About This Blog

Summaries and analysis of recent Delaware court decisions concerning business-related litigation.

Morris James Blogs


Showing 676 posts in Case Summaries.

Court Of Chancery Determines That Advancement Claim Is A General Creditor Claim

Posted In Case Summaries

Andrikopoulos v. Silicon Valley Innovation Company LLC, C.A. 9899-VCP (July 30, 2015) and Henson v. Sousa, C.A. 8057-VCG (August 4, 2015)

These two decisions hold that an advancement claim should be treated as a claim of a general creditor by a company in liquidation. Hence, those claims do not get priority in payment along with administrative expenses of the receivership.

Court of Chancery Addresses Application of Fee-Shifting Bylaw

The Rites of Spring are upon us: budding flowers, warmer temperatures, and a Delaware court issuing an important decision just before the annual Tulane Corporate Law Institute begins. This year the honor of issuing that decision fell to Chancellor Bouchard who issued his opinion in Strougo v. Hollander, C.A. No. 9770-CB (Del. Ch.) on March 16, 2015. The opinion addressed plaintiff’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings that a fee-shifting bylaw adopted after the challenged transaction did not apply to him. The Court found that the fee-shifting bylaw did not apply to the plaintiff in this case, and in reaching this conclusion, made some interesting comments that will undoubtedly further the debate over the proposed legislation to eliminate fee-shifting bylaws and regulate forum selection bylaws. More ›

Court Of Chancery Explains Rule 23.1 Standards

Posted In Case Summaries, Derivative Claims
In Re Sanchez Energy Derivative Litigation, C.A. 9132-VCG (November 25, 2014) This decision is another helpful explanation of what is required to meet Rule 23.1 requirements to plead a derivative case.  Mere personal friendships or employment by a company that is a subsidiary of a company where the alleged controller is on the board are not enough to show a director is under the control of others. Indeed, merely being in management does not establish control over an entity because you must show control over its board.

Court Of Chancery Explains Bad Faith Claim

Posted In Case Summaries, Directors, Fiduciary Duty
In Re Novell Shareholders Litigation, C.A. 6032-VCN (November 25, 2014) When does a board act in bad faith so as to not be entitled to exculpation under a corporate charter? As this decision explains, mere mistakes in complicated negotiations do not come close to supporting a bad faith claim.

Court Of Chancery Explains Third Party Beneficiary Standing

Posted In Case Summaries
United Health Alliance LLC v. United Medical LLC, C.A. 7710-VCP (November 20, 2014) This decision has a good explanation of when a non-party to a contract may seek to enforce its terms as a third party beneficiary.

Court Of Chancery Explains The Implied Covenant Rules

Posted In Breach of Contract, Case Summaries
NAMA Properties LLC v. Related WMC LLC, C.A. 7934-VCL (November 17, 2014) This is a virtual treatise on the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  As it points out, the covenant is a gap filler that is to be used rarely and is considered part of the contract. Hence, it does not require a showing of bad faith for it to be violated. Here the court dealt with the duties of an escrow agent. The opinion is also very good at explaining what is required to find a tortious interference with a contract by the parent of a subsidiary. It is often wrongly thought that members of the same corporate family cannot be held liable for the breach of contract by another member of the family for a contract they did not sign. As this decision shows, that may not be so and a parent can be on the hook when it wrongly causes a subsidiary to breach its contract.

Court Of Chancery Explains The Conspiracy Theory Of Jurisdiction

Posted In Case Summaries, Jurisdiction
Reid v. Siniscalchi, C.A. 2874-VCN (November 20, 2014) Under the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction, a non-resident may still be subject to Delaware court jurisdiction if a co-conspirator commits an act in Delaware in furtherance of the conspiracy. While that is a simplified version of the law, this decision explains the theory in detail.

Court Of Chancery Explains Pleading Standard For Claims Against Disinterested Directors

Posted In Case Summaries, Directors
In Re Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. 8922-VCG (September 10, 2014)  This is a great decision to read to understand the pleading standard that applies to a complaint that alleges a controlling stockholder transaction. Even in such a transaction, the disinterested directors are not liable absent proof of a breach of a non-exculpated breach of duty. However, that rule will only apply after a full record is made at trial [or possibly at the summary judgment stage]. At the initial motion to dismiss stage, all the complaint need allege is that entire fairness review is required because of the control the majority stockholder had over the transaction. On September 26, 2014, the Court certified an interlocutory appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.

Court Of Chancery Holds Corporation Does Not Owe Fiduciary Duty

Posted In Case Summaries, Fiduciary Duty
Buttonwood Tree Value Partners L.P. v. R.L. Polk & Co. Inc., C.A. No. 9250-VCG (August 7, 2014) A Delaware corporation does not itself owe a fiduciary duty to its stockholders and may not be charged with aiding and abetting a breach of that duty by its directors.  This holding has ample precedent and is important because it may avoid the expansion of the company's disclosure obligations beyond the duty to avoid fraudulent disclosures.

Chancery Court Rejects Trading Restriction as Condition of Receipt

Posted In Case Summaries
Authored By Thomas Hanson This article was originally published in the Delaware Business Court Insider July 2, 2014 Under 8 Del. C. Section 220, stockholders of Delaware companies are entitled to inspect certain books and records of the company upon stating a proper purpose. A long-recognized proper purpose for a books-and-records demand is an interest in valuing one's stock. In The Ravenswood Investment L.P. v. Winmill & Co., C.A. No. 7048-VCN (Del. Ch. May 30, 2014), the Court of Chancery decided the "novel" issue of whether a company, in response to a books-and-records demand, may condition the provision of nonpublic financial information on a trading restriction. Finding that the trading restriction would "inappropriately frustrate a fundamental stockholder right" to value its stock, the court held that the company could not require an agreement on the part of the requesting stockholder not to trade its stock for a certain period of time after receipt of the requested information. More ›

Is the Court of Chancery Reforming Stockholder Litigation?

Posted In Case Summaries
A real change is going on in stockholder litigation in Delaware. Yet it is largely unnoticed because of the uproar over what will someday be seen as just a Supreme Court decision that did not have a lasting impact. We need a longer perspective to appreciate what is happening. First, however, we need to understand the recent problems in stockholder litigation that have provoked such ire. For several years now, almost every significant corporate merger of public companies has attracted litigation. Lawyers for small stockholders file these suits as soon as a possible deal is announced and even before the details are established. Compounding the costs of this litigation, these suits are often filed in several jurisdictions, forcing companies to defend themselves against the same allegations in multiple forums. The speed with which these suits are filed must mean that little, if any, real factual investigation is done before allegations of wrongdoing are made. It is no wonder corporate defendants find this litigation vexatious. More ›

Avoiding the Entire-Fairness Standard of Review

Posted In Case Summaries
Authored by Lewis Lazarus This article was originally published in the Delaware Business Court Insider June 18, 2014 The Delaware Supreme Court's recent affirmance in Kahn v. M&F Worldwide, No. 334, 2013 (Del. Mar. 14, 2014),referred to as MFW,allows controlling stockholders to avoid the entire fairness standard of review if at the outset of a self-dealing transaction the controlling stockholder effectively relinquishes control over the outcome to an independent committee of disinterested directors and a nonwaivable, fully informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders. In that circumstance, reasoned the Supreme Court, the transaction would reflect arm's-length bargaining and afford an independent majority of the stockholders the opportunity to decide for themselves whether to approve the transaction. More ›

Standard to Allege Mismanagement in Motion to Dismiss Section 220 Complaint

Posted In Case Summaries

 Authored by Albert H. Manwaring, IV
This article was originally published in the Delaware Business Court Insider | June 4, 2014 

Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law permits a stockholder to inspect the books and records of a corporation, provided that the demand for inspection meets certain form and manner requirements, and the inspection is sought for a proper purpose—e.g., one reasonably related to the interests of stockholders. It is well established that the investigation of corporate mismanagement or wrongdoing is a proper purpose under DGCL Section 220. But, to state a proper purpose to investigate mismanagement or wrongdoing of a corporation, a stockholder must allege a "credible basis" to infer "possible" mismanagement or wrongdoing. The Court of Chancery has noted that the "credible basis" standard has, however, the lowest possible burden of proof under Delaware law.  More ›

Delaware Judge Charles H. Toliver, IV Joins Morris James LLP

Posted In Case Summaries, News
Morris James LLP is pleased to announce that Judge Charles H. Toliver, IV will join the firm in June, 2014, at the completion of his second 12-year term as Judge of the Delaware Superior Court. Judge Toliver was initially appointed to the bench in 1990 by Delaware Governor Michael N. Castle and reappointed in 2002 by Governor Thomas R. Carper. Judge Toliver will be a partner in the Litigation Practice and a member of the firm’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Group. Judge Toliver's practice will center upon civil, corporate and domestic relations mediation, arbitration and case analysis. David H. Williams, Morris James’ Managing Partner, stated, “We are extremely pleased to have Judge Toliver join the firm after his distinguished service on the Superior Court. His choice of Morris James among all the opportunities surely presented to him upon retiring from the bench is a sparkling reflection upon our attorneys and our firm. We look forward to his contributions to the firm and the growth of our alternative dispute resolution practice.” More ›

Will Delaware Still Take Your Case?

Posted In Case Summaries

Authored by Edward M. McNally
This article was originally published in the Delaware Business Court Insider | May 14, 2014  

Plaintiffs lawyers are questioning whether their cases will be heard by Delaware's courts. That concern is fueled by the Delaware Supreme Court affirmance of a trial court's dismissal of a case against DuPont Co., the ultimate Delaware corporation, on forum non conveniens grounds, in Martinez v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 86 A.3d 1102 (Del. 2014). For if Delaware will reject a case as too inconvenient for a defendant like DuPont, whose headquarters is just four blocks from the courthouse, might not any defendant also have a case against it thrown out for the same reason? Of course, that is a too-broad reading of the Martinez case. Moreover, on April 28, the Court of Chancery sent a strong signal that the Delaware courts remain open to all, even foreign, plaintiffs. More ›