Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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In this case, John Edward Griffith II and Christina M. Griffith sued LG Chem America, Inc., and Shoemaker’s Truck Station, Inc., after lithium-ion rechargeable batteries purchased at a Shoemaker's Truck Station store in Nebraska exploded in Mr. Griffith's pocket in Pennsylvania, causing him serious burns and permanent injuries.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision that Nebraska lacked personal jurisdiction over LG Chem America, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia. The court found that LG Chem America had no substantial connection to Nebraska related to the case. The company's activities in Nebraska, which included renting warehouse space for the storage of petrochemical products and selling those products to two customers in the state, were unrelated to the sale and distribution of the lithium-ion batteries at issue in the case.The court also affirmed the lower court's decision to apply Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations to the Griffiths' negligence and loss of consortium claims, given that the injury occurred in Pennsylvania. The court found that Pennsylvania had a more significant relationship to the occurrence and the parties than Nebraska, where the batteries were purchased. As a result, the Griffiths' claims, filed more than two years after the injury, were time-barred under Pennsylvania law. View "Griffith v. LG Chem America" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around a long-standing dispute between two Nebraska families, the Zeilers and the Reifschneiders, over rights to divert water from their neighboring farmland. The dispute lead to a consent judgment in 1988, where Zeiler's father was ordered to remove a dike and level the area to a uniform elevation to allow for the drainage of surface waters from the Zeiler property to the Reifschneider property. Years later, Michael Zeiler filed a contempt action against Kenneth E. Reifschneider, alleging that Reifschneider had violated the consent judgment by raising the elevation level along the property boundary line, causing water to pool on Zeiler's farmland. The district court found Reifschneider in contempt, concluding he had willfully violated the consent judgment.However, the Nebraska Supreme Court vacated the district court's decision and dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court concluded that Zeiler lacked standing to pursue the contempt action because the consent judgment did not impose any obligations on Reifschneider. The judgment was a compromise conclusion to the earlier litigation between Reifschneider and Zeiler's father, where the defendant provided consideration in exchange for the plaintiff's dismissal of suit. The court clarified that its decision determined only that Zeiler lacked standing to pursue a contempt action, and made no evaluation of whether Zeiler would have standing or could obtain relief against Reifschneider via a different legal theory. View "Zeiler v. Reifschneider" on Justia Law

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In this case, Christopher Mathiesen, the owner of a limited liability company, appealed a court's order dismissing his complaint against Kristi Kellogg, who was alleged to be a co-owner of the company. The court dismissed the complaint after it was consolidated with another case involving the same parties and the same basic underlying facts. The main issue was whether the Nebraska Supreme Court had jurisdiction over Mathiesen's appeal of the order dismissing his complaint. The court found that it did not have jurisdiction because the order was not a final order that decided all the claims between all the parties. Instead, it was an order that only dismissed some of the claims and did so without the required express direction for the entry of judgment and express determination that there was no just reason to delay an appeal. The court also held that when cases are consolidated in Nebraska, they become a single case, and so the order dismissing the complaint did not fully dispose of the entire case. As a result, the court dismissed Mathiesen's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Mathiesen v. Kellogg" on Justia Law

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In this case, a couple, Kelley L. and Richard L., sought to have Richard adopt Kelley's daughter, Kate S., without the consent of the child's biological father, Dustin S., alleging that Dustin had abandoned Kate. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the County Court's decision, which denied the adoption petition, holding that Dustin had not abandoned Kate. The Supreme Court found that, although Dustin could have done more to be involved in Kate's life and did not fully comply with court-ordered reunification therapy and child support payments, the evidence suggested that Kelley had hindered Dustin from having meaningful contact with Kate. Therefore, they found that Dustin had not demonstrated a "settled purpose to forgo all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims" to Kate. The court also noted that the county court's reference to unresolved proceedings in the District Court did not constitute an error, as it simply acknowledged another potential route to adoption without Dustin's consent if his parental rights were subsequently terminated in those proceedings. View "In re Adoption of Kate S." on Justia Law

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In this Nebraska case, the appellant, Christian G., filed a motion to vacate a domestic abuse protection order issued against him, arguing that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over him and that the court erred in excluding his affidavit, which sought to prove he did not receive timely notice of the hearing. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that by filing a request for a hearing on the protection order, Christian made a general appearance in court, thereby conferring the court personal jurisdiction over him. The court also held that while an affidavit may be used in motion practice, including for preliminary, collateral, and interlocutory matters, it is not exempt from the rules of evidence. The court determined that the portion of Christian's affidavit that contained hearsay was correctly excluded by the district court because Christian did not properly limit his offer to the admissible parts of the affidavit. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, which upheld the district court's ruling that denied Christian's motion to vacate the protection order. View "K. v. G." on Justia Law

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A defamation lawsuit was filed by Janet Palmtag, a real estate agent and general candidate for the Nebraska Legislature, against The Republican Party of Nebraska. The case stems from political mailers, sent by the Party, which stated that Palmtag had been disciplined by the Iowa Real Estate Commission for illegal activities and had lost her Iowa real estate license. Palmtag claims these statements are false and defamatory. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Party, finding a genuine issue that the statements were false but no genuine issue that the Party acted with actual malice. Palmtag appealed this decision, and the Party cross-appealed the district court’s conclusion that Palmtag did not have to plead and prove special damages.The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court found that when the facts presented by Palmtag are viewed in the light most favorable to her, those facts are sufficient for a jury to find by clear and convincing evidence that the Party acted with actual malice. The court also rejected the Party's argument that in all public libel cases the plaintiff must prove special damages, finding that Palmtag's action involves defamation per se, for which no proof of actual harm is necessary. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmtag v. Republican Party of Nebraska" on Justia Law

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In the case involving Sandra Lopez and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Omaha, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case, holding that the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries. Lopez, an employee of Catholic Charities, sued her employer alleging assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress following a realistic active shooter drill conducted at her workplace. She claimed physical and mental injuries as a result of the drill. The district court dismissed the suit, asserting that her exclusive remedy was workers’ compensation. On appeal, Lopez argued that she should be able to pursue tort theories of recovery against her employer for injuries suffered if the employer acted with a specific intent to injure the employee. However, the court found that even if an employer acts with a specific intent to injure an employee, the resulting injury is accidental if it is unexpected or unforeseen to the person suffering the injury, and thus compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The court also rejected Lopez's constitutional challenge due to non-compliance with procedural requirements and her public policy argument because it was not grounded on any specific statute or recognized legal authority. View "Lopez v. Catholic Charities" on Justia Law

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In this case from the Nebraska Supreme Court, the court considered an appeal from a successful will contest. The decedent, Rita A. Walker, died at the age of 84 and her son, Mark E. Walker, filed a petition for formal probate of a will purportedly executed by Rita shortly before her death. This will named Mark as the sole beneficiary and personal representative of Rita's estate, omitting her three other sons. One of these other sons, Michael J. Walker, contested the will, alleging that Rita lacked testamentary capacity at the time of the will's execution and that the will was the product of undue influence.The county court held a bench trial and concluded that while the will was validly executed, it would not admit it to probate because Mark had failed to prove Rita's testamentary capacity at the time of execution and that the will was the product of undue influence. The court ordered the case to proceed intestate and appointed Michael as personal representative.Mark appealed, arguing that the county court erred in excluding from evidence a document purported to be a prior will signed by Rita, which he contended was admissible under a hearsay exception and was relevant to the issues of testamentary capacity and undue influence.The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the document was admissible under a hearsay exception and was relevant. The court found that the document had a tendency to show that Rita had a constant and abiding scheme for the distribution of her property, rebutting charges of undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Therefore, the court reversed the county court's order refusing to admit the proposed will to probate and remanded the case for the county court to reconsider the existing record, including the contested document, in determining whether Mark met his burden of proving testamentary capacity and whether Michael met his burden of proving undue influence. View "In re Estate of Walker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed sixteen-year-old Sayrah P.'s appeal from an order for electronic monitoring and an order for staff secure detention, holding that this appeal lacked a final, appealable order.A juvenile probation officer found that Sayrah qualified for an alternative to detention and sent her home with an order for electronic monitoring. Two days after the initial screening the juvenile court held a hearing and ordered that Sayrah's electronic monitoring continue. Because Sayrah was noncompliant with her electronic monitoring she was ordered a month later to "staff secure" detention. Sayrah appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of a final, appealable order, holding that the orders appealed from did not affect a substantial right, and therefore, the orders were not appealable. View "In re Interest of Sayrah P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the director of the Department of Natural Resources that each purported objector to an application seeking an interbasin transfer to divert surface water from an over-appropriated Platte River reach to the Republican River Basin, holding that the purported objectors lacked standing.Several objector entities filed objectives to the operative application, but the director dismissed all of those entities for lack of standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) to have standing in this surface water appropriation case Appellants were required to meet the common-law standard; and (2) because Appellants' allegations did not demonstrate that they had or will suffer an injury in fact each failed to establish standing. View "In re Application A-19594" on Justia Law