LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday reduced a $2 million judgment awarded over a Sarpy County farm management dispute.
David Weyh had sued Barry Gottsch after a 10-year deal ended in which they had orally agreed, during a conversation on a hillside, to enter into a farming arrangement in which they would share the net profits equally.
Weyh provided the labor and farm management, and Gottsch, a member of a prominent cattle feeding family, arranged for the farmland, equipment and marketing, and kept the books.
Weyh, according to court records, wasn't paid a salary, but was occasionally provided "draws against future profits" with the understanding that the draws would be deducted when the farming arrangement ended and they financially settled up.
In 2014, Gottsch informed Weyh that he had decided to end the farming arrangement and it was time to settle up.
A disagreement, and a lawsuit, ensued, with Weyh maintaining that he was never told that paying cash rent on land owned by Gottsch was part of the deal, and that the amount of cash rent ever discussed. The farmer also maintained that salary paid to a hired hand was improperly credited to the farm when he was doing chores for Gottsch, such as working on cars and a pool.
During the trial, a bookkeeper for Gottsch testified that the farm profits and expenses were intermingled in an account with other personal and business expenses. She also testified that farm rent was never included as a farm expense.
Sarpy County District Judge Stefanie Martinez ruled that Gottsch owed Weyh $1.2 million in unpaid profits, as well as $972,582 in prejudgment interest.
The Supreme Court, in a 38-page ruling, upheld the damage award, but concluded that the prejudgment interest was improperly calculated. That interest should be $460,210, the court ruled.