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Legal Memorandum: Grounds for the Reopening of a Case

Issue: What grounds may a party assert to support a potential motion to reopen a case to consider the issue of attorney’s fees?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Reopening a case; Attorney's fees
Jurisdiction: Nebraska
Cited Cases: 204 N.W.2d 379; 268 Neb. 722; 687 N.W.2d 672; 189 Neb. 654; 536 N.W.2d 68; 266 Neb. 377
Cited Statutes: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1142, § 25-1329
Date: 07/01/2007

Whether to allow a party to reopen a case once judgment has been entered is within the sound discretion of the trial court.  Bennett v. Bennett, 189 Neb. 654, 656, 204 N.W.2d 379, 381 (1973).  Thus, in Bennett, where, the court observed, “[t]he motion to reopen the case was not made until after the case had been decided” and was for the purpose of introducing evidence that “would have been cumulative only,” the plaintiff’s request to reopen was properly denied.  Id. at 656-57, 204 N.W.2d at 381.

As the Bennett case suggests, motions to reopen are usually made for the purpose of introducing additional evidence.  In Roach v. East, No. A-98-213 (Neb. Ct. App. Jan. 19, 1999) (unpublished), for instance, the day after the trial court entered its order, Roach filed a motion for new trial as well as a motion to reopen the evidence, alleging that “pertinent and germane evidence was not forthcoming” during the original trial.  The trial court denied the motion, and Roach appealed.   

On appeal, the Nebraska appellate court observed, as in Bennett, that the decision whether to reopen a case to receive additional evidence is within the discretion of the district court (citing Jessen v. DeFord, 3 Neb. App. 940, 536 N.W.2d 68 (1995)).  The factors traditionally considered in determining whether to allow a party to reopen a case include:

(1) the reason for the failure to introduce the […]

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