Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court

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Rosemary Henn filed a putative class action in a federal court alleging that American Family Mutual Insurance Company wrongfully failed to compensate her and others similarly situated by depreciating labor costs in calculation of “actual cash value” for loss or damage to a building under its homeowner’s insurance policies. The federal court certified a question to the Nebraska Supreme Court asking whether an insurer, in determining the “actual cash value” of a covered loss, may depreciate the cost of labor when the policy does not state explicitly that labor costs will be depreciated and the terms “actual cash value” and “depreciation” are not defined in the policy. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative, holding that the term “actual cash value” is unambiguous and that labor can be depreciated. View "Henn v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Company issued a homeowner’s insurance policy to Howard Hunter that prohibited an assignment of “[a]ll rights and duties” without Farm Bureau’s consent. After a storm damaged the roof of Hunter’s home, he assigned his claim to Millard Gutter Company, the company that repaired the roof. Millard Gutter sued Farm Bureau and obtained a county court judgment. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the postloss assignment of a claim under a homeowner’s insurance policy was valid despite the nonassignment cause. View "Millard Gutter Co. v. Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Bruce Evertson was killed in a two-vehicle accident during the course and scope of his employment. Bruce’s estate filed a wrongful death claim against the insurer of the other driver. The county court accepted a settlement in the matter and allocated the proceeds among Bruce’s widow, Darla Evertson, and adult children. Darla received workers’ compensation benefits from Travelers Indemnity Company as a result of Bruce’s death. Travelers filed a subrogation claim to Darla’s settlement proceeds. The county court ordered that Travelers was not entitled to any distribution of Darla’s proceeds and did not provide Travelers any future credit against the workers’ compensation benefits it owed Darla. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and remanded with directions to vacate the order of the county court, holding that the county court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear and decide the subrogation matter. View "In re Estate of Evertson" on Justia Law

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At the center of this dispute was defective rebar that was incorporated into the construction of concrete pile caps that would form support for the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Some of the pile caps had to be modified in order to provide the necessary structural support for the Arena. The general contractor paid the costs of the correction and sought reimbursement from Drake-Williams Steel, Inc. (DWS), which fabricated the rebar. DWS reimbursed the general contractor and sought coverage from its insurers. The insurers denied the claim and commenced this action to determine their obligations under the policies of insurance. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no coverage under the policies. View "Drake-Williams Steel, Inc. v. Continental Cas. Co." on Justia Law

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Opal Lowman was injured in an automobile accident. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company provided underinsured motorist coverage to Opal and her husband. The Lowmans sued State Farm, seeking damages. The jury returned a verdict for the Lowmans in the amount of $0. The Lowmans filed a motion for a new trial, which was overruled. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it entered judgment on the jury’s verdict where the jury awarded the Lowmans no money damages; and (2) the district court did not err in denying the Lowmans’ motion for new trial. View "Lowman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant, an over-the-road truck driver, filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that he sustained injuries in the form of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in an accident that occurred during the course and scope of his employment. The compensation court applied a split test of causation used in heart attack cases, which requires proof of both legal and medical causation. The court then dismissed Appellant’s claim for failure to establish the medical cause prong. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Appellant’s claim, holding (1) the split test was properly applied to Appellant’s injuries in this case, as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism present the same difficulties in attributing the cause of a heart attack to a claimant’s work and are similar in origin to a heart attack; and (2) the compensation court’s finding as to causation was not clearly wrong. View "Wingfield v. Hill Bros. Transp., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2009, Appellant suffered injuries to both of his knees in a work-related accident. Appellant filed a request for loss of earning compensation. The Workers’ Compensation Court concluded that, notwithstanding findings of permanent impairment, because no permanent physical restrictions were specifically assigned by an expert for Appellant’s left knee, the court could not perform a loss of earning capacity calculation authorized under the third paragraph of Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-121(3) and that Appellant was thus limited to scheduled member compensation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the compensation court erred as a matter of law in concluding that there must be expert opinion of permanent physical restrictions as to each injured member in order to perform a loss of earning capacity calculation under section 48-121(3). Remanded. View "Rodgers v. Neb. State Fair" on Justia Law

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A guest (“Guest”) at an apartment complex fell of a third-story apartment’s balcony, rendering him quadriplegic. Guest sued the apartment complex’s ownership (“Owner”) and management (“Manager”) under theories of joint and several liability. American Family Mutual Insurance Company held liability policies covering both Owner and Manager. Regent Insurance Company held liability policies covering Manager, but the parties disputed whether the policies also covered the “same risk” for Owner as an additional insured. American Family settled with Guest and sued Regent for equitable contribution toward the payment it made to Guest under the settlement agreement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of American Family. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its apportionment of the common obligation toward Guest’s settlement. View "Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Regent Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, property owners, filed a quiet title action against owners of adjacent lots, seeking a declaration that express easements granted in favor of the adjacent lots were invalid. The defendants filed counterclaims asserting that the express easements were valid. Plaintiffs submitted to Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company ("Commonwealth") a claim for defense pursuant to a policy of title insurance issued by Commonwealth insuring Plaintiffs’ property, but Commonwealth denied the claim. In the quiet title action, the district court extinguished the express easements and denied the counterclaims but concluded that the defendants possessed implied easements. While the quiet title action was pending, Plaintiffs filed the instant action against Commonwealth, seeking a determination that Commonwealth breached its duty under the policy by refusing to provide a defense to the counterclaims. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Commonwealth. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in sustaining Commonwealth’s motion for summary judgment because Commonwealth did not violate its contract with Plaintiffs by denying coverage or indemnification. View "Woodle v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants filed a products liability action against Daimler-Chrysler Corporation after they were involved in a rollover collision while driving their Chrysler PT Cruiser. Appellants later filed a complaint for declaratory relief against Allianz Versicherungs-Aktiengesellschaft (“Allianz”), an international insurance company that provided insurance to Chrysler, alleging that Allianz had a duty to defend Chrysler in the underlying action. The district court granted summary judgment for Allianz and dismissed the complaint. Twenty months later, Appellants filed a complaint to vacate the summary judgment. The district court sustained Allianz’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the time for exercise of the district court’s inherent power to vacate its judgment had expired; (2) the district court lacked jurisdiction to vacate its judgment because Appellants did not properly serve Allianz; and (3) the district court did not err in invoking its equity jurisdiction to vacate where Appellants had an adequate remedy at law. View "Carlson v. Allianz Versicherungs-Aktiengesellschaft" on Justia Law