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

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Photo of Delaware Business Litigation Report Kuhu Parasrampuria
Attorney
kparasrampuria@morrisjames.com
302.888.6812
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Kuhu Parasrampuria is an attorney in the Corporate and Commercial Litigation Practice Group. She focuses her practice on counseling and litigation involving corporations and other …

Showing 7 posts by Kuhu Parasrampuria.

Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Uber Derivative Action for Failure to Plead Demand Futility

Mcelrath v. Kalanick, No. 181-2019 (Del. Jan. 13, 2020). 

This case exemplifies the Delaware courts’ approach to examining demand futility. In 2016, Uber Technologies, Inc. (“Uber”) acquired Ottomotto LLC (“Otto”), a company started by a contingent of employees from Google’s autonomous vehicles group, in order for Uber to gain expertise in developing autonomous vehicles. The shareholder-plaintiff brought a claim, on behalf of Uber, against some of Uber’s directors. The plaintiff alleged that Uber’s directors ignored the risks presented by Otto’s alleged theft of Google’s intellectual property, which eventually led to Uber paying a settlement of $245 million to Google and terminating its employment agreement with Otto’s founder. More ›

Chancery Rejects Challenge to Delaware as Proper Venue in Books and Records Action

Stanco v. Rallye Motors Holding, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0751-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 23, 2019). 

Delaware courts generally respect contractual forum selection provisions. When it comes to Delaware LLCs, however, the Delaware statute expressly precludes a non-managing member from waiving its right to a Delaware forum for proceedings involving the LLC’s internal affairs.  6 Del. C. § 18-109(d). And, in general, any waiver of rights must encompass knowledge of the right and clearly expressed intent to relinquish it. This case discusses the interplay between these rules. More ›

Chancery Enforces Delaware Forum Selection Clause and Examines the Limited Circumstances Where a Foreign Nation May Divest Delaware Courts of Jurisdiction

AlixPartners, LLP v. Mori, C.A. No. 2019-0392- KSJM (Del. Ch. Nov. 26, 2019).

In AlixPartners, the Court of Chancery confirmed its jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes relating to the internal affairs of a Delaware limited liability partnership and explained the limited circumstances in which foreign law may divest the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. The suit arose when an employer, the global business advisory firm AlixPartners, which operated as a limited liability partnership, sued an employee, who also held partnership interests, for breaches of the relevant LLP Agreement, Equity Agreement, and Employment Agreement. Pursuant to the LLP and Equity Agreements, the employee had received equity in two partnerships formed under Delaware law by AlixPartners. More ›

Chancery Construes Sellers’ APA Contractual Representations Concerning Customer Relationships and Changes in the Business, Finds No Breach

Julius v. Accurus Aerospace Corp., C.A. No. 2017-0632-MTZ (Del. Ch. Oct. 31, 2019).

This case serves as a cautionary tale when sellers’ representations in a purchase agreement fail to fully protect against the business risks in question.  According to the Court, this approach encourages contracting parties to allocate risks and draft agreements with precision.  This principle also aligns with Delaware’s pro-contractarian policy to enforce strictly the terms of parties’ agreements, especially when sophisticated parties at arm’s-length negotiate those agreements. More ›

Superior Court Affirms Jury Verdict of Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing Concerning a Patent Dispute Settlement Agreement

DRIT LP v. Glaxo Grp. Ltd., C.A. No. N16C-07-218 WCC CCLD (Del. Super. Oct. 17, 2019).

This decision demonstrates the rare case where a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing survived a legal challenge and resulted in a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case arose from a patent license and settlement agreement resolving a patent ownership dispute over the use of antibodies to treat Lupus. The 2008 settlement agreement gave ownership of the inventions to the defendants and obligated them to pay royalties to the plaintiff DRIT and its predecessor in interest. After paying the royalties for several years, in 2015, the defendants filed a request for a statutory disclaimer of the patent in question and notified the plaintiff that the disclaimer had the effect of eliminating any ongoing claim for royalties.  This event was not addressed in the parties’ agreement, and the court in post-trial motions upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff on its implied covenant claim because the evidence supported findings that the defendants’ exercise of the  disclaimer in these circumstances was an unusual event that the parties would not have reasonably anticipated, and the disclaimer was not a normal rational action and was taken solely for the purpose of discharging defendants’ royalty obligations. The Superior Court found that the defendants simply had not presented sufficient evidence to convince the jury that the defendants had a credible business justification for filing the disclaimer. The Superior Court also rejected a challenge to the testimony of plaintiff’s industry expert that the defendants’ rationale for use of the disclaimer fell outside normative, rational behavior in the circumstances. The court thus found that the jury reasonably could have found the defendants’ proffered justification to be pretextual and not credible. 

Finally, the court granted damages in the form of royalties to DRIT from the time of the defendants’ breach to the date of the jury’s verdict, with a declaration of ongoing royalty obligations through the expiration of the patent. Going forward, the future royalty would be determined by the sales of the licensed drug. The court held that its ruling would uphold the expectation of the parties at the time of contracting, which was that DRIT would continue to receive royalties until the patent expired.

Chancery Denies Former Derivative Plaintiff Standing to Challenge Merger That Extinguished Derivative Claims

Morris v. Spectra Energy P’tners (DE) GP, LP, C.A. No. 2019-0097-SG (Del. Ch. Sept. 30, 2019).

When a stockholder derivative claim is extinguished in a merger, the former derivative plaintiff may have standing to contest the merger directly on the ground that the entity’s fiduciaries permitted a material litigation asset to be extinguished in the merger process without value to the stockholders. In the well-known precedent In re Primedia Stockholders Litigation, 67 A. 3d 455 (Del. Ch. 2013), the Court of Chancery established a three part standing test: 1) Was the underlying claim viable? 2) Was its value material in light of the merger consideration? 3) Did the company fail to receive value for the claim in the merger because the buyer would not be willing to pursue it? Applying this test, here the Court ruled that the former unitholder and derivative plaintiff lacked standing to attack the merger and dismissed the claim.  More ›

Chancery Blocks Natural Gas IPO

Posted In LLC Agreements

Williams Field Services Group, LLC v. Caiman Energy, C.A. No. 2019-0350-JTL (Del. Ch. Sept. 25, 2019).

This case again illustrates the contractual nature of Delaware alternative entities and the important interpretive role the courts perform construing alternative entity agreements when internal governance disputes arise. The case arose out of the parties’ competing requests for declaratory judgment regarding Caiman Energy II, LLC’s (“Caiman”) limited liability agreement (“LLC Agreement”). The Defendants, including Caiman and EnCap Capital Management (“EnCap”), argued that the provisions of the LLC Agreement grant EnCap plenary power with respect to a Qualified IPO, including the ability to change the definition of a Qualified IPO and to modify the procedures the contracting parties would otherwise have to take relating to a Qualified IPO. EnCap asserted that it could implement an Up-C IPO using its authority to effect a Qualified IPO. An Up-C IPO refers to a transaction whereby a limited liability company (“LLC”), which is taxed as a pass-through entity, performs an IPO through a holding company that has an interest in the LLC. Plaintiff Williams Field Services Group, LLC (“Williams”) contended that the Encap proposed Up-C IPO was inconsistent with the terms of the LLC Agreement.  More ›