Nevada Equitable and Legal Claims at Trial


On December 27, 2007 the Nevada Supreme Court clarified in Awada v. Shuffle Master, Inc., 123 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 57, the manner in which a Nevada District Court may handle mixed claims for legal and equitable relief at trial and found as follows:

In this appeal, we consider the primary issue of whether a district court has the authority to bifurcate the legal and equitable claims presented in a single action, conduct a bench trial on an equitable claim, and then use the findings of fact and conclusions of law from that bench trial to dispose of the case. On this issue of first impression, we conclude that Nevada district courts have discretion to bifurcate legal and equitable claims in a single action and to first conduct a bench trial on an equitable claim. Furthermore, a district court that exercises such discretion may then use its findings of fact and conclusions of law as a basis for disposing of claims remaining in the case, so long as it does so in a manner consistent with Nevada law and our rules of civil procedure.

We also consider whether the district court abused its discretion by sua sponte disposing of the remaining claims in a summary judgment-like manner after conducting a bench trial on respondents' counterclaim for rescission. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it first considered respondents' counterclaim for rescission and rescinded the parties' agreement. Based on its findings and conclusions, the district court properly disposed of all of appellants' contract-based claims against respondent Shuffle Master, Inc., because those claims could not stand absent a valid contract. However, the district court improperly granted summary judgment as to the claims against respondent Mark Yoseloff and appellants' remaining claims against Shuffle Master because those claims can survive absent a valid contract between the parties. Additionally, the district court erred in resolving those claims without satisfying the procedural requirements of NRCP 56.

Accordingly, we affirm the district court's judgment as to appellants' claims for breach of contract and contract-based claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; we reverse the district court's judgment as to appellants' claims for fraud, civil conspiracy, conversion, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference with contractual relations/prospective economic advantage and as to appellants' claims against Yoseloff; and we remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.