Rachel Eadie and Jeffrey Blount, individually and as parents and natural guardians of their minor children, jaden and zarah, appellants.
Leise Properties, LLC, and Certified Properties Management, Inc., appellees.
Motions to Dismiss: Appeal and Error. An
appellate court reviews a district court's order granting
a motion to dismiss de novo, accepting the allegations in the
complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in
favor of the nonmoving party.
Negligence. The question whether a legal
duty exists for actionable negligence is a question of law
dependent on the facts in a particular situation.
Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing
questions of law, an appellate court has an obligation to
resolve the questions independently of the conclusion reached
by the trial court.
Pleadings: Appeal and Error. An appellate
court reviews a district court's denial of a motion for
leave to amend a complaint for an abuse of discretion.
However, an appellate court reviews de novo an underlying
legal conclusion that the proposed amendments would be
Actions: Pleadings: Notice. Civil actions
are controlled by a liberal pleading regime; a party is only
required to set forth a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and is
not required to plead legal theories or cite appropriate
statutes so long as the pleading gives fair notice of the
Motions to Dismiss: Pleadings. To prevail
against a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a
plaintiff must allege sufficient facts, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. In
cases in which a plaintiff does not or cannot allege specific
facts showing a necessary element, the factual allegations,
taken as true, are nonetheless plausible if they suggest the
existence of the element and [300 Neb. 142] raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of
the element or claim.
Negligence: Damages: Proximate Cause. In
order to prevail in a negligence action, a plaintiff must
establish the defendant's duty to protect the plaintiff
from injury, a failure to discharge that duty, and damages
proximately caused by the failure to discharge that duty.
Negligence. The threshold issue in any
negligence action is whether the defendant owes a legal duty
to the plaintiff.
Pleadings. A district court's denial of
leave to amend pleadings is appropriate only in those limited
circumstances in which undue delay, bad faith on the part of
the moving party, futility of the amendment, or unfair
prejudice to the nonmoving party can be demonstrated.
Motions to Dismiss: Limitations of Actions.
A dismissal without prejudice means that another petition may
be filed against the same parties upon the same facts as long
as it is filed within the applicable statute of limitations.
Motions to Dismiss: Claim Preclusion. A
dismissal with prejudice operates as a rejection of the
plaintiff's claims on the merits and claim preclusion
bars further litigation.
Motions to Dismiss: Pleadings. As a general
rule, when a court grants a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, a party should be given leave to amend absent
undue delay, bad faith, unfair prejudice, or futility.
Appeal and Error. An appellate court is not
obligated to engage in an analysis which is not needed to
adjudicate the controversy before it.
from the District Court for Douglas County: Thomas A. Otepka,
Judge. Reversed and remanded with direction.
Martin Davis, of Davis Law Office, for appellants.
Stephen G. Olson II, Robert S. Keith, and Kristina J. Kamler,
of Engles, Ketcham, Olson & Keith, P.C., for appellee
Leise Properties, LLC.
Patrick S. Cooper, David J. Stubstad, and Brandon J. Crainer,
of Fraser Stryker, PC, L.L.O., for appellee Certified
Property Management, Inc.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, and Stacy, JJ., and
Luther and O'Gorman, District Judges.
Neb. 143] PER CURIAM.
natural gas explosion at a rental house injured the next-door
neighbors and destroyed the neighbors' house, and they
sued based upon a negligence theory. Less than 5 months after
the action commenced, without providing a postresponse
opportunity to amend and based upon a no-duty-owed
conclusion, the district court dismissed the neighbors'
amended complaint with prejudice. Because amendment to state
a claim was plausible, the district court abused its
discretion in dismissing the complaint with prejudice. We
reverse, and remand with direction.
rental house next door to the house where Rachel Eadie and
Jeffrey Blount and their children (collectively the
neighbors) resided blew up on July 25, 2016. The neighbors
sued the rental house's landowner, Leise Properties, LLC,
and its property manager, Certified Property Management, Inc.
The suit was filed on December 15, 2016. On January 27, 2017,
before any response was filed, the neighbors filed an amended
complaint, which we summarize.
amended complaint was not a model of clarity, particularly
regarding the allegations of negligence. But some of the
basic allegations were clear. The rental house that blew up
was located at 3858 North 68th Street in Omaha, Nebraska. The
neighbors' address was 3862 North 65th Street, contiguous
to the rental house property. The neighbors' house was
destroyed, and they suffered personal injuries in the
prior to the date of the explosion, the landowner and its
property manager had evicted tenants from the rental house.
The evicted tenants removed items from the rental house,
including a gas clothes dryer that did not belong to the
tenants. The tenants allegedly removed the dryer without
properly terminating and blocking the gas connection, and
natural [300 Neb. 144] gas was allowed to seep into and fill
the rental house. On July 25, 2016, when an agent of the
property manager entered the rental house, the gas ignited
and the rental house exploded. The force of the explosion
destroyed the neighbors' house and caused personal
injuries to the neighbors.
duty, the amended complaint alleged that the landowner
delegated to the property manager "duties . . . of
reasonable care." The amended complaint stated that the
evicted tenants were "permitted to remove property and
to disconnect the gas dryer without permission to do so
without proper supervision and due diligence and care by
failing to monitor, observe, and to prevent the gas
leakage." Later, the complaint stated that the landowner
and its property manager "acted in reckless disregard
for the safety of neighbors . . . by failing to properly
monitor the actions of the tenants who were permitted to
re-enter the . . . rental home after eviction and to cause
gas to escape." It also stated that the "seepage of
gas is one duty that the [landowner and property manager]
evaded and permitted to occur." The complaint next
alleged a duty to "properly maintain and pursue ...