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Nelssen v. Ritchie

Supreme Court of Nebraska

October 25, 2019

Pamela Nelssen, appellant,
v.
Hal T. Ritchie, appellee.

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

         2. Equity: Estoppel. Although a party can raise estoppel claims in both legal and equitable actions, estoppel doctrines have their roots in equity.

         3. Equity: Appeal and Error. In reviewing judgments and orders disposing of claims sounding in equity, an appellate court decides factual questions de novo on the record and reaches independent conclusions on questions of fact and law.

         4. Legislature: Intent. The intent of the Legislature is expressed by omission as well as by inclusion.

         5. Equity: Estoppel. The doctrine of equitable estoppel applies where, as a result of conduct of a party upon which another person has in good faith relied to his or her detriment, the acting party is absolutely precluded, both at law and in equity, from asserting rights which might have otherwise existed.

         6.___:___. The elements of equitable estoppel are, as to the party estopped: (1) conduct which amounts to a false representation or concealment of material facts, or at least which is calculated to convey the impression that the facts are otherwise than, and inconsistent with, those which the party subsequently attempts to assert; (2) the intention, or at least the expectation, that such conduct shall be acted upon by, or influence, the other party or other persons; and (3) knowledge, actual or constructive, of the real facts. As to the other party, the elements are: (1) lack of knowledge and of the means of knowledge of the truth as to the facts in question; (2) reliance, in good faith, upon the conduct or statements of the party to be estopped; and (3) action or inaction based thereon of such a character as to change the position or [304 Neb. 347] status of the party claiming the estoppel, to his or her injury, detriment, or prejudice.

         7. Waiver: Words and Phrases. Waiver is a voluntary and intentional relinquishment of a known right, privilege, or claim.

         8. Waiver: Estoppel. To establish a waiver of a legal right, there must be a clear, unequivocal, and decisive act of a party showing such a purpose, or acts amounting to an estoppel on his or her part.

          Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: Lori A. Maret, Judge. Affirmed.

          Robert B. Creager, of Anderson, Creager & Wittstruck, PC, for appellant.

          David L. Welch and Kellie Chesire Olson, of Pansing, Hogan, Ernst & Bachman, L.L.P., for appellee.

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

          PAPIK, J.

         Over 2 decades ago, Pamela Nelssen obtained a judgment against Hal T. Ritchie. Nelssen never executed on the judgment, but Ritchie made payments to her for many years. After Ritchie stopped making payments, Nelssen filed a motion to revive the judgment. The district court overruled Nelssen's motion on the ground that the statutory deadline to revive the dormant judgment had expired. Nelssen now appeals the district court's decision. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Initial Judgment.

         This dispute arises out of a judgment Nelssen obtained against Ritchie in the district court for Lancaster County in 1996. The record suggests that Nelssen sued Ritchie for failure to pay amounts owed under a promissory note, that Ritchie failed to respond to the lawsuit, and that Nelssen obtained the judgment as a result of Ritchie's default. The judgment was in the amount of $200, 000, plus 6 percent interest.

         [304 Neb. 348] Ritchie did not immediately satisfy the judgment, and Nelssen did not immediately execute on it. Instead, Ritchie made payments to Nelssen beginning in 1996 and ending in 2017. ...


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