Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment action alleging that she had not been notified that her employment contract would not be renewed within the timeframe required by a collective bargaining agreement, holding that Plaintiff’s action was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Plaintiff brought this action against the Board of the Nebraska State Colleges alleging that the Board had breached the collective bargaining agreement by failing to timely notify her in writing of its intent not to renew her employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Board. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s judgment and dismissed this appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that that Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment action against the Board was an action against the State, and Plaintiff failed to identify any statute that served to waive the State’s sovereign immunity. View "Burke v. Board of Trustees of Nebraska State Colleges" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the Workers’ Compensation Court in this attorney fee dispute between discharged lawyers and the lawyer who represented the client through a settlement, holding that because the discharged lawyers were entitled to less than the amount awarded by the compensation court under the terms of their fee agreement with their client, the order splitting the fee evenly was erroneous. During the course of his workers’ compensation action with his employer, Edward St. John switched lawyers. St. John settled his claim, and the compensation court held a hearing regarding how much St. John owed his lawyers. The compensation court concluded that one set of attorneys did not contribute more to the end result than the other and directed that Brenda Bartels and Monte Neilan, the discharged lawyers, receive $82,500, and that the lawyer who represented St. John throughout the settlement, James Zimmerman, receive $82,500. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the order splitting the fee evenly was erroneous and that Bartels and Neilan were entitled to receive $32,577.50, and Zimmerman was entitled to receive $132,422.50. View "St. John v. Gering Public Schools" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court overruling Plaintiff’s motion to recuse and granting summary judgment to Defendants on all of Plaintiff’s remaining claims, holding that the judge should have recused himself. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, her former employer, claiming retaliation, hostile work environment, and other claims. The district court granted summary judgment on the latter three claims. Defendant then moved for summary judgment on the retaliation and hostile work environment claims. When the district court judge assigned to the case became aware that his brother-in-law was a potential witness Plaintiff moved for recusal. Plaintiff then amended her complaint and added a claim under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d). The district court overruled the motion to recuse and granted summary judgment on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed to the extent of the claims disposed of before the assertion of the Equal Pay Act claim and vacated as to all other claims, holding that because the judge’s brother-in-law was likely to be a material witness, Neb. Rev. Stat. 5-302.11(A)(2)(d) mandated disqualification of the judge. View "Thompson v. Millard Public School District No. 17" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court that it lacked jurisdiction over Appellant’s petition and dismissing his claim, holding that the compensation court correctly dismissed Appellant’s petition for injuries sustained on the job in Alaska. Appellant was a Nebraska resident when he was hired by Trident Seafoods, a State of Washington corporation without a permanent presence in Nebraska. Appellant sustained a work-related injury while working at Trident Seafoods’ Alaska plant. Appellant filed a petition in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court claiming benefits under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act. The compensation court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, finding that Trident Seafoods was not a statutory employer under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-106(1). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Trident Seafoods was not a statutory employer, and therefore, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act did not apply. View "Hassan v. Trident Seafoods" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the finding of the Workers’ Compensation Court that Employee, who was injured during the course and scope of her employment, had reached maximum medical improvement prior to the stroke she suffered approximately three weeks after she filed her petition in the compensation court seeking temporary and permanent disability benefits and the compensation court’s award of permanent total disability, holding that the compensation court did not err. The stroke suffered by Employee was unrelated to her work injury or treatment and left Employee largely incapacitated. The compensation court awarded Employee permanent total disability benefits, thus rejecting Employer’s contention that the occurrence of the stroke relieved Employer of the ongoing responsibility to pay total disability benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court did not err in (1) finding Employee reached maximum medical improvement prior to her stroke; (2) finding Employee was permanently and totally disabled; and (3) finding the stroke had no impact on Employee’s entitlement to ongoing permanent total disability benefits. View "Krause v. Five Star Quality Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the award of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, holding that none of Employee’s contentions on appeal warranted modification of the award. In his petition, Employee sought temporary total disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation, payment of past and future medical bills, and waiting-time penalties and attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Workers’ Compensation Court did not err by failing to (1) award permanent disability based on a loss of earning capacity rather than a member impairment rating; (2) award permanent disability based on a twelve-percent member impairment rating rather than a fifteen-percent member impairment rating; (3) award a waiting-time penalty from the date of the injury rather than the date of payment of benefits in August 2016; (4) award Employee out-of-pocket medical expenses; and (5) award reimbursement of vacation time and short-term disability. View "Bower v. Eaton Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Regional West Medical Center and dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint alleging retaliatory discharge and employment discrimination, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in finding that Plaintiff’s discrimination claims were barred by the relevant statute of limitations; and (2) the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s retaliation claim on the basis that there was no evidence to support a finding that Plaintiff’s termination was retaliatory. View "Brown v. Regional West Medical Center" on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the compensation court’s findings that Plaintiff was entitled to benefits and that the court did not have jurisdiction to resolve issues regarding a third-party settlement but reversed the compensation court’s denial of Plaintiff’s request that she be awarded penalties, attorney fees, and interest. Plaintiff was driving a school bus when the bus was struck by a drunk driver, injuring Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s employer (Employer) paid workers’ compensation benefits for a time but refused to pay benefits when Plaintiff asserted that she was permanently disabled as a result of her injuries. The workers’ compensation court concluded (1) Plaintiff was entitled to additional benefits; (2) the court did not have jurisdiction to grant relief requested by Employer concerning a settlement that Plaintiff entered into with the third party who caused her injuries; and (3) Plaintiff was not entitled to penalties, attorney fees, and interest. The Supreme Court held that the compensation court (1) correctly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to resolve disputes related to Plaintiff’s settlement with the third-party tortfeasor; (2) correctly found that Plaintiff was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits; but (3) was clearly wrong in denying Plaintiff penalties, attorney fees, and interest because there was no reasonable controversy regarding her entitlement to benefits. View "Gimple v. Student Transportation of America" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court determining that Appellant’s injuries did not “arise out of” his employment, holding that Appellant’s assignment of error on appeal was without merit because he waived his argument by failing to present it to the compensation court. At trial, Appellant argued only that his injury arose out of employment because his fall, which resulted in injuries, resulted from a risk of employment. On appeal, however, Appellant argued that his injury arose out of employment under the “increased-danger” rule. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not commit plain error by not applying the increased-danger rule, and Appellant waived his argument on appeal by failing to present it to the compensation court. View "Maroulakos v. Walmart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The recent amendment for finalizing lump-sum settlements under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-139(4) is procedural in nature and therefore applies to this workers’ compensation case, which was pending on appeal when section 48-139 was amended. Employer and Employee reached a lump-sum settlement and filed a verified release with the court using the process set out in section 48-139(3) and (4). Employer did not pay the amounts owed under the statutory deadline, and Employee moved for late payment penalties under section 48-139(4). The Workers’ Compensation Court overruled Employee’s motion and dismissed Employee’s petition with prejudice. While the matter was pending on appeal, the Legislature amended section 48-139 to specifically include a penalty provision for late payments of lump-sum settlements. The Supreme Court vacated the order of dismissal and remanded the cause with directions to award late payment penalties under section 48-139(4), holding that Employee was entitled to a late payment penalty. View "Dragon v. Cheesecake Factory" on Justia Law