Barney v. Platte Valley Public Power and Irrigation District – Case Brief Summary (Nebraska)

In Barney v. Platte Valley Public Power and Irrigation District, 147 Neb. 375, 23 N.W.2d 335 (1946), answer day was June 18, and no answer was filed. On June 29, after evidence was offered, default judgment was taken for money and equitable relief. On July 13, the defendant filed a motion to vacate the judgment, and then shortly thereafter, affidavits showing a meritorious defense were produced.

In Barney, the president of the defendant's board of directors was served, but he thought the general manager was advised of the suit so he did nothing.

The defendant's regular counsel did not learn of the suit until after judgment was taken. The trial court overruled the motion to vacate, which was reversed by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

In so doing, the Barney court stated: "'It is the spirit and policy of the law to give every party an opportunity to prosecute or defend his case in court, and courts will never deny such right except for the fault or gross laches of such party or his authorized attorney.'" 147 Neb. at 380, 23 N.W.2d at 338.

The court concluded that the action of the president of the board of directors and the superintendent of power and irrigation in failing to advise those who handle such matters was not so inexcusable that it should affect the defendant's right to trial. The case seems to hold that neglect is excusable unless it is "gross laches."