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John Inserra
John Inserra
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Guest Statute in Nebraska is Constitutional

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The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the guest statute constitutional in the case of Le v Lautrub.

Section 25-21,237, as amended in 1981, controls this case. Section 25-21,237 provides:

The owner or operator of a motor vehicle shall not be liable for any damages to any passenger or person related to such owner or operator as spouse or within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity who is riding in such motor vehicle as a guest or by invitation and not for hire, unless such damage is caused by (1) the driver of such motor vehicle being under the influence of intoxicating liquor or (2) the gross negligence of the owner or operator in the operation of such motor vehicle.
For the purpose of this section, the term guest is hereby defined as being a person who accepts a ride in any motor vehicle without giving compensation therefor but shall not be construed to apply to or include any such passenger in a motor vehicle being demonstrated to such passenger as a prospective purchaser. Relationship by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree shall include parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, and brothers and sisters. Should the marriage of the driver or owner be terminated by death or dissolution, the [affinal] relationship with the blood kindred of his or her spouse shall be deemed to continue.

The argument made by the injured person was that the statute violates the equal protection clause of Nebraska Constiution by singling out a class of individuals from a group without any legitimate governmental purpose. It was alleged that passengers in vehicles as a whole are entitled to bring a negligence lawsuit against a driver, but relatives who are passengers cannot do so. The court found :

we conclude that § 25-21,237 does not violate the equal protection clause of the Nebraska Constitution. In our cases prior to 1981 concluding that the guest statute was constitutional under an equal protection analysis, the primary legitimate governmental interests behind the guest statute were identified as “the promotion of hospitality, and the prevention of fraud and collusion.”

There were dissents filed to this opinion.