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Chancery Shifts Fees, Finds That Defendant’s Litigation Tactics in Books and Records Case Crossed The Line Between Aggressive Litigation And Glaringly Egregious Conduct


Pettry, et al. v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., C.A. Nos. 2020-0132-KSJM; 2020-0138-KSJM; 2020-0155-KSJM; 2020-0173-KSJM (Del. Ch. July 22, 2021).
Delaware follows the American Rule: all litigants pay their own attorneys’ fees, no matter the outcome of the litigation. In rare cases where a litigant’s conduct is “glaringly egregious,” Delaware courts will make an exception and shift fees. This is known as the “bad faith” exception.
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Chancery Confirms Operation of Savings Statute and Tortious Interference Framework in Dispute Involving Fiduciaries with Competing Creditor Interests


Skye Mineral Invs., LLC v. DXS Capital (U.S.) Ltd., C.A. No. 2018-0059-JRS (Del. Ch. July 28, 2021)
Delaware’s savings statute—10 Del. C. § 8118(a)—protects claims from being time-barred where they were timely brought in an incorrect forum. Here, the Court of Chancery applied the savings statute in the context of claims alleging that, in a course of conduct dating back to 2013, majority LLC members managed the company to protect their affiliate’s status as a senior secured creditor and drive the company into bankruptcy, all to eliminate the minority members’ interests. More ›

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Chancery Addresses Whether LLC Agreement Modified or Eliminated Fiduciary Duties


In Re Cadira Group Holdings, LLC Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 2018-0616-JRS (Del. Ch. July 12, 2021)
The Delaware Limited Liability Company Act provides that “the fiduciary duties of a member, manager, or other person that is a party to or bound by a limited liability company agreement may be expanded or restricted or eliminated by provisions in the limited liability company agreement.” Yet to eliminate fiduciary duties, Delaware law requires that the intent to do so must be “plain and unambiguous.” More ›

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Chancery Upholds Well-Pled Claims Relating to Former Fiduciaries’ Retention of Derivative Arbitration Award


Optimiscorp v. Atkins, C.A. No. 2020-0183-MTZ (Del. Ch. July 15, 2021)
In Optimiscorp, the Court upheld claims against former directors and officers of plaintiff Optimiscorp arising out of the defendants’ failure to turn over to the company an approximately $7 million derivative arbitration award. As part of a long-standing and acrimonious legal battle between warring factions of the company’s board of directors, defendants previously had brought a lawsuit in Delaware on behalf of the company asserting that the company’s sitting directors and former outside counsel had breached their fiduciary duties and engaged in legal malpractice. Stipulating to dismissal of the Delaware complaint, the parties pursued the matter in arbitration and the arbitrator ultimately found the outside counsel liable, issued an award, and ordered the payment of attorneys’ fees and costs. The financially struggling company received notice of the award and proceeded to make strategic business decisions in expectation of receiving the funds. However, asserting that certain shareholders who were accused of wrongdoing were not entitled to a pro rata portion of the award, the defendants declined to turn the award over to the company. As a result, the company was forced to take out short-term loans with unfavorable terms and faced other negative consequences. More ›

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Court of Chancery Denies Lead Plaintiff’s Application for Incentive Fee from Overall Fee Award


Morrison v. Berry, C.A. No. 12808-VCG (Del. Ch. July 12, 2021)
Delaware courts generally do not award special compensation to lead plaintiffs in class action litigation. Delaware courts typically limit awards to out-of-pocket costs and expenses, unless lead plaintiffs take on extra—essentially, exceptional—burdens in the litigation. Submitting a modest award request does not necessarily portend success that an applicant will receive an award. More ›

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Chancery Finds Change in Product’s Medicare Reimbursement Rate Was Not A Material Adverse Effect Excusing Buyer From Closing

Posted In Chancery, MAEs


Bardy Diagnostics, Inc. v. Hill-Rom, Inc. C.A. No. 2021-0175-JRS (Del. Ch. Jul. 9, 2021)
Bardy manufactures a patch that measures heart rate. Its reimbursement rate for the patch had for years been set around $365 per patch. When Hill-Rom acquired Bardy in early January 2021, the parties understood that this reimbursement rate might change, and prior to closing had built an earnout provision into their merger agreement to address this risk. The parties also included a Material Adverse Effect clause, giving Hill-Rom the ability to walk from the deal for any development that could “reasonably be expected to have a material adverse effect on … the Business of [Bardy] taken as a whole.” Yet any industry-wide change in the industries or markets in which Bardy operated, or any change in any “Health Care Law” would not constitute an MAE, unless such development had a “materially disproportionate impact on [Bardy] as compared to other similarly situated companies ….” More ›

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Chancery Finds That the Standard of Review for the Conduct of a Shareholders’ Representative Turns Upon the Merger Agreement’s Language

Posted In Chancery, M&A


Houseman v. Sagerman, C.A. No. 8897-VCG (Del. Ch. July 20, 2021)

A merger agreement between a subsidiary of Healthport Technologies, LLC and Universata, Inc., gave the owners of 72 percent of Universata’s stock (the “Owners”) the power to appoint a Shareholders’ Representative. Among other responsibilities, the Shareholders’ Representative was charged with “disbursing among the Shareholders the cash portion of the Purchase Price and any other payments paid to Shareholders under this Agreement.”  More ›

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Chancery Explains Pleading Standard and Sustains Unjust Enrichment Claim Related to Plaintiff’s Forfeiture of LLC Acquisition Rights


Angel v. Warrior Met Coal, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0235-SG (Del. Ch. Jun. 30, 2021)

Under Delaware’s notice pleading standard, a plaintiff’s claim will survive a motion to dismiss if it is “reasonably conceivable” that the plaintiff might prevail. The Court here explained that test is whether a “claim’s success seems possible to a rational objective observer.” Notwithstanding this plaintiff-friendly standard, Delaware courts will dismiss a claim if a plaintiff fails to plead all necessary elements. More ›

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Chancery Finds Breach of Fiduciary Duty Where Defendant Resorted to Extra-Contractual Self-Help


Macrophage Therapeutics, Inc. v. Goldberg, C.A. No. 2019-0137-JRS (Del. Ch. Jun. 23, 2021) (Post-trial Memorandum Opinion)

Macrophage Therapeutics, Inc. v. Goldberg, C.A. No. 2019-0137-JRS (Del. Ch. Jun. 23, 2021) (Letter Opinion)
Delaware law provides several remedies for a party who believes that a contractual breach has occurred. But extra-contractual self-help is usually not one. As this case demonstrates, the choice to seek direct retribution, rather than legal recourse, may constitute a breach of a director’s duty of loyalty. A related decision also considered and rejected the argument that formal board authorization was needed for a corporation to commence litigation.  More ›

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Section 225 Action Filed Eight Months After Removal Barred by Laches


Simple Global, Inc. v. Banasik, C.A. No. 2018-0809-PAF (Del. Ch. June 24, 2021)
Under Delaware law, a director or officer who disputes her removal as such may be subject to equitable defenses if she does not proceed promptly to contest it.  Here, plaintiff Simple Global was owned by three stockholders, one of which, defendant Banasik, was removed as a director and officer by the others in June 2018.  In November 2018, Simple Global sued Banasik for breach of fiduciary duty, to which Banasik responded in April 2019 by, among other things, filing a counterclaim under Section 225 of the DGCL asserting he was not properly removed as a director.  More ›

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Chancery Addresses Claims Arising Out of LLC Dispute Involving Parallel Venture

Posted In Chancery, LLCs


Largo Legacy Group, LLC v. Evens Charles, C.A. No. 2020-0105-MTZ (Del. Ch. June 30, 2021)
In this LLC dispute, an investor in a hotel development company alleged that the company principals breached the operating agreement and their fiduciary duties by implementing a fraudulent scheme whereby a parallel venture, that they owned and controlled, was provided with certain adjacent land and company funds in a manner that improperly advantaged the parallel venture and the principals while harming the plaintiff. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendants had breached their fiduciary and contractual duties by refusing to provide it with financial information that it was entitled to under the operating agreement. The defendants moved to dismiss. The Court of Chancery, finding, as an initial matter, that laches did not block the claims, held that while plaintiff had failed to plead its fraud claim with adequate particularity, it had properly pled both its breach of fiduciary duty claim in connection with the alleged scheme and its breach of contract claim in connection with the company’s refusal to provide certain financial information. In addition to dismissing the fraud claim, the Court also dismissed plaintiff’s duplicative breach of fiduciary duty claim relating to the withheld financial information.  More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Conclusory Allegations of Gross Negligence and Disloyalty Against Oracle Officers and Directors Related to Alleged Controlled, Self-Dealing NetSuite Acquisition


In re Oracle Corp. Derv. Litig., C.A. No. 2017-0337-SG (Del. Ch. June 21, 2021)
While Delaware maintains a notice pleading standard, this decision reflects that conclusory allegations of breach of fiduciary duty leveled against officers and directors of a Delaware corporation may be found insufficient to state a claim. More ›

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Superior Court Enforces $48 Million Liquidated Damages Provision


Smart Sand Inc. v. US Well Servs. LLC, C.A. No. N19C-01-144 PRW CCLD (Del. Super. June 11, 2021)

A liquidated damages provision is enforceable under Delaware law if: (1) damages are uncertain at the time of contracting; and (2) the liquidated damages are reasonable. Courts will examine the parties’ intent at the time of contracting in determining whether a liquidated damages provision is enforceable. More ›

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Chancery Holds That Claim Based on Purposeful Tanking of Merger Agreement Earnout Is Breach of Contract Claim


Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. Albertson’s Companies, C.A. No. 2020-0710-JRS (Del. Ch. June 7, 2021)

Many merger agreements include earnout provisions under which the stockholders in the acquired company are entitled to additional consideration upon the occurrence of certain financial milestones. In this case, the Court of Chancery analyzed and considered the appropriate way to plead claims that the acquirer purposefully operated the company to miss earnout milestones. More ›

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