March 7, 2017: After nearly six years of litigation, Adam R. Little successfully defended a divorce decree that was appealed by his client’s former spouse in Lisec v. Lisec, 24 Neb.App. 572 (2017), bringing much needed closure to his client. The case presented an opportunity for the Nebraska Court of Appeals to clarify the law with respect to the pleading requirements for a counterclaim and a Defendant’s right to proceed on their claim even if the Plaintiff voluntarily dismisses their claims.
The case began nearly six years prior when Wife filed for divorce in 2011, and the Husband filed a responsive pleading that stated a claim and sought relief. Mere weeks before trial, Wife dismissed her case and immediately re-filed in a different county. However, Husband sought to reinstate the case in Lancaster County because he filed a proper counterclaim which could not be dismissed by the Plaintiff. The Honorable Jodi Nelson agreed, reinstating the case and moving it towards trial. Wife unsuccessfully attempted to appeal that decision, which was rejected as not an appealable final order.
The case was eventually tried and a decree was entered dissolving the parties’ marriage and equitably dividing their estate. Wife appealed the decision, arguing that Judge Nelson improperly reinstated the case, that there was no counterclaim on file, and that even if there was jurisdiction, the ultimate division of the marital estate was not equitable.
The Court of Appeals soundly rejected all of her claims, specifically holding that the trial court properly exercised its inherent power to vacate or modify a judgment during the term it was issued when it reinstated the case on Husband’s counterclaim. The Court further held that a counterclaim does not require the specific title of “counterclaim,” but merely must contain a caption, a short plain statement of the claim showing that the claimant is entitled to relief, and a request for relief. After resolving the jurisdiction issue, the Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Nelson’s decision in all respects.
Adam also won an attorney fee award of $5,000 for his client in defending this appeal.
The Court of Appeals’ full opinion can be read here.