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Nelson v. Dolan

Nebraska Supreme Court
434 N.W.2d 25 (1989)


Seventeen-year-old Robert James Nelson (Robert) was driving a motorcycle with Kevin Coffin on the back when Paul Dolan (defendant) began following them in his car. Robert attempted to lose Dolan, who responded by speeding up and following the motorcycle more closely. At one point, Dolan was just one or two feet behind the motorcycle. After Coffin slapped the hood of Dolan’s vehicle, Dolan slowed down. He then sped up and struck the motorcycle. The two vehicles became locked upon impact. They moved in tandem for about five seconds when the motorcycle hit a light post and fell beneath Dolan’s car. Robert was killed instantly. His mother, Phyllis Nelson (plaintiff), filed a wrongful-death action on behalf of Robert’s next of kin and a separate survival action on behalf of Robert’s estate. Prior to trial, the judge sustained Dolan’s motion in limine precluding Nelson from offering evidence of (1) the mental anguish suffered by Robert in the moments preceding his death and (2) the mental pain and suffering sustained by Phyllis on account of Robert’s death. Dolan admitted that his negligence caused Robert’s death. A jury awarded Nelson $37,968.26. She appealed the trial court’s preclusion of evidence of pain and suffering.

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Holding and Reasoning (Caporale, J.)

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