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Chancery Addresses the Arbitration Versus “Expert” Determination Distinction in Acquisition Agreement
Purchase agreements in M&A transactions often include alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. It similarly is not uncommon for parties to debate whether their agreement contemplates arbitration or an “expert” determination. There is a distinction between the two under Delaware law, and it is important. In particular, it dictates what role a court can play, such as in determining the scope of the non-judicial adjudicator’s authority in the first instance. The Court of Chancery thoroughly addressed the issue last year in Penton Business Media Holdings, LLC v. Informa PLC, 2018 WL 3343495 (Del. Ch. July 9, 2018). This is another decision on that topic, one reading the parties’ contract as requiring arbitration, not an expert determination, citing the contract’s references to the process as “arbitration.”Share
This is an excellent summary of the law governing the admissibility of an expert opinion. It is particularly useful in dealing with non-scientific opinions that are based on experience in an industry.Share
This decision explains the difference between agreeing to have a dispute decided by an expert rather than an arbitrator. The distinction is important because it may determine what the third-party adjudicator can review before reaching a decision, what questions it may address, and what role a court might play. For example, an expert may be confined to reviewing only a selected set of documents without resort to extrinsic types of evidence. That might not be what one party expected or desires. But it is a possible result under Delaware law, where the distinction is recognized, unlike in some other jurisdictions. In short, it is best to be specific about the exact type of adjudicator you want in your contract’s alternative dispute resolution provisions if your contract is governed by Delaware law.Share