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Estate of Teague v. Crossroads Cooperative Association

Supreme Court of Nebraska

May 31, 2013

Estate of Joseph James Teague, deceased, by and through his Personal Representative, Joani M. Martinosky, appellant,
crossroads cooperative association, a Nebraska corporation, appellee.

1. Judgments: Statutes: Appeal and Error. Concerning questions of law and statutory interpretation, an appellate court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the decision made by the court below.

2. Motions to Dismiss: Appeal and Error. A district court's grant of a motion to dismiss is reviewed de novo.

3. Motions to Dismiss: Pleadings: Appeal and Error. When reviewing an order dismissing a complaint, the appellate court accepts as true all facts which are well pled and the proper and reasonable inferences of law and fact which may be drawn therefrom, but not the plaintiff's conclusion.

4. Workers' Compensation. The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act is an employee's exclusive remedy against an employer for an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment.

5. Motions to Dismiss: Torts: Workers' Compensation: Proof. For an employee to prevail against a motion to dismiss a tort action against his or her employer, the employee must allege sufficient facts that, if true, would demonstrate the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act does not apply.

6. Workers' Compensation. The primary object of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act is to do away with the inadequacies and defects of the common-law remedies; to destroy the common-law defenses; and, in the employments affected, to give compensation, regardless of the fault of the employer.

7. Actions: Motions to Dismiss. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, a court is not obliged to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.

8. Workers' Compensation. Delay, cost, and uncertainty are contrary to the underlying purposes of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act.

9. Workers' Compensation: Legislature: Intent: Employer and Employee: Time. The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act was intended by the Legislature to simplify legal proceedings and to bring about a speedy settlement of disputes [286 Neb. 2] between the injured employee and the employer by taking the place of expensive court actions with tedious delays and technicalities.

10. Workers' Compensation: Jurisdiction: Legislature. As a statutorily created court, it is the role of the Legislature to determine what acts fall within the Workers' Compensation Court's exclusive jurisdiction.

11. Workers' Compensation: Jurisdiction: Intent Absent an amendment to the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, an appellate court will not judicially create a "substantially certain" exception from the act's intended exclusive jurisdiction over workplace injuries.

12. Motions to Dismiss: Records. Even novel issues may be determined on a motion to dismiss where the dispute is not as to the underlying facts but as to the interpretation of the law, and development of the record will not aid in the resolution of the issues.

13. Equal Protection. The Equal Protection Clause does not forbid classifications; it simply keeps governmental decisionmakers from treating differently persons who are in all relevant aspects alike.

14. Special Legislation. A legislative act constitutes special legislation if (1) it creates an arbitrary and unreasonable method of classification or (2) it creates a permanently closed class.

15. Workers' Compensation: Employer and Employee: Legislature. Employers and employees stand in different relations to the common undertaking; it was rational for the Legislature to recognize this fact when determining employers' and employees' respective rights and liabilities under the workers' compensation system.

16. Workers' Compensation: Negligence: Legislature. It was not arbitrary for the Legislature to determine coverage under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act based on whose willful negligence caused the injury.

17. Torts: Employer and Employee: Legislature. The Legislature made a rational distinction between intentional tort victims who are employees and intentional tort victims who are not employees. Workers' compensation law reflects a policy choice that employers bear the costs of the employees' work-related injuries, because employers are in the best position to avoid the risk of loss by improving workplace safety.

Appeal from the District Court for Cheyenne County: Derek C Weimer, Judge.

R. Kevin O'Donnell and Michael D. Samuelson, of McGinley, O'Donnell, Reynolds & Korth, P.C, L.L.O., for appellant.

Steven W. Olsen and John F. Simmons, of Simmons Olsen Law Firm, P.C, for appellee.

Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connolly, Stephan, McCormack, and Miller-Lerman, JJ., and Riedmann, Judge.

[286 Neb. 3] MCCORM ...

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