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P. Clarkson Collins, Jr.

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Showing 40 posts by P. Clarkson Collins, Jr..

CCLD Addresses Ripeness Doctrine and the “Stranger Rule” in Tortious Interference Claims, Partially Dismisses Claims for Breach of Corporate-Owned Group Variable Life Insurance Policies

Athene Life and Annuity Co., et al. v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., et al., C.A. No. N 19C-10-055 PRW CCLD (Del. Super. May 18, 2020)

Policy holders (the “Plaintiffs”) brought a suit against American General Life Insurance, Co. (“American General”) for breach of corporate-owned group variable life insurance policies (the “Policies”) and against certain related entities managing the Policies, ZC Resource Investment Trust (“ZCRIT”) and ZC Resource LLC (“ZC Resource”) (together with ZCRIT, “ZC Defendants”) (together with ZCRIT and American General, “Defendants”) for tortious interference with contract. When the Defendants moved to dismiss, the Delaware Superior Court’s Complex Commercial Litigation Division (“CCLD”) granted the motion in part on ripeness grounds and denied it in part. More ›

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Chancery Declines to Follow Transcript Ruling, Finds Plaintiff is Entitled to Advancement of Fees Incurred in Underlying Action Pre-Undertaking

Posted In Advancement

Day v. Diligence, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0076-SG (Del. Ch. May 7, 2020)

By letter ruling, the Court of Chancery held that plaintiff, a director and former officer of the entity defendant, (“Plaintiff”), was entitled to the advancement of attorneys’ fees incurred prior to Plaintiff’s submission of an undertaking. Defendant, Diligence, Inc. (“Defendant”), argued that a recent Transcript Ruling in the Court of Chancery, Salomon v. Kroenk Sports & Entertainment, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0858-JTL (Del. Ch. Feb. 26, 2020), supported the proposition that advancement rights do not ripen prior to the provision of an undertaking, and therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to the advancement of pre-undertaking fees. The Court found that Defendant’s interpretation of Salomon was “not persuasive as a matter of doctrine or the Delaware General Corporation Law,” noting that neither the language of nor the policy behind Section 145(e) of the DGCL “limit advancement to sums incurred post-undertaking.” Moreover, the Court noted that Transcript Rulings, as a general matter, have no precedential value and “at most” offer “persuasive authority." For these reasons, the Court ruled for the Plaintiff and denied Defendant’s objection to the advancement of Plaintiff’s fees.

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Delaware Supreme Court Reverses Chancery in Dispute Involving Dueling Transfer Restrictions

Borealis Power Holdings Inc. v. Hunt Strategic Utility, LLC, No. 68, 2020 (Del. May 22, 2020)

The Delaware Supreme Court, reviewing the purportedly conflicting provisions of two agreements de novo, reversed the judgment of the Court of Chancery regarding which of the transfer restrictions in the agreements applied to a proposed sale of shares. The Court’s opinion provides important guidance on the interpretation and construction of contractual restrictions on transfer. More ›

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Chancery Provides Guidance on Rule 23.1 “With Particularity” Pleading Standard in Continuing Investors Bancorp Stock Awards and Options Dispute

Elburn v. Albanese, C.A. No. 2019-0774-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 21, 2020)

Finding that the stockholder plaintiff (the “Plaintiff”) had satisfied the Rule 23.1 “with particularity” pleading standard, the Court of Chancery declined to dismiss claims challenging an alleged quid pro quo arrangement between certain officers and the board of directors (the “Board”) at Investors Bancorp, Inc. (the “Company”) that had the effect of undoing and rendering meaningless the settlement (the “Settlement”) of a previous derivative action.  More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Claims Seeking to Compel a Dividend Declaration and for Breach of the Duty of Care

Buckley Family Trust v. McCleary, C.A. No. 2018-0903-AGB (Del. Ch. Mar. 31, 2020).

This case involved a minority stockholder in a Subchapter S corporation seeking relief as a result of its dissatisfaction with management’s operating performance and the company’s unwillingness to pay dividends, matters which defendants contended were well within the exercise of their business judgment. The Court of Chancery granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. More ›

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Chancery Applies Borrowing Statute, Dismisses Plaintiff’s Fraud Claims as Time-Barred

CHC Investments, LLC v. FirstSun Capital Bancorp, C.A. No. 2018-0353-KSJM, (Del. Ch. Mar. 23, 2020).

On a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for fraud, the Delaware Court of Chancery applied Delaware’s three-year statutory limitations period rather than Texas’s four-year period and dismissed plaintiff’s claims as time-barred. Narrowly interpreting the Delaware Supreme Court’s holding in Saudi Basic Indus. Corp. v. Mobil Yanbu Petrochemical Co., 866 A.2d 1, 16-18 (Del. 2005), the Court found that, except in circumstances where a party is forced to bring claims in Delaware, under Delaware’s “borrowing statute,” the shorter of Delaware’s statute of limitations and that of the foreign jurisdiction will apply.  More ›

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The Court of Chancery Dismisses Effort to Plead Around Rule 23 in CEO's Attempt to Escape Alleged Oversight Failures

Judges and commentators frequently characterize Caremark claims (claims seeking to hold directors liable for damages resulting from grossly inadequate reporting regimes or oversight) as the most difficult kind of breach of fiduciary claim to assert with success. In a recent Court of Chancery opinion in David Shabbouei v. Laurent Potdevin, et al. and Lululemon Athletica, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0847-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 2, 2020), Vice Chancellor Slights rejected the plaintiff’s effort to recharacterize what was essentially an inadequate Caremark claim into a self-interested, unfair dealing claim against the Board arising from its termination of a CEO accused of sexual misconduct. Dismissing the claim under a straight-forward Rule 23.1 analysis of demand futility, the court found the allegations did not support an inference that the Board’s decision to make a severance agreement rather than terminate the CEO for cause resulted from the Board’s desire to insulate itself from claims that it had exercised inadequate oversight over the CEO’s conduct. More ›

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Superior Court Dismisses Fraud Claim Improperly Boot-Strapped to Breach of Contract Claim

Posted In Fraud Claims

Cont’l Fin. Co., LLC, v. ICS Corp., C.A. No. N19C-07-184 AML (Del. Super. Feb. 20, 2020).

This case represents another example of the application of the “bootstrap doctrine” to define the limits of a contract party’s ability to assert a fraud claim against a counter-party. Ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Superior Court permitted plaintiff’s breach of contract claim to proceed but granted dismissal of plaintiff’s fraud claim. The Court reasoned the fraud claim was impermissibly boot-strapped to a breach of a contractual duty, and the plaintiff failed plead damages distinct from those allegedly resulting from the contractual breach.  More ›

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Claims Alleging that Icahn Entities Schemed to Buy Out Minority Unitholders on the Cheap Survive Motion to Dismiss

In re CVR Refining, LP Unitholder Litig., Consol. C.A. No. 2019-0062-KSJM (Del. Ch. Jan. 31, 2020).

The Court of Chancery declined at the pleadings stage to dismiss claims for breach of a governing limited partnership agreement (the “Agreement”) and tortious interference alleging that entities controlled by Carl Icahn (the “Icahn Entities”) engaged in a multi-step scheme designed to artificially deflate the market price of CVR Refining L.P.’s (the “Partnership”) common units and facilitate an involuntary buyout that conferred a windfall on the Icahn Entities. More ›

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Chancery Finds Liquidated Damages Clause for Breach of Non-Compete Unenforceable

Lyons Ins. Agency, Inc. v. Wark, C.A. No. 2017-0348-SG (Del. Ch. Jan. 28, 2020). 

In this decision on cross-motions for summary judgment, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that a liquidated damages clause for a breach of a covenant not to compete in an employment contract (the “Non-Compete”) was unenforceable on public policy grounds. The Court noted that while Delaware will enforce a non-compete that is “reasonably tied to the interests of the employer,” liquidated damages clauses that are “untethered to the losses caused by ex-employee competition,” are unenforceable contractual penalties. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Finds That Stockholder Failed to Satisfy Unambiguous Requirements of Advance Notice Bylaw

Blackrock Credit Allocation Income Tr., et al. v. Saba Capital Master Fund, Ltd., No. 297, 2019 (Del. Jan. 13, 2020).

The Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery’s decision requiring two closed-end trusts (together, the “Trusts”) to count the votes of Saba Capital Master Fund, Ltd’s (“Saba”) slate of dissident nominees at the Trusts’ respective annual meetings. The Supreme Court ruled that Saba’s nominations were ineligible because Saba had failed to respond to the Trusts’ request for supplemental information within the clear and unambiguous 5 day compliance deadline in the Trusts’ advance notice bylaws (the “Bylaws”).  More ›

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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 ›

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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 ›

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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 ›

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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.

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pcollins@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6990
P. Clarkson Collins, Jr. has more than 40 years of litigation experience in complex corporate, commercial, and fiduciary matters in both jury and non-jury trials. Clark is a Fellow in …
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