor v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's third motion for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that there was no merit to Appellant's claims on appeal. Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and other felony offenses and sentenced to death. In his third postconviction motion, Defendant alleged that the Legislature's statute providing for the repeal of the death penalty, 2015 Neb. Laws, L.B. 268, changed his death sentence to life imprisonment and that the rejection of L.B. 268 by public referendum imposed a death sentence, the referendum was constitutionally impermissible, and he was harmed thereby. The district court concluded that Defendant failed to allege sufficient facts that demonstrated a violation of his constitutional rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying postconviction relief. View "State v. Iddings" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law