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Nebraska Supreme Court Reverses Judgment, Awards Funds to Domina Client

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In November, Domina Law Group Founding Lawyer Dave Domina prevailed before the Nebraska Supreme Court by securing the reversal of a judgment on appeal in a case that significantly defines and limits the role of claims based on unjust enrichment in Nebraska.

When Jerald Schreiber called Dave Domina and Domina Law Group for help, the Sheriff was levying on his assets to collect a judgment rendered against Jerald in a dispute with his estranged brother and a company the two had owned together.

The judgment, for about half a million dollars, threatened Jerald’s farm and home, and his financial stability. He hired Domina to challenge the judgment on appeal.

In the initial trial, the trial court decided the case against Jerald under the doctrine of “unjust enrichment.” It held that because aged buildings of questionable value, and not wanted by Jerald, had been built on Jerald’s land, he was unjustly enriched and must pay the appraised value of the buildings to his brother. This decision was made even though the buildings had been sold pursuant to a previous court order for $18,000 and purchased by Jerald because there were no other bidders.

On appeal, Domina argued that the doctrine of unjust enrichment could not be applied in Jerald’s case because the brothers had a contract – in fact two of them. One governed their company, an LLC, and the other was formed by the Court when it approved the building sale for $18,000. Unjust enrichment can only apply where there is no contract; it cannot be used to modify an agreement.

The Nebraska Supreme Court agreed. It reversed the district court judgment and remanded the case to the district court with directions to enter judgment in Jerald’s favor. It did so after ordering supplemental briefs following oral argument. Clarifying the law governing appealable orders, the Supreme Court held that a receivership proceeding like the one in Jerald’s case was a special proceeding under the statute defining appealable orders and that the unjust enrichment order in this case was also an order in the special proceeding because it was inextricably interwoven with the receivership.

This part of the Supreme Court decision meant Jerald prevailed on the argument that he was entitled to appeal when he did.

The Supreme Court followed this procedural ruling for Jerald with an analysis of the facts and the conclusion that unjust enrichment could not apply to Jerald. As a result, the Court reversed the adverse decision and remanded the case with a single simple instruction to the district court to enter judgment in Jerald’s favor.

The case marks a significant decision defining, and limiting, the role of the doctrine of unjust enrichment and claims based upon that doctrine in Nebraska jurisprudence.

Schreiber Bros. Hog Co., LLC v. Schreiber, 312 Neb 707, 980 NW2d 890 (2022).