Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. A
jurisdictional question which does not involve a factual
dispute is determined by an appellate court as a matter of
Contracts. Contract interpretation presents
a question of law.
Judgments: Appeal and Error. Appellate
courts independently review questions of law decided by a
Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Before
reaching the legal issues presented for review, it is the
duty of an appellate court to determine whether it has
jurisdiction over the matter before it.
Final Orders: Appeal and Error. Under Neb.
Rev. Stat. § 25-1902 (Reissue 2016), there are three
types of final orders which may be reviewed on appeal: (1) an
order which affects a substantial right and which determines
the action and prevents a judgment, (2) an order affecting a
substantial right made during a special proceeding, and (3)
an order affecting a substantial right made on summary
application in an action after judgment is rendered.
__:__. Numerous factors determine when an order affects a
substantial right for purposes of appeal. Broadly, these
factors relate to the importance of the right and the
importance of the effect on the right by the order at issue.
It is not enough that the right itself be substantial; the
effect of the order on that right must also be substantial.
Whether the effect of an order is substantial depends on
whether it affects with finality the rights of the parties in
the subject matter.
Jurisdiction: Time: Notice: Appeal and
Error. Under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1912 (Reissue
2016), to vest an appellate court with jurisdiction, a party
must timely file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the
judgment, decree, or final order from which the party is
Debtors and Creditors: Releases. The
voluntary release of one joint debtor operates as a release
of his or her codebtors.
Neb. 581] 9. Promissory Notes: Releases. The
unconditional release of one of several makers of a joint and
several promissory note, without the consent of the other
makers thereof, operates as a release of all.
Contracts: Releases. Under the common-law
rule as it has developed in Nebraska, the qualifiers that
releases must be "voluntary" and
"unconditional" require consideration of general
principles of contract interpretation when determining
whether the common-law rule is applicable. Generally, the
question is whether the language of the release at issue is
unqualified such that it amounts to a complete satisfaction
of the debt, or whether the language of the release is
qualified such that it operates as merely a partial
satisfaction of the debt.
Releases. The general rule of law is that a
promise to release does not take effect until the agreed
promise is completed.
Judgments: Debtors and Creditors: Releases.
A judgment creditor may make a valid and binding agreement,
either at the time a judgment is entered or later, to release
and satisfy the judgment on terms other than receiving full
payment of its amount. If the agreement to release or satisfy
is executory, there is no release of the judgment until it is
performed. The corollary to this rule is that once the
relevant promises are performed, the agreement to release
Courts. The doctrine of stare decisis forms
the bedrock of Nebraska's common-law jurisprudence.
Courts: Appeal and Error. The doctrine of
stare decisis does not require appellate courts to blindly
perpetuate a prior interpretation of the law if it was
clearly incorrect, but it is entitled to great weight and
requires that the courts adhere to their previous decisions
unless the reasons therefor have ceased to exist, are clearly
erroneous, or are manifestly wrong and mischievous or unless
more harm than good will result from doing so.
Courts: Public Policy: Appeal and Error. The
doctrine of stare decisis is grounded in the public policy
that the law should be stable, fostering both equality and
predictability of treatment. By requiring appellate courts to
adhere to their previous decisions in most circumstances, the
doctrine of stare decisis promotes the evenhanded,
predictable, and consistent development of legal principles,
fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to
the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.
from the District Court for Douglas County: Shelly R.
Stratman, Judge. Reversed and remanded with directions.
R. Whitted, Jr., and Keith A. Harvat, of Houghton. Bradford
& Whitted, PC, L.L.O., for appellant.
Neb. 582] Larry R. Forman, of Hillman, Forman, Childers &
McCormack for appellee Eric Cano.
Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy. Kelch,
and Funke, JJ.
an appeal from an order denying a motion to discharge
judgment filed by one of two judgment debtors who were
co-obligors on a promissory note. The issues raised by the
parties require us to consider the applicability, and
continued viability, of the common-law rule in contracts that
:"[t]he unconditional release of one of
several makers of a joint and several promissory note,
without the consent of the other makers thereof, operates as
a release of all.'" We conclude the rule represents
settled law in Nebraska, and we find it should have been
applied by the district court in this case. Accordingly, we
reverse, and remand with directions to discharge the
Cano filed suit against Michael Walker and Billy E. Claborn,
Jr., in October 2012, alleging they had failed to pay amounts
due on a promissory note executed in April 2007. Cano prayed
for judgment against them "jointly and severally"
in the amount of $299, 500, plus interest and penalties. All
parties agree the promissory note imposed joint and several
liability on Walker and Claborn.
moved for summary judgment in October 2013. The matter was
heard on November 12. At the hearing, Cano represented that
the amounts due on the note were $299, 500 in principal, a
late charge of $14, 975, and interest of $72, 958.20, for a
total of $387, 433.20. On November 20, [297 Neb. 583] the
court entered summary judgment in favor of Cano and against
both Walker and Claborn for $387, 433.20.
did not tell the court at the summary judgment hearing that
he and Claborn had entered into a "Stipulation" on
November 11, 2013, without Walker's knowledge. According
to the terms of the stipulation, Claborn agreed to entry of
judgment against him for the full amount due on the note, and
agreed to pay $40, 000 immediately and an additional $127,
000 by June 2, 2014. Claborn also agreed to provide a new
furnace and an air-conditioning unit for Cano's residence
in Omaha, Nebraska, on or before December 13, 2013. The
parties later agreed this was worth approximately $10, 000.
In exchange for these payments and services, Cano agreed not
to execute on the judgment against Claborn so long as he
complied with the stipulation, and further agreed that
"[u]pon satisfaction by Claborn with the terms [of the
stipulation], Cano shall forthwith release Claborn completely
from such judgment ....''
the court entered judgment on the promissory note, Cano
attempted to execute on the judgment against Walker in
various ways, representing that Walker owed the full amount
of the judgment. Walker actively avoided the execution
attempts and was held in contempt of court at least once.
17, 2014, Cano filed what he captioned a
"Satisfaction" in the case, which stated in full:
"COMES NOW the Plaintiff and shows the Court that the
Defendant Billy E. Claborn, Jr. has fully satisfied the
Judgment against him in the above-captioned case, provided
that the Judgment entered herein against Defendant Michael
Walker remains unsatisfied." After filing this
satisfaction, Cano continued his attempts to collect the
judgment from Walker, and Walker continued to evade
November 2015, Cano attempted once again to collect the
judgment against Walker by seeking an order in aid of
execution from the court. Walker filed an objection, raising
for the first time the argument that satisfaction of the [297
Neb. 584] judgment against Claborn operated to satisfy the
judgment against Walker as well.
the hearing on Walker's objection to Cano's request
for an order in aid of execution, the parties argued about
the legal effect of the satisfaction Cano had filed. Cano
argued the satisfaction operated only as against Claborn,
because it stated the judgment "remain[ed]
unsatisfied" as against Walker. Walker relied on
Nebraska case law holding that '"[t]he unconditional
release of one of several makers of a joint and several
promissory note, without the consent of the other makers
thereof, operates as a release of
court commented that based on the court record, it appeared
the entire judgment had been paid. In response to this
comment, Cano's counsel, for the first time, informed the
court and Walker he had made a "deal" with Claborn
to pay $167, 000 "in exchange for a release." Upon
learning of the agreement and release, the court informed
Cano that the order in aid of execution would be denied and
that further proceedings were necessary.
Walker filed a motion to discharge the judgment, premised on
the common-law rule that the release of one joint obligor on
a promissory note operates to release all. After holding an
evidentiary hearing, the district court overruled
Walker's motion for discharge, but exercised its inherent
authority to reduce the amount of the judgment by $40,
000-the amount the record showed Claborn had paid to Cano
before the summary judgment was entered on the full amount of
the promissory note.
filed this timely appeal, and we moved the case to our docket
on our own motion pursuant to our statutory authority to
regulate the caseloads of the appellate courts of this
Neb. 585] II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR
assigns, restated and consolidated, that the district court
erred in (1) finding the stipulation between Cano and Claborn
did not release both Walker and Claborn from the judgment;
(2) finding the satisfaction filed in luly 2014 did not
satisfy the judgment entered against both Walker and Claborn;
(3) determining it had the inherent power to change the
amount of the judgment entered on November 20, 2013; and (4)
failing to discharge the judgment against Walker.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
jurisdictional question which does not involve a factual
dispute is determined by an ...