Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Patterson v. Metropolitan Utilities District

Supreme Court of Nebraska

March 8, 2019

Beverly Patterson, appellant.
v.
Metropolitan Utilities District, appellee.

         1. Motions to Dismiss: Pleadings: Appeal and Error. A district court's grant of a motion to dismiss on the pleadings is reviewed de novo, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.

         2. Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory interpretation presents a question of law, for which an appellate court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the decision made by the court below.

         3. Tort Claims Act: Actions: Time. If a claimant brings his or her claim before a claims board under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 81-8, 227(1) (Reissue 2014) of the State Tort Claims Act and elects to await final disposition instead of withdrawing the claim to file suit, a 6-month extension from the mailing of a denial applies regardless of whether final disposition was made before or after the 2-year limitation for suits.

         4. Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act: Actions: Time. There are only two exceptions which extend the 2-year limitation for filing suit by 6 months under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 13-919(1) (Reissue 2012): (1) where the governmental subdivision takes some action on the claim before the 2 years have expired but at a time when less than 6 months remain for filing suit and (2) if the claimant withdraws the claim within the 2-year period but at a time when less than 6 months to file suit remain.

          Appeal from the District Court for Douglas County: J. Michael Coffey, Judge.

          Daniel Wasson, of High & Younes, L.L.C., for appellant.

         [302 Neb. 443] Joseph J. Kehm, of Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha, for appellee.

          Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

          Funke, J.

         Beverly Patterson appeals the district court's order dismissing her claim against Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) with prejudice. Patterson challenges the court's determination that her claim is time barred under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (PSTCA).[1] Patterson contends that § 13-919(1) provides a 6-month extension to the 2-year limitation for suits arising under PSTCA if the claimant brings the claim before a political subdivision and its governing body issues a final disposition denying the claim after the 2-year period has lapsed. Because Patterson's argument is contrary to long-settled precedent and is based upon a flawed premise, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 30, 2015, Patterson was visiting her sister in Omaha, Nebraska. After parking across the street from her sister's home, Patterson stepped onto the road verge and onto a manhole cover. The cover slipped from underneath Patterson's feet, and she fell into the manhole injuring her right ankle and knee. Patterson alleges this was caused by the negligence of an MUD worker who had previously removed the cover for meter-reading purposes and who failed to properly secure the cover upon completion of his or her work.

         On July 17, 2015, Patterson filed a notice of tort claim with MUD. Patterson sent a demand to MUD pursuant to this action in June 2016 and a revised demand in April 2017. On September 13, MUD denied Patterson's claim.

         Patterson filed a complaint with the district court on November 3, 2017. In the complaint, Patterson asserts MUD [302 Neb. 444] owed Patterson a nondelegable duty to exercise due care in maintaining the manhole covers which MUD's workers access. Patterson contends that the meter reader's actions created an unreasonable risk of harm in failing to secure the cover. Specifically, Patterson alleges MUD was negligent in the following actions: (1) failure to use due care to inspect, discover, and cure the dangerous conditions of a loose manhole cover when MUD had actual or constructive knowledge of the cover's being loose in that MUD's employee created the condition; (2) failure to keep the road verge safe for pedestrians on a public walkway; (3) failure to train and instruct employees to regularly monitor and maintain the manhole covers they access to perform their duties; and (4) failure to warn pedestrians of the dangerous condition, or guard or cordon off the area. Due to this negligence, Patterson alleges she sustained injuries.

         MUD filed a motion to dismiss Patterson's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In its motion, MUD contends the complaint was not filed within the statute of limitations proscribed by PSTCA. MUD argues § 13-919(1) requires that a suit be filed under PSTCA within 2 years of the accrual of the claim unless, before the expiration of that 2-year period, the governing body which hears the initial claim issues its final disposition or the claimant files a written withdrawal of the claim before the governing body. In that case, MUD argues, the claimant would have 6 additional months in which to file suit. Here, because Patterson did not voluntarily withdraw her claim before MUD and because MUD did not issue a final disposition until after the running of the 2-year period, MUD asserts Patterson's claim is time barred as outside the statute of limitations without satisfying the conditions precedent necessary for the 6-month extension.

         The district court granted MUD's motion. The court's order notes that § 13-906 allows a claimant to withdraw his or her claim if the governing body has not made a final disposition of the claim within 6 months after it is filed and that § 13-919(1) [302 Neb. 445] bars any lawsuit arising out of a tort claim unless it is begun within 2 years after such claim accrued. Applying these statutes to Patterson's claim, the court stated its findings that "[t]here is no evidence nor is there an allegation that [Patterson] ever withdrew her claim in writing which is a condition precedent to filing suit. In addition, suit was filed more than two years after [Patterson's] claim accrued and therefore is barred pursuant to ... § 13-919 (1)." The court dismissed Patterson's claim with prejudice.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         Patterson assigns, restated, that the district court erred in dismissing Patterson's claim and determining that Patterson's complaint was time barred under § 13-919(1) and that Patterson failed to satisfy a condition precedent to filing suit when she did not voluntarily withdraw her claim.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A district court's grant of a motion to dismiss on the pleadings is reviewed de novo, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.[2]

         Statutory interpretation presents a question of law, for which an appellate court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the decision made by the court below.[3]

         ANALYSIS

         Patterson's assignments center on the question of whether § 13-919(1) provides an additional 6-month period in which to file suit if the claimant does not withdraw his or her claim from the political subdivision's governing board before the expiration of the 2-year limitation on commencement of a suit [302 Neb. 446] and the governing board thereafter issues a denial of the claim. Long ago, we settled the meaning of § 13-919(1). But before turning to that case law, we recall basic claim filing procedures and consequences under PSTCA.

         Before filing suit under PSTCA, a claimant is required to first bring his or her claim before the governing body of the political subdivision at issue.[4] The claim must be in writing and must set forth the time and place of the occurrence giving rise to the claim and other known facts pertinent to the claim.[5] The primary purpose of notice provisions in connection with actions against political subdivisions is to afford municipal authorities prompt notice of the accident and injury in order that an investigation may be made while the occurrence is still fresh and the municipal authorities ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.