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Latzel v. Bartek - 288 Neb. 1, 846 N.W.2d 153 (2014)

Rule:

Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings and admissible evidence offered at the hearing show that there is no genuine issue as to any material facts or as to the ultimate inferences that may be drawn from those facts and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment proceedings do not resolve factual issues, but instead determine whether there is a material issue of fact in dispute. If a genuine issue of fact exists, summary judgment may not properly be entered

Facts:

Thomas Latzel died as a result of catastrophic injuries he sustained in an automobile accident between drivers Daniel J. Vanekelenburg and Patrick L. Gaughen. Thomas was a passenger in Vanekelenburg's vehicle at the time of the accident. Landowners and brothers, Ronald Bartek and Doug Bartek, owned the land to the southwest of the corner of the intersection, and they had planted corn on that land up to the ditch alongside the road. At the time of the accident, the corn had grown in excess of 7 feet high and obstructed the view of the intersection to some extent. While Thomas was still alive, his wife, Amanda Latzel, brought  this negligence action on behalf of herself and on behalf of Thomas against the drivers and the landowners. The district court for Lancaster County determined that the negligence of the drivers constituted an intervening cause as a matter of law and that therefore, Ronald and Doug were not liable. The district court granted the joint motion for summary judgment filed by the landowners, Ronald and Doug. After the remainder of the claims in the case were disposed of, Amanda appealed from the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Ronald and Doug.

Issue:

Did the district court err when it concluded that for Ronald and Doug to be the proximate cause of the accident there must be no intervening cause?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The district court did not err when it granted summary judgment in favor of the landowners, because the district court correctly determined that the actions of the drivers constituted an efficient intervening cause of the collision, which severed the causal connection between the conduct of the landowners. The Nebraska Supreme Court continued to adhere to its existing efficient intervening cause jurisprudence, which the district court correctly described.

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