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Palmtag v. Gartner Construction Co.

513 N.W.2d 495 (1994)

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Palmtag v. Gartner Construction Co.

Nebraska Supreme Court

513 N.W.2d 495 (1994)

Facts

Janet Palmtag (plaintiff) and her husband, John Palmtag, purchased a home and hired Gartner Construction Co. (defendant) to remodel it. The Palmtags and Gartner had an oral agreement in which the Palmtags would pay Gartner for time and materials. The Palmtags did not live in the home during the renovations. Instead, they gave the keys to Gartner, and the Palmtags regularly visited the home to monitor the progress. The house was usually left open, and the Gartner employees never attempted to limit or restrict where the Palmtags could go within the house. As part of the renovations, Gartner removed a spiral staircase leading to the basement. David Njus, a Gartner employee, removed the staircase, leaving the floor in the immediate area unsupported; placed a plywood board over the opening; and put up a wire barricade that did not contain any warnings or prevent someone from walking on the board. The Palmtags visited the home shortly after the staircase was removed. Janet walked on the plywood board near the wire barricade, and she fell through and hit the basement floor. Janet was eight months pregnant at the time and sustained serious injuries, although her baby was born at full term. The Palmtags sued Gartner. At trial, an expert for the Palmtags testified that Njus’s removal of the staircase was negligently performed and the wire barricade did not meet industry standards. The trial court determined that the Palmtags were invitees as a matter of law, and the jury found in favor of the Palmtags. Gartner appealed, arguing that the Palmtags were licensees.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Caporale, J.)

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