Justia Delaware Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

By
A grand jury issued a 54 count indictment charging defendant-appellant Otis Phillips, Jeffrey Phillips, and fourteen other co-defendants with gang related crimes relating to criminal activity of the "Sure Shot" street gang. Otis was charged with three counts of first degree murder, first degree attempted murder, gang participation, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, possession of firearms, assault and criminal mischief. The superior court denied severance motions and instead conducted a joint capital trial of Otis and Jeffrey lasting 21 days. The jury acquitted Otis of one possession charge and conspiracy, but convicted on everything else. Otis would later be sentenced to death for the first degree murder charge, life imprisonment plus an additional 130 years for everything else. Otis appealed. Finding that Otis' death sentence had to be vacated, the Supreme Court remanded this case for resentencing on the murder charge only. The Court affirmed the remaining sentences, finding no reversible error in the superior court's judgment. View "Phillips v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By
A grand jury issued a 54 count indictment charging defendant-appellant Jeffrey Phillips, Otis Phillips, and fourteen other co-defendants with gang related crimes relating to criminal activity of the "Sure Shot" street gang. Jeffrey was charged with two counts of first degree murder, first degree attempted murder, gang participation, first degree conspiracy, reckless endangerment, possession of firearms, assault and criminal mischief. The superior court denied severance motions and instead conducted a joint capital trial of Otis and Jeffrey lasting 21 days. The jury acquitted Jeffrey of assault and conspiracy charges, but convicted on everything else. Jeffrey would later be sentenced to life imprisonment plus an additional 72 years. Jeffrey appealed. Finding none of Jeffrey's arguments had merit, the Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Phillips v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By
This dispute centered on subrogation claims Victoria Insurance Company and Nationwide Insurance Company asserted against the City of Wilmington. This appeal presented a question of first impression before the Supreme Court: whether, under Delaware's motor vehicle insurance statute governing subrogation disputes among insurers and self-insurers, the losing party may appeal de novo to the Superior Court from an adverse arbitration award. In considering consolidated motions to dismiss two such appeals filed by the City against the insurers, the Superior Court determined that 21 Del. C. 2118(g)(3), which mandated arbitration for subrogation disputes arising between insurers and self-insurers, did not provide a right to appeal. Because the statute unambiguously provided for appeals from mandatory arbitration of subrogation disputes between insurers and self-insurers, the Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Wilmington v. Nationwide Insurance Co." on Justia Law

By
This appeal centered on a dispute over when a charging lien could be imposed on a judgment to recover unpaid attorney's fees. The Vice Chancellor supplemented the prerequisites for a charging lien to confine an attorney to her unpaid fees that are directly connected to the recovery she obtained on her client‘s behalf. But, that supplement was, in the Delaware Supreme Court's view, inequitable because it denies an attorney full compensation for the work she contracted to do on behalf of her client and thus undermines the utility of a charging lien in encouraging counsel to provide legal services to clients by ensuring them that their contractual right to a fee will be upheld by the judiciary. Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP v. Sutherland" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
The Court of Chancery held that a conflicts committee approved a conflict transaction that it did not believe was in the best interests of the limited partnership it was charged with protecting. A problem emerged for the derivative plaintiff (who won at trial), because after trial but before any judicial ruling on the merits, the limited partnership was acquired in a merger. The claims brought by the plaintiff were thus transferred to the buyer in the merger. Plaintiff’s standing was extinguished, and his only recourse was to challenge the fairness of the merger by alleging that the value of his claims was not reflected in consideration of the merger. The Court of Chancery rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiff’s claims were considered when the limited partnership merged. However, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery: plaintiff’s claims were, and remained, derivative in nature. Derivative plaintiffs do not make claims belonging to them individually. Here, the derivative plaintiff only sought monetary relief for the limited partnership. Plaintiff lost standing to continue his derivative action when the merger closed. View "El Paso Pipeline GP Company, LLC, et al. v. Brinckerhoff" on Justia Law

By
Andrew Lloyd appeals his convictions for racketeering and other offenses related to his role in a Delaware heroin trafficking ring. He raised four issues on appeal: (1) the Superior Court abused its discretion by giving a jury instruction that did not adequately define “enterprise” according to the Delaware RICO statute; (2) the State presented insufficient evidence to prove that Lloyd was engaged in an “association-in-fact” enterprise under the RICO statute; (3) the State improperly vouched for and bolstered certain witnesses’ testimony by asking several of the witnesses about the contents of their plea agreements; and (4) the cumulative effect of the errors violated his due process rights. After a careful review of the record on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found no merit to any of these claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment. View "Lloyd v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By
A jury found that plaintiffs-appellants Andrew and April Rash "sustained one or more injuries proximately caused by" negligence on the part of defendant-appellee Justin Moczulski following an auto accident. However, the jury returned a zero verdict. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial. The Superior Court denied the motion for a new trial but imposed an additur of $10,000. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court’s denial of their motion for a new trial was an abuse of discretion; and (2) the award of$10,000 for additur was unreasonable. Defendants, Moczulski and Diamond Materials, LLC, cross-appealed, contending that the motion for a new trial should have been denied without additur. After review, the Supreme Court found that there were significant disputed issues concerning the nature and extent of Mr. Rash’s injuries as well as alleged failure on his part to mitigate his injuries through treatment. In its order denying plaintiffs’ motion for a new trial, the trial court observed that “the exact nature and extent of Plaintiff’s injury [and] Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate his injuries through treatment made identifying and compensating the injury quite problematic,” an observation with which the Supreme Court agreed. Under the circumstances of this case, the Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to award an additur. View "Rash v. Moczulski" on Justia Law

By
Defendant Derrick Powell appealed the superior court's denial of his motion for postconviction relief. During the pendency of that appeal, Powell moved to vacated his death sentence based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Hurst v. Florida," and the Delaware Supreme Court's interpretation of that decision in "Rauf v. Delaware." The only issue addressed in this decision was Powell's motion to vacate this death sentence. The question presented by Powell's motion was whether the holding in "Rauf" applied to a death sentence was already final when "Rauf" was decided. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded that the decision of "Rauf" applied retroactively to Powell's case, and that his death sentence should have been vacated, and Powell sentenced to life imprisonment. View "Powell v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By
The State appealed the superior court’s order granting Catherine Culp’s second pro se motion for sentence modification, which the court reviewed as a Motion for Review of Sentence. The superior court held that Culp’s rehabilitative efforts demonstrated “beyond cavil extraordinary circumstances” justifying reduction of her sentence pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b). On appeal, the State argued that the superior court abused its discretion in granting the Motion, which the State contended was barred as repetitive and untimely. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that the superior court’s modification of Culp’s sentence ignored the plain language of Rule 35(b) and established precedent, thereby abusing its discretion. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order. View "Delaware v. Culp" on Justia Law

By
This appeal in a derivative suit brought by a stockholder of Zynga, Inc. centered on whether the Court of Chancery correctly found that a majority of the Zynga board could impartially consider a demand and thus correctly dismissed the complaint for failure to plead demand excusal under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1. The Supreme Court reversed dismissal of plaintiff's complaint: "Fortunately for the derivative plaintiff, however, he was able to plead particularized facts regarding three directors that create a reasonable doubt that these directors can impartially consider a demand. [. . .] in our view, the combination of these facts creates a pleading stage reasonable doubt as to the ability of these directors to act independently on a demand adverse to the controller's interests. When these three directors are considered incapable of impartially considering a demand, a majority of the nine member Zynga board is compromised for Rule 23.1 purposes and demand is excused." View "Sandys v. Pincus, et al." on Justia Law