Chase County, a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska, appellee,
City of Imperial, a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska, appellant.
Summary Judgment: Appeal and Error. In
reviewing a summary judgment, the court views the evidence in
the light most favorable to the party against whom the
judgment was granted and gives such party the benefit of all
reasonable inferences deducible from the evidence.
Declaratory Judgments: Appeal and Error. In
an appeal from a declaratory judgment, an appellate court,
regarding questions of law, has an obligation to reach its
conclusion independently of the conclusion reached by the
Administrative Law: Statutes: Appeal and
Error. The interpretation of statutes and
regulations presents questions of law, in connection with
which an appellate court has an obligation to reach an
independent conclusion irrespective of the decision made by
the court below.
Declaratory Judgments: Justiciable Issues.
Declaratory judgments are available when a present actual
controversy exists, all interested persons are parties to the
proceedings, and a justiciable issue exists for resolution.
Justiciable Issues. A justiciable issue
requires a present, substantial controversy between parties
having adverse legal interests susceptible to immediate
resolution and capable of present judicial enforcement.
Declaratory Judgments: Justiciable Issues.
At the time that the declaration is sought, there must be an
actual justiciable issue from which the court can declare law
as it applies to a given set of facts.
Declaratory Judgments. A declaratory
judgment action can afford no relief to one who has failed to
pursue a full, adequate, and exclusive statutory remedy.
Neb. 396] Petition for further review from the Court of
Appeals. Pirtle, Riedmann, and Bishop, Judges, on appeal
thereto from the District Court for Chase County, David W.
J. Wendell, of McQuillan & Wendell, PC, L.L.O., for
G. Wine, Chase County Attorney, for appellee.
R. Barry and Nathan D. Clark, of Cline, Williams, Wright,
Johnson & Oldfather, L.L.P, for amicus curiae League of
Katharine L. Gatewood, Deputy Sarpy County Attorney, for
amicus curiae Sarpy County.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and
issue presented is which governmental agency, under
Nebraska's statutory scheme, is financially responsible
for medical services received by a person who is arrested,
detained, taken into custody, or incarcerated. The district
court found that the City of Imperial, Nebraska (Imperial),
was responsible for the payment of $436 in medical costs
incurred by an arrestee. The Nebraska Court of Appeals
reversed the district court's decision and determined
Chase County, Nebraska (Chase), to be the responsible party.
Upon further review, we determine that declaratory judgment
is not available, because the record does not show the
existence of a justiciable controversy. The judgment of the
Court of Appeals is reversed with directions to reverse and
vacate the judgment of the district court.
approximately 10:30 p.m. on December 24, 2016, an Imperial
police officer arrested an individual for disturbing [302
Neb. 397] the peace and transported him to the Chase County
jail for booking. Because the arrestee was heavily
intoxicated and belligerent and was unable to answer
questions during the booking process, the jail personnel
requested that the arrestee be medically cleared before he
was admitted into the jail facility. The arresting officer
transported the arrestee to the Chase County hospital for a
physical examination, which indicated that the arrestee had
no medical conditions that would endanger another person or
himself if placed in the jail. Shortly after midnight, the
arresting officer returned the arrestee to the jail with a
medical authorization form, the arrestee cooperated with the
booking process, the agencies completed a custody
authorization form, and the admission process was finalized.
these events, the hospital submitted a medical bill in the
amount of $436 to Chase, and later to Imperial. Each party
declined payment and contended that the other party was
responsible for the payment.
filed an action for declaratory judgment in district court
and moved for summary judgment, seeking a determination that
Imperial was solely responsible for the medical charges. The
district court granted the motion based on its interpretation
of Nebraska's statutory scheme governing the payment of
medical services for persons who are arrested, detained,
taken into custody, or incarcerated. The court also based its
decision on the "Standards for Jail Facilities''
court's order laid out the relevant statutory provisions,
beginning with § 47-701(1), which provides:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, sections
47-701 to 47-705 shall govern responsibility for payment of
the costs of medical services for any person ill, wounded,
injured, or otherwise in need [302 Neb. 398] of such services
at the time such person is arrested, detained, taken into
custody, or incarcerated." Section 47-702 sets forth
that the recipient of the medical services, or the
individual's insurer or another available source, is
primarily responsible for the payment of medical services.
Upon a showing that the recipient or its insurer cannot pay
the medical provider in whole or in part, § 47-703(1)
provides that "the costs of medical services shall be
paid by the appropriate governmental agency." The
district court proceeded to determine whether Chase or
Imperial was "the appropriate governmental agency"
to be held responsible for the medical costs.
first sentence of § 47-703(2) provides that medical
services necessitated by injuries or wounds suffered during
the course of apprehension or arrest shall be paid by
"the apprehending or arresting agency and not the agency
responsible for operation of the institution or facility in
which the recipient of the services is lodged." The
second sentence of § 47-703(2) provides that "[i]n
all other cases, the appropriate governmental agency shall be
the agency responsible for operation of the institution or
facility in which the recipient of the services is
court determined that the medical charges were not for
injuries suffered during the arrest and were not for medical
services required for an individual confined in jail. The
court articulated that "[t]he determining factor to
transfer the obligation from the arresting agency to the