Workers' Compensation: Appeal and Error. Pursuant to Neb.
Rev. Stat. § 48-185 (Cum. Supp. 2014), an appellate
court may modify, reverse, or set aside a Workers'
Compensation Court decision only when (1) the compensation
court acted without or in excess of its powers; (2) the
judgment, order, or award was procured by fraud; (3) there is
not sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant
the making of the order, judgment, or award; or (4) the
findings of fact by the compensation court do not support the
order or award.
__. Determinations by a trial judge of the Workers'
Compensation Court will not be disturbed on appeal unless
they are contrary to law or depend on findings of fact which
are clearly wrong in light of the evidence.
Workers' Compensation: Statutes: Appeal and Error. The
meaning of a statute is a question of law, and an appellate
court is obligated in workers' compensation cases to make
its own determinations as to questions of law.
Statutes: Appeal and Error. Appellate courts give statutory
language its plain and ordinary meaning and will not resort
to interpretation to ascertain the meaning of statutory words
which are plain, direct, and unambiguous.
Workers' Compensation: Jurisdiction: Statutes. The
Workers' Compensation Court, as a statutorily created
court, has only such authority as has been conferred upon it
by statute, and its power cannot extend beyond that expressed
Workers' Compensation: Dismissal and Nonsuit. The right
of a plaintiff to dismiss his or her workers'
compensation action under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-177 (Cum.
Supp. 2014) is not a matter of judicial grace or discretion.
Neb. 587] 7. __:__. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-177 (Cum. Supp.
2014) gives a workers' compensation plaintiff the
explicit right to dismiss the cause without prejudice so long
as the plaintiff is represented by counsel and requests
dismissal before the final submission of the case to the
Workers' Compensation: Rules of Evidence. The Nebraska
Workers' Compensation Court is not bound by the usual
common-law or statutory rules of evidence or by any technical
or formal rules of procedure.
Workers' Compensation: Legislature: Intent: Employer and
Employee. The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act was
intended by the Legislature to simplify legal proceedings
between injured employees and their employers.
Workers' Compensation: Legislature: Courts. Changes in
the workers' compensation laws, and in the public
policies recognized in those laws, must emanate from the
lawmaking powers of the Legislature and not from the courts.
Pleadings: Dismissal and Nonsuit. An answer which merely
alleges defenses to a petition and prays for the inverse of
the relief sought by the petition does not survive after the
petition is dismissed.
Statutes. It is not within the province of a court to read a
meaning into a statute that is not warranted by the language;
neither is it within the province of a court to read anything
plain, direct, or unambiguous out of a statute.
Statutes: Legislature: Intent. In reading a statute, a court
must determine and give effect to the purpose and intent of
the Legislature as ascertained from the entire language of
the statute considered in its plain, ordinary, and popular
___: ___: ___ . Components of a series or collection of
statutes pertaining to a certain subject matter are in pari
materia and should be conjunctively considered and construed
to determine the intent of the Legislature, so that different
provisions are consistent, harmonious, and sensible.
Jurisdiction. Parties cannot confer subject matter
jurisdiction upon a judicial tribunal by either acquiescence
or consent, nor may subject matter jurisdiction be created by
waiver, estoppel, consent, or conduct of the parties.
from the Workers' Compensation Court: Daniel R. Fridrich,
L. Pattermann, T.J. Pattermann, and Harry A. Hoch III, of
Gallner & Pattermann, PC, for appellant.
Neb. 588] Joshua J. Schauer, of Perry, Guthery, Haase &
Gessford, PC, L.L.O., for appellee.
Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connelly, Miller-Lerman, Cassel,
Stacy, and Kelch, JJ.
NATURE OF CASE
an appeal from a decision of the Nebraska Workers'
Compensation Court. Appellant, Wilmer Interiano-Lopez, filed
a petition seeking benefits, and appellee, Tyson Fresh Meats,
Inc. (Tyson), filed an answer which included a purported
counterclaim. Shortly thereafter, Interiano-Lopez moved to
dismiss the action. The compensation court dismissed the
petition but proceeded to trial on Tyson's counterclaim
and found Interiano-Lopez had failed to prove a workplace
injury. Interiano-Lopez appeals. Because we conclude the
compensation court acted without authority and in excess of
its powers by proceeding to trial rather than dismissing the
cause, we vacate the judgment of the court and remand the
cause with directions to dismiss.
2013, Interiano-Lopez was living in Sioux City, Iowa, and
working for Tyson at a meatpacking plant in Dakota City,
Nebraska. One of his jobs involved cutting the stomach or
"paunch" of cows to allow the contents to fall out
as they were processed on the "dump paunch line."
October 7, 2013, Interiano-Lopez was working with a trainee.
According to Interiano-Lopez, the trainee was hanging meat
incorrectly and it was falling off the hooks as it passed
down the dump paunch line. Interiano-Lopez had to lift and
place the meat back on the hooks to complete his work, and
his hands and arms became increasingly fatigued. At one
point, a paunch fell from the hook and hit Interiano-Lopez on
the right shoulder. He felt a pop in his shoulder and began
experiencing severe pain and loss of strength in his arm.
Interiano-Lopez [294 Neb. 589] was taken to the plant
infirmary and thereafter to a hospital emergency room. He was
diagnosed with a shoulder separation and was referred for
orthopedic evaluation and treatment.
March 2014, Interiano-Lopez, through counsel, filed a
petition in the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court
seeking a determination of the rights and liabilities of the
parties regarding the accident of October 7, 2013.
Interiano-Lopez sought to be declared permanently and totally
disabled or, in the alternative, to be awarded temporary
total disability benefits, ongoing medical benefits, and
vocational rehabilitation training.
April 2014, Tyson filed an answer which included what it
characterizes as a counterclaim. Tyson's answer denied
liability, alleged Interiano-Lopez' physical problems
were caused by a preexisting condition, and alleged
Interiano-Lopez had "received some workers'
compensation benefits for which [Tyson] is entitled to a
credit." In its counterclaim, Tyson reiterated
allegations set forth in the answer and included a request
that "the Court determine [Tyson's] liabilities, if
any, and rights with respect to the alleged October 7, 2013
accident at issue in this matter."
weeks after Tyson filed its answer, the attorney for
Interiano-Lopez filed a motion to dismiss the action without
prejudice. The court subsequently entered an order of
dismissal which provided "[Interiano-Lopez']
Petition is dismissed without prejudice." After the
dismissal was entered, Interiano-Lopez filed a claim with the
Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner regarding the
October 7, 2013, injury. The record indicates both parties
considered Iowa's workers' compensation law regarding
shoulder injuries to be more favorable to Interiano-Lopez
than Nebraska's law.
the dismissal, Tyson proceeded with discovery on its
counterclaim and, when Interiano-Lopez did not answer the
discovery, Tyson filed a motion to compel in the Nebraska
Workers' Compensation Court. Interiano-Lopez opposed the
motion to compel, arguing the Nebraska action had been [294
Neb. 590] dismissed without prejudice and the discovery being
sought did not pertain to any issues being litigated in
Nebraska. The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court
sustained Tyson's motion to compel and ordered
Interiano-Lopez to respond to the discovery, adding that the
failure to comply would subject him to possible sanctions.
Interiano-Lopez subsequently answered Tyson's discovery.
Tyson was dissatisfied with the responses and filed a second
motion to compel, which the court also sustained, again
referencing the possibility of sanctions for noncompliance.
2014, the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court issued
notice that "a trial in the above cause" was set
for October 29, 2014. The court subsequently continued trial
to January 12, 2015, and ordered the parties to exchange
witness and exhibit lists and file pretrial statements.
December 2014, Interiano-Lopez filed a motion seeking to stay
the Nebraska proceedings pending resolution of the Iowa
proceedings. Interiano-Lopez again argued that his motion to
dismiss without prejudice had been granted by the court and
remaining proceedings in this action are for a claim by
[Tyson] for repayment of overpaid benefits. This can only be
determined once Iowa has determined if the injury was work
related and the appropriate benefits to be paid to . . .
Interiano-Lopez. The action here is for the same accident and
injury pending in Iowa and . . . justice would dictate these
proceedings be stayed without prejudice, pending resolution
of the Iowa action.
resisted the motion to stay, alleging:
Tyson is entitled to a determination of
[Interiano-Lopez'] rights and liabilities pursuant to the
Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act [and Interiano-Lopez]
should not be allowed to claim prejudice or controversy by
subsequently initiating proceedings in the state of Iowa in
an attempt to disgorge Tyson of its right to a determination
under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act.
Neb. 591] The Nebraska court treated Interiano-Lopez'
motion to stay as a motion to continue trial and granted it.
Tyson then filed a motion to ...