Doak v. Milbauer, 83-433

Citation343 N.W.2d 751,216 Neb. 331
Decision Date27 January 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-433,83-433
PartiesSandra DOAK, Appellant, v. Michael MILBAUER, Appellee.
CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska

Syllabus by the Court

1. Constitutional Law: Statutes. Where a statute is susceptible of two constructions, under one of which the statute is valid, while under the other it is unconstitutional or of doubtful validity, that construction which gives it validity should be adopted.

2. Paternity: Limitations of Actions. The 4-year period of limitations embodied in Neb.Rev.Stat. § 13-111 (Reissue 1977) bars an adult mother, through a cause of action brought on her own behalf, from establishing the paternity of her child born out of lawful wedlock to recover her own damages; however, such period of limitations does not operate to bar a cause of action brought on such a minor child's behalf by a guardian or next friend to secure the child's rights.

Gary R. Pearson, Lincoln, and Joe Kelly, Deputy Lancaster County Atty., Lincoln, for appellant.

Hal W. Anderson of Berry, Anderson, Creager & Wittstruck, Lincoln, for appellee.


CAPORALE, Justice:

Plaintiff-appellant, Sandra Doak, filed this action on October 14, 1981, praying, inter alia, that defendant-appellee, Michael Milbauer, be declared the father of a child born unto her on August 15, 1972. The trial court sustained Milbauer's demurrer, dismissed the action, and overruled Doak's motion for a new trial. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Doak assigns as error the dismissal of her amended petition, because, she argues, the 4-year period of limitations embodied in the pertinent statute is unconstitutional. More specifically, Doak claims that the period of limitations denies children born out of lawful wedlock due process and equal protection of the law in that the right of such children to support from the natural father is limited in a manner different from that of children born in lawful wedlock. Such differing treatment, argues Doak, violates the fourteenth amendment, § 1, of the U.S. Constitution and article I, §§ 1 and 3, of the Nebraska Constitution.

The pertinent statute, Neb.Rev.Stat. § 13-111 (Reissue 1977), reads as follows: "A civil proceeding to establish the paternity of a child may be instituted in any district court of the district where the child is domiciled or found, by the mother of such child, either during pregnancy or within four years after its birth, or by the guardian or next friend of such child. Summons shall issue and be served as in other civil proceedings, except that such summons may be directed to the sheriff of any county in the state and may be served in any county." Neb.Rev.Stat. § 13-102 (Reissue 1977) makes one whose paternity is established by court proceeding or by acknowledgment liable for the support of the child to the same extent and in the same manner as the father of a child born in lawful wedlock.

In her amended petition Doak prayed for "judgment establishing that the defendant is the natural father of her said child and for judgment against the defendant for the support of her child, costs of this action, and for such other and further relief as may be just and equitable in the premises." We note, first of all, that a prayer for equitable relief has no place or role in a nonequitable case. That matter aside, however, it is clear from other allegations that Doak seeks recovery for future support as well as for expenses and losses she incurred "during the period of plaintiff's pregnancy, confinement and recovery."

Doak's positions have their genesis in Gomez v. Perez, 409 U.S. 535, 93 S.Ct. 872, 35 L.Ed.2d 56 (1973), which held that once a state grants children a judicially enforceable right to support from their natural fathers, the equal protection clause of the federal Constitution prohibits the state from denying the same right to children born out of lawful wedlock.

More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that restrictions on support suits by children born out of lawful wedlock will survive equal protection scrutiny to the extent that they are substantially related to a legitimate state interest. However, the period for obtaining parental support must be long enough to provide a reasonable opportunity for those with an interest in such children to bring suit on their behalves. Further, any time limit on that opportunity has to be substantially related to the state's interest in preventing the litigation of stale or fraudulent claims. Mills v. Habluetzel, 456 U.S. 91, 102 S.Ct. 1549, 71 L.Ed.2d 770 (1982). Accordingly, Mills held a 1-year period of limitations too short. The later case of Pickett v. Brown, 462 U.S. 1, 103 S.Ct. 2199, 76 L.Ed.2d 372 (1983), held a 2-year statute to also be constitutionally infirm. Other jurisdictions, through courts of various levels, have held limitation periods of various durations to be invalid. Matter of M.D.H., Ind.App., 437 N.E.2d 119 (1982), 2...

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15 cases
  • Weegar v. Bakeberg, 18647
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 8, 1995
    ...T.L.H. v. F.P.V., 701 P.2d 87, 88-89 (Colo.App.1984). Accord Nettles v. Beckley, 32 Wash.App. 606, 648 P.2d 508 (1982); Doak v. Milbauer, 216 Neb. 331, 343 N.W.2d 751 (1984); Huss v. DeMott, 215 Kan. 450, 524 P.2d 743 (1974); Perez v. Singh, 21 Cal.App.3d 870, 97 Cal.Rptr. 920 (1971); Sandi......
  • Ehlers v. Perry, S-89-1490
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • January 15, 1993
    ...a court uses the construction that will achieve the statute's purpose and preserve the statute's validity. See, Doak v. Milbauer, 216 Neb. 331, 343 N.W.2d 751 (1984); State ex rel. Johnson v. Marsh, 149 Neb. 1, 29 N.W.2d 799 (1947). See, also, [242 Neb. 221] Union Stock Yards Co. v. Nebrask......
  • Bryan M. v. Anne B., S–15–075.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • February 12, 2016
    ...equitable estoppel based on misrepresentations of the mother that he was not the father. He asserts that our holding in Doak v. Milbauer, 216 Neb. 331, 343 N.W.2d 751 (1984), permits him to bring the action as the next friend of the child. And he claims that § 43–1411 is unconstitutional un......
  • Payne v. Prince George's County Dept. of Social Services, 1133
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1985
    ...under § 5-1033(a)(2) of the Family Law Article or one for the funeral expenses of the child under § 5-1033(a)(3). See Doak v. Milbauer, 216 Neb. 331, 343 N.W.2d 751, 753 (Neb.1984). We deal here only with a proceeding for child support and an order for that support under § 5-1003(a)(1) (see......
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