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

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Showing 13 posts from April 2006.

District Court Denies Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment in Breach of Warranty Action

AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. ALSTOM Power, Inc., C.A. No. 04-1282-JJF, 2006 WL 1154786 (D. Del. Apr. 28, 2006). Plaintiff alleged that defendant breached an accelerated corrosion warranty in the parties' agreement and that plaintiff suffered damages as a result. Defendant moved for partial summary judgment, claiming that any warranty liability was subject to a condition precedent in the parties' contract, which condition was never met. More ›

Court of Chancery Finds Remedy for Breach of Fiduciary Duty Identical to Appraisal Award

Delaware Open MRI Radiology Associates, P.A. v. Kessler, C.A. No. 275-N, 2006 WL 1215096 (Apr. 26, 2006). This case was described by Vice Chancellor Strine as "another progeny of one of our law's hybrid varietals: the combined appraisal and entire fairness action." The court was tasked with determining whether the share price in a squeeze-out merger was fair, and, if not, what the extent of the underpayment to the minority shareholders was. The court found that the merger price was unfair, and finding no difference between the award the petitioners/plaintiffs would receive in appraisal or in equity, the court awarded an amount equivalent to petitioners' pro rata share of the company's appraisal value on the date of the merger. More ›

Delaware Supreme Court Reverses Forum Non Conveniens Dismissal

Berger v. Intelident Solutions, Inc., No. 596, 2005, 2006 WL 1132079 (Del. Apr. 26, 2006). Plaintiff, a minority shareholder in a Florida corporation, filed a breach of fiduciary duty action in connection with a freeze-out merger. The sole defendants were a Nevada limited partnership, which was the ultimate controlling entity of the Florida corporation, and a Delaware corporation formed to serve as an intermediate holding company in connection with the merger. Defendants moved to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, arguing that forcing them to litigate in Delaware would impose an overwhelming hardship. The Court of Chancery granted that motion, finding that the dispute would be more appropriately litigated in Florida and that Defendants had met the exacting standard applied in assessing forum non conveniens motions. More ›

Superior Court Grants Summary Judgment to Insurers, Finding that Certain of AT & T's D & O Policies Do Not Cover Claims in Underlying Litigation

AT&T Corp. v. Clarendon America Ins. Co., C.A. No. 04C-11-167 (JRJ), 2006 WL 1382268 (Del. Super. Ct. April 25, 2006). This was an insurance coverage case involving Directors and Officers and Company ("D & O") liability policies purchased by plaintiff AT & T Corp. ("AT & T") and At Home Corp. ("At Home") from various primary and excess insurers. AT & T sought coverage, including indemnity, payment of defense fees, costs, and settlements or judgments, relating to several underlying shareholders suits brought against AT & T and certain officers and directors of AT & T and At Home. The defendants brought motions for partial summary judgment, alleging that AT & T's clams fell outside the scope of coverage under the D & O policies. Ultimately, the court granted the defendants' motions. More ›

Court of Chancery Finds No Violation of an Enforceable Covenant Not To Compete

American Homepatient, Inc. v. Collier, C.A. No. 274-N, 2006 WL 1134170 (Del. Ch. Apr. 19, 2006). Plaintiff alleged that a former employee of plaintiff breached a confidentiality and non-compete agreement (the "Non-Compete"), that the former employee and his new employer both breached a related settlement agreement (the "Settlement" and collectively with the Non-Compete, the "Agreements"), and that the new employer tortiously interfered with the Non-Compete and prospective business relations. Plaintiff sought damages and injunctive relief. The court concluded that while the Agreements were enforceable, they were not breached by defendants and there was no tortious interference. More ›

Court of Chancery Awards $4.8 Million, Plus Interest, to Minority Shareholders for Damages Suffered from Director Defendants' Breach of the Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty

Oliver v. Boston University, C.A. No. 16570-NC, 2006 WL 1064169 (Del. Ch. Apr. 14, 2006). Defendant Boston University ("BU") was the controlling shareholder of Seragen, a financially troubled biotechnology company. Plaintiffs, a group of former minority stockholders of Seragen's common stock, challenged certain transactions before Seragen was merged and the process by which the merger proceeds were divvied up. The plaintiffs contended that the BU defendants breached their fiduciary duties to Seragen's common shareholders by approving various financial transactions, which were not fair to the common shareholder as a matter of price and process. The Court of Chancery awarded damages in excess of $4.8 million plus interest for breaches of the fiduciary duty of loyalty. More ›

United States District Court, District of Delaware Issues Order Regarding Deletion of Hard Drive

Posted In News

On August 19, 2004, two corporals and a sergeant, all members of the Delaware State Police Department (the "Plaintiffs"), filed an action alleging violations of the First Amendment Free Speech Clause. After several amendments to their complaint, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Sanctions and Other Relief (D.I. 87) which asserts that defendants intentially destroyed relevant evidence, namely the hard drive of one of the defendants' computers. On February 8, 2006 the defendants filed an opposition (D.I. 93) asserting that, while the hard drive was no longer available, it was duplicative in light of the process by which the Delaware State Police stores its data. The Court concluded that the defendants had a duty to preserve the hard drive since a user had the ability to manually designate a different file path and save a document outside of the system. Appropriate sanctions will be determined by the Court after independent experts are consulted to determine whether the hard drive can be recovered. 

Court of Chancery Imposes Class Certification with Hedge Fund as Class Representative

Regal Entertainment Group v. Amaranth LLC, C.A. No. 1226-N, 2006 WL 948257 (Del. Ch. Apr. 12, 2006). Plaintiff, Regal Entertainment Group, asked the Court of Chancery to grant its motion for certification of defendant class. Plaintiff is the issuer of a series of convertible notes under an indenture and defendant Amaranth is one of the largest holders of these notes. After a public dispute regarding Regal's method of calculating the number of shares of common stock upon conversion, Regal filed a lawsuit against Amaranth seeking a declaration that its calculation was correct. Amaranth counterclaimed that its calculation of conversion was correct. The only objection that Amaranth raised to the motion for certification was that its status as a hedge fund should relieve it of the obligation to serve as the representative of a defendant class. The court granted Regal's motion for class certification finding that Amaranth is well-positioned to represent the class as it seeks to advance an interpretation of the calculation provisions of the indenture contrary to Regal's, which affects all noteholders. More ›

Delaware Supreme Court Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of Insurer Where Decedent's Worker's Compensation Carrier Could Not be Identified and Thus Could Not be Deemed an "Insolvent Insurer"

Delaware Insurance Guaranty Association v. Pickering, C.A. No. 04C-09-240 (MMJ), 2006 WL 1067317 (Del. Supr. April 10, 2006). Prior to death, decedent Logan sought worker's compensation benefits arising from injury caused by occupational exposure to asbestos while employed by H. C. Moore. When the employer's worker's compensation carrier could not be identified, the Delaware Industrial Accident Board (the "Board") ordered Delaware Insurance Guaranty Association ("DIGA") to appear and defend Logan's claim. DIGA moved for Summary Judgment. The Court entered judgment in favor of DIGA on the grounds that 18 Del. C. § 4204 authorized only the payment of valid covered claims existing prior to (or shortly after) an order of liquidation of an insolvent insurer.

Court of Chancery Permits Derivative Action to Proceed Because Alleged Facts Created Reasonable Doubt that Directors were Disinterested and Independent

Feldman v. Cutaia, C.A. No. 1656-N, 2006 WL 920420 (Del. Ch. Apr. 5, 2006). This action involved a series of transactions in which the Telx defendant directors allegedly granted themselves a significant equity stake in the company for little or no consideration. Plaintiff alleged that these transactions significantly diluted his equity position. This action also involved a self tender-offer by the company for $5 million worth of its securities. Defendant argued that plaintiff did not make a demand on the Telx board before proceeding with the derivative action and that the complaint did not plead with particularity facts that created a reasonable doubt as to the ability of the Telx board to independently consider such a demand. The Court of Chancery denied the defendants' motion to dismiss and permitted the plaintiff to proceed with his derivative suit. More ›

Court of Chancery Interprets Indemnification Provisions as Not Permitting Indemnification by Re-Organized Company While Permitting Indemnification by Pre-Organized Company

Levy v. Hayes Lemmerz International Inc., C.A. No. 1395-N, 2006 WL 985361 (Del. Ch. Apr. 5, 2006). The plaintiffs in this case sought indemnification for a settlement of claims against them for $27.5 million, paying $7.2 million out of their own pockets. The plaintiffs were former outside directors of a public company engaged in the automobile supply trade who were sued by both stockholders and bondholders of that company for various statutory violations and breaches of fiduciary duty when the company was forced to reveal that some of its financial statements contained materially misleading information. The corporation that the plaintiffs served ("Old Hayes") entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy and emerged as the operating subsidiary of a new entity ("New Hayes"). When the plaintiffs sought indemnification for the settlement under the old corporation's bylaws, their individual indemnification plans, and the bankruptcy reorganization plan, both Old Hayes and New Hayes refused. The Court of Chancery dismissed the plaintiffs' claims as to New Hayes, which the court found as a matter of law had no obligation to indemnify its predecessors' former directors and officers; however, the court denied the motion to dismiss as to the old company because the directors had a right to proceed with their claim for indemnification against Old Hayes. More ›

Emerging Trends in Fiduciary Duty Litigation: Lessons Learned from Emerging Communications and Disney

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Partner, Lewis H. Lazarus and Associate, Joseph S. Naylor of Morris James' Corporate and Fiduciary Litigation Group were recently featured in BNA Inc.'s Corporate Accountability Report. "Emerging Trends in Fiduciary Duty Litigation: Lessons Learned from Emerging Communications and Disney", a reprint of which is attached above, outlines three significant lessons for directors and corporate practitioners relating to the Delaware Court of Chancery's review and analysis of directors' fiduciary duties, including the evolving duty of good faith.

Court of Chancery Awards Reliance Damages for Promissory Estoppel

Ramone v. Lang, C.A. No. 1592-N, 2006 WL 905347 (Del. Ch. Apr. 3, 2006). This case involved a dispute between two businessmen who hoped to work together on a project to open a swim and fitness center, but who failed to achieve this despite months of efforts and negotiations. Plaintiff and defendant intended to formalize their relationship in a written LLC agreement. Ultimately, defendant closed on the property for himself, frustrated by his inability to reach a final agreement with plaintiff. Plaintiff sued for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and promissory estoppel. The Court of Chancery found that there was no contract between the parties and that the parties were not partners, therefore defendant did not owe any fiduciary duties. The court did, however, find that plaintiff had a claim for promissory estoppel and awarded reliance damages. More ›