Shapria, M.D. et al. v. Christiana Care Health Services, Inc., et al.

The patient in this case alleged that his physician negligently performed a surgical procedure and breached his duty to obtain informed consent. The patient also sued the supervising health services corporation based on vicarious liability and independent negligence. The jury found both the physician and the corporation negligent and apportioned liability between them. On appeal, the physician and corporation argued the trial court erred in several evidentiary rulings, incorrectly instructed the jury on proximate cause, and wrongly awarded pre- and post-judgment interest. In cross appeals, the physician and corporation sought review of the trial court’s decision to submit a supplemental question to the jury, as well as its failure to alter the damages award based on the jury’s response to that supplemental question. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in favor of the patient. The trial court should not have requested supplemental information from the jury after the verdict. Although the trial court decided not to modify the verdict, the jury’s response to the supplemental question arguably could have affected other proceedings between the physician and corporation. The case was remanded with instructions to the Superior Court to vacate the supplemental verdict. View "Shapria, M.D. et al. v. Christiana Care Health Services, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

Luttrell v. Delaware

Defendant-appellant Ronald Luttrell appealed his convictions for Attempted Rape in the First Degree, three counts of Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, one count of Attempted Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, and two counts of Indecent Exposure. Defendant raised two issues on appeal: (1) the Superior Court abused its discretion when it failed to grant his motion for a bill of particulars, because the indictment did not clearly delineate the acts for which he was being prosecuted or when they occurred, and therefore it did not allow him to adequately prepare a defense or protect him from double jeopardy; and (2) the Superior Court committed plain error when it allowed impermissible vouching evidence to be presented to the jury. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying defendant's motion for a bill of particulars, and that the admission of vouching evidence constituted plain error. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Luttrell v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Williams v. Delaware

Defendant-Appellant Brandon Williams appealed his convictions of Burglary Second Degree, Unlawful Use of a Credit Card, Misdemeanor Theft, and Resisting Arrest. The State alleged that Williams entered the home of Jeffrey Fisher through an open window and stole his wallet from his home office. Williams did not object at trial to the evidence of officers being dispatched to a nearby gas station in which surveillance video captured Williams using the stolen credit card. In his defense, Williams conceded that he unlawfully used Fisher’s credit card and that he resisted arrest. But he denied that he was the person who burglarized the Fishers’ home. Instead, Williams claimed that he found the wallet and that he had been too intoxicated to commit the burglary. The jury found Williams guilty of all charges. The trial court sentenced Williams to fifteen years of imprisonment as a habitual offender. On appeal, Williams argued: (1) the trial court committed plain error when it allowed the State to emphasize through four police officers and closing argument that Williams was arrested in this burglary case after the police responded to a call of an attempted burglary at the gas station; and (2) that the trial court plainly erred and unfairly bolstered police testimony when it provided an expert-witness jury instruction that referred to police officers because there was no qualified expert who testified at trial. The Supreme Court found no merit to Williams' appeal, and affirmed his convictions. View "Williams v. Delaware" on Justia Law

R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc., v. Galliher, et al.

Defendant-appellant-cross-appellee R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc. appealed a Superior Court judgment on a jury verdict of $2,864,583.33 plus interest to Plaintiff-appellees-cross-appellant Darcel Galliher, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Michael Galliher. The decedent, Michael Galliher, contracted and died from mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos or asbestiform material while employed by Borg Warner at a bathroom fixtures facility. Vanderbilt provided industrial talc to Borg Warner, which was alleged to be the source of the substance that caused Michael's illness. At trial, Vanderbilt denied causation and claimed that Borg Warner was responsible because it did not operate the facility in a manner that was safe for employees like Michael. Vanderbilt argued: (1) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the duty of care required of Borg Warner, as Michael's employer; and (2) the trial court erred when it failed to grant a new trial based on the admission of unreliable and inflammatory evidence that previously was ruled inadmissible. Galliher argued on cross-appeal that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it disallowed post-judgment interest for a certain period of months. The Supreme Court found that the trial court erred when it failed to provide any instruction to the jury on Borg Warner's duty of care to Michael, despite Vanderbilt's request that it do so. The trial court also abused its discretion when it denied Vanderbilt's motion for a new trial based upon the substantial prejudice resulting from the admission of evidence, not subject to cross-examination, that it had engaged in criminal conduct. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc., v. Galliher, et al." on Justia Law

O’Conner v. O’Conner

Appellant-mother Amy O'Conner appealed three Family Court orders, all related to property division and child custody issues arising out of the her divorce from appellee-father Alvin O'Conner in 2012. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court dismissed Mother's appeals as untimely. However, the Court concluded the Family Court abused its discretion in refusing to reopen the custody proceedings because, under the circumstances of this case, the interests of the children justified reopening the custody proceeding (later events indicated that the Mother needed clear unilateral authority to make decisions on her children's behalf, given the Father's alleged refusal to fulfill even minimal parental responsibilities". In so ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged the difficult circumstances the Family Court confronted in dealing with the Mother's motion to reopen. "Because the Mother was pro se, she did not point the Family Court to the appropriate rule or case law, leaving the Family Court to address the motion without adequate legal briefing." The Mother's appeal from the Family Court's orders dated July 22, 2013 and October 30, 2013 were dismissed as untimely, but the Family Court's judgment dated January 16, 2014 was reversed and remanded. View "O'Conner v. O'Conner" on Justia Law

Cooke v. Delaware

James Cooke was convicted of, among other things, raping and murdering a 20-year-old University of Delaware student. Cooke appealed his convictions and the death sentence, seeking either a new trial, or at least a new penalty hearing. Cooke listed ten claims of error on appeal that "def[ied] brief summary. But what is common to all of Cooke's arguments is that none of them provides a basis for reversing the judgment of convictions and the death sentence that were entered against him." View "Cooke v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Ozdemir v. State

Christiana Ozdemir and Douglas Riley began a relationship in 2005. The couple had a son in 2007 and a daughter in early 2009. In June 2009, Ozdemir told Riley that she was going to New York for two weeks with the children. She and the children never returned. Riley filed a petition for custody in Delaware. In response, Ozdemir filed petitions for custody and for a protective order in New York. In November 2009, the Delaware Family Court and the New York court held a telephonic joint hearing, during which Ozdemir and Riley were present. The courts determined that Delaware had jurisdiction over the custody matter. Following the hearing, the Family Court entered an interim custody order awarding Ozdemir sole legal custody and primary residency of the children. Riley was given limited visitation rights. Ozdemir failed to bring the children to some of the scheduled visits, and the Family Court found her in contempt.In October 2010, the Family Court entered a temporary custody order awarding Ozdemir and Riley joint legal custody and shared residency on an alternating monthly basis. The trial court held a review hearing in April 2011, but Ozdemir failed to attend. At the review hearing, the Family Court entered another order awarding Riley sole legal custody and primary residency of the children. Riley attempted to enforce Order in New York, but the New York police did not help him. In March 2012, the Family Court appointed a guardian ad litem to represent the children. In January 2013, the Family Court held more hearings which Ozdemir did not attend. Because of Ozdemir kept thwarting of Court orders and the guardian ad litem’s recommendations, it was in the best interests of the children to be placed in Riley care. Ozdemir failed to appear on the day she was supposed to hand over the children. A warrant was issued for her arrest. The Federal Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force took Ozdemir into custody in Miami, Florida, and she was returned to Delaware. Her children were found in New York, and brought to Delaware in to face two counts of felony interference with custody.At trial, the State offered into evidence five unredacted Family Court orders to establish that Riley was entitled to custody of the children, and that Ozdemir had intentionally withheld the children from him. The jury found Ozdemir guilty on all counts. This appeal followed. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was whether Family Court records could be used in the Superior Court to prove that appellant committed the offense of interference with custody. The Supreme Court held that, without redaction, the Family Court records were inadmissible because they included hearsay. Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "Ozdemir v. State" on Justia Law

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Indiana Electrical Workers Trust Fund IBEW

Defendant-Appellant-Cross Appellee Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. appealed a final judgment of the Court of Chancery identifying specific steps Wal-Mart must take in searching for documents, and specific categories of documents Wal-Mart must produce, in response to a demand made by Plaintiff -Appellee-Cross Appellant Indiana Electrical Workers Pension Trust Fund IBEW pursuant to title 8, section 220 of the Delaware Code. The Court of Chancery conducted a Section 220 trial on the papers to determine whether Wal-Mart had produced all responsive documents in reply to IBEW’s demand. The Court of Chancery entered a Final Order and Judgment, requiring Wal-Mart to produce a wide variety of additional documents, including ones whose content was privileged or protected by the work-product doctrine. Wal-Mart appealed the Court of Chancery’s Final Order with regard to its obligations to provide the additional documents. IBEW filed a cross-appeal, arguing that the Court of Chancery erred in failing to require Wal-Mart to correct the deficiencies in its previous document productions and in granting in part Wal-Mart’s motion to strike its use of certain Whistleblower Documents. After its review of the matter, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that all of the issues raised in this appeal and cross-appeal were without merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Chancery was affirmed. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Indiana Electrical Workers Trust Fund IBEW" on Justia Law

Ayers v. Delaware

A Kent County Grand Jury returned an indictment against defendant-appellant Dashawn Ayers, defendant-appellant Michael Demby, Galen Brooks, and 11 other individuals. Ayers was charged with one count of Drug Dealing, one count of Aggravated Possession, and one count of Conspiracy Second Degree. Demby was charged with two counts of Drug Dealing, two counts of Aggravated Possession, two counts of Conspiracy Second Degree, one count of Criminal Solicitation Second Degree, and one count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Before trial, Ayers and Demby unsuccessfully moved to suppress the wiretap evidence. Ayers also filed a Motion to Sever, which was denied. The jury convicted Ayers on all counts. Demby was convicted of one count of Drug Dealing, one count of Aggravated Possession, one count of Conspiracy Second Degree, and one count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. He was acquitted on the remaining charges. Ayers and Demby filed separate appeals, which were consolidated for consideration and decision. Defendants argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that the recordings were “testimonial” because two witnesses explained the meaning of the codes used in the recorded conversations, and appellants were unable to cross-examine the declarants about the coded language. The Court held that the wiretap recordings, used to prove that appellants committed the crime of conspiracy, were admissible. There was no constitutional violation, and defendants' remaining arguments lacked merit. Accordingly, the Court affirmed defendants' convictions. View "Ayers v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Luttrell v. Delaware

Defendant-appellant Ronald Luttrell appealed his convictions for one count of Attempted Rape in the First Degree, three counts of Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, one count of Attempted Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, and two counts of Indecent Exposure. Luttrell raised two claims in a direct appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) the Superior Court abused its discretion when it failed to grant his motion for a bill of particulars, because the indictment did not clearly delineate the acts for which he was being prosecuted or when they occurred, and therefore it did not allow him to adequately prepare a defense or protect him from double jeopardy; and (2) the Superior Court committed plain error when it allowed impermissible "vouching" evidence to be presented to the jury. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying Luttrell’s motion for a bill of particulars. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the admission of vouching evidence constituted plain error. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Luttrell v. Delaware" on Justia Law