Justia Delaware Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

By Justia Inc
In this case, the buyer persuaded the Superior Court to award it $15.1 million in damages when it bought a 65% interest in an investment advisory firm for $25 million. The buyer’s premise was that it would not have paid $25 million but for its expectancy that it would manage seven funds for three or more years. But the majority of the assets under management at the investment advisory firm were attributable to accounts other than the seven funds. Importantly, the contract enabled the seller to terminate the buyer’s right to manage the seven funds for any reason, so long as it paid a termination fee capped at $3.5 million, and to terminate the buyer without any compensation if the seller believed its fiduciary duties required or if the buyer’s performance fell below a contractual standard. After three years, the seller could terminate the buyer as manager of the funds for any reason and owe no compensation at all. Instead of giving effect to the parties’ contractual bargain, the Delaware Supreme Court determined that Superior Court erred by implying contractual obligations on the part of the seller that were inconsistent with the contract’s express terms. This enabled the buyer to obtain in litigation benefits in excess of those potentially available under the contract, and contractual protections that the buyer had failed to obtain in negotiations. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the Superior Court's judgment in favor of the buyer and remanded the case for a determination of what, if any, termination fee is due to the buyer because of the seller’s termination of it as manager of the funds. View "Nationwide Emerging Managers, LLC, et al. v. Northpointe Holdings, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
By Justia Inc
Posted in: Business Law
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By Justia Inc
Defendant Brandon Wyche was charged by grand jury with murder first degree, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited. The case went to trial, and ended with a hung jury. Wyche filed a motion in limine to exclude the prior recorded statement of a witness for the State, Carlyle Braithwaite. The Superior Court denied the motion and the matter proceeded to a second trial. A second jury found Wyche guilty of murder first degree and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to life plus 25 years. On appeal, Wyche argued that Braithwaite's statement to police was involuntary because the police failed to administer a Miranda advisement prior to questioning him. Upon review, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that the evidence presented supported the Superior Court's conclusion that Braithwaite's statement, which was not self-incriminating, was the product of an uncoerced and voluntary decision to speak with the police. Therefore the statement was properly admitted into evidence at trial, and Wyche's conviction was affirmed. View "Wyche v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
At issue in this appeal was the meaning of suffering a "physical injury" as an element of the crime of Assault Second Degree against a law enforcement officer. Defendant Troy Williamson was arrested and charged with offensive touching of a law enforcement officer. The misdemeanor offense was later upgraded, and he was subsequently indicted for the felony Assault Second Degree of a law enforcement officer. After a bench trial in March 2014, Williamson was convicted of Assault Second Degree and was sentenced to four years of incarceration at Level V, suspended after two years for six months of Level IV supervision at the discretion of the Department of Correction, followed by one year of Level III probation. On appeal, Williamson argued that there was insufficient evidence concerning physical injury to a law enforcement officer to convict him of Assault Second Degree. Furthermore, he argues that the verdict should have been a finding of guilty of the lesser included offense of offensive touching of a law enforcement officer, a Class A misdemeanor, rather than Assault Second Degree, which is a Class D felony. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Williamson v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
In this case, the buyer persuaded the Superior Court to award it $15.1 million in damages when the buyer bought a 65% interest in an investment advisory firm for $25 million. The buyer’s premise was that it would not have paid $25 million but for its expectancy that it would manage seven funds for three or more years. But the majority of the assets under management at the investment advisory firm were attributable to accounts other than the seven funds. Significantly, the contract enabled the seller to terminate the buyer’s right to manage the seven funds for any reason, so long as it paid a termination fee capped at $3.5 million, and to terminate the buyer without any compensation if the seller believed its fiduciary duties required or if the buyer’s performance fell below a contractual standard. After three years, the seller could terminate the buyer as manager of the funds for any reason and owe no compensation at all. The Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court. The Supreme Court found that instead of giving effect to the parties’ contractual bargain, the Superior Court erred by implying contractual obligations on the part of the seller that were inconsistent with the contract’s express terms. This enabled the buyer to obtain in litigation benefits in excess of those potentially available under the contract, and contractual protections that the buyer had failed to obtain in negotiations. The case was remanded for a determination of what, if any, termination fee is due to the buyer because of the seller’s termination of it as manager of the funds. View "Nationwide Emerging Managers, LLC, et al. v. Northpointe Holdings, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant-Appellant First Health Settlement Class appealed a superior court order that granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee Chartis Specialty Insurance Company. This was one of a number of class action cases filed against First Health and others in the State of Louisiana. In those actions, medical service providers alleged that First Health violated notice provisions contained in a Louisiana statute known as the Preferred Provider Organizations Act. First Health ultimately entered into a settlement in which it resolved all of the Louisiana litigation. Chartis was First Health's errors and omissions insurance insurer. The policy had a number of exclusions, one of which was an exclusion for "penalties." The issue this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review was whether the amount that First Health paid to settle the Louisiana litigation was a "penalty," and, therefore, not a covered loss under the insurance policy. The superior court concluded that the amount paid was a "penalty." The Delaware court disagreed, concluding that it was not a "penalty," and that the policy's exclusion for "penalties" did not apply. View "The First Health Settlement Class v. Chartis Speciality Insurance Co." on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant-Appellant CorVel Corporation appealed a superior court order that granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee Homeland Insurance Company of New York. This was one of a number of class action cases filed against CorVel and others in the State of Louisiana. In those actions, medical service providers alleged that CorVel violated notice provisions contained in a Louisiana statute known as the Preferred Provider Organizations Act. CorVel ultimately entered into a settlement in which it resolved all of the Louisiana litigation. Homeland was CorVel's errors and omissions insurance insurer. The policy had a number of exclusions, one of which was an exclusion for "penalties." The issue this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review was whether the amount that CorVel paid to settle the Louisiana litigation was a "penalty," and, therefore, not a covered loss under the insurance policy. The superior court concluded that the amount paid was a "penalty." The Delaware court disagreed, concluding that it was not a "penalty," and that the policy's exclusion for "penalties" did not apply. View "Corvel Corporation v. Homeland Insurance Company of New York" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Following an accident where a motorcycle ran into the rear-end of an SUV, police called to the scene detected a faint odor of alcohol emanating from the the rider of the motorcycle while he was being treated by paramedics. Defendant-appellant Bradford Lambert, III admitted he ran into the rear end of the SUV with his motorcycle. A jury later convicted Lambert of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (DUI). On appeal, he argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress blood alcohol concentration evidence because the search warrant affidavit failed to set forth facts sufficient to show probable cause. Finding no merit to this contention, the Supreme Court affirmed Lambert's conviction. View "Lambert v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Appellant Ambrose Sykes appealed the Superior Court’s denial of his Motion for Post-conviction Relief. In 2006 Sykes was convicted by a jury of two counts of Murder in the First Degree, two counts of Rape in the First Degree, one count of Kidnapping in the First Degree, two counts of Burglary in the Second Degree, and other offenses. After a penalty phase hearing, the trial judge imposed the death penalty. On direct appeal, Sykes’ conviction and sentence were affirmed. In this appeal, Sykes raised five issues: (1) he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel in investigating, preparing and presenting mitigating evidence during his penalty-phase hearing; (2) trial counsel was ineffective by failing to argue that an erroneous comment which the trial judge made about allocution during the guilt phase of the trial violated his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial by an impartial jury; (3) the trial judge committed error when he failed to remove Juror No. 9 from the jury after her impartiality was called into question during the guilt phase of the trial; (4) the State failed to prove Burglary, Rape and Kidnapping beyond a reasonable doubt; and (5) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a judgment of acquittal on the kidnapping charge on the grounds that the restraint of the victim was incidental to, and not independent of, restraint pertaining to the underlying rape charge. After review, the Supreme Court found no merit to any of these claims and affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. View "Sykes v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
Defendant-appellant Robert Williams was convicted of two counts of robbery in the first degree, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, one count of conspiracy in the second degree, and one count of assault in the third degree. He was sentenced to twenty-two years at Level V incarceration, followed by probation. He appealed a Superior Court order that denied his motion for postconviction relief, arguing: (1) the trial court should have found that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to file a motion to suppress a statement that Williams made to the police approximately fifteen hours after he was taken into custody; and (2) the trial court should have determined that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to investigate and present readily available mitigating evidence at Williams’ sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court, but took the opportunity to discuss its decision with regard to Williams second "novel" contention regarding a mitigation investigator in a non-capital case. "Given the seriousness of Williams’ criminal record, the chances he had to get on the right track, and the pre-sentence report that detailed his difficult childhood and the fact that his parents were poor role models, there is not a basis to conclude that there was a reasonable probability that Williams’ twenty-two year sentence, which was well below the 103 years he could have received, would have been lesser had the evidence Williams now points to been presented." Furthermore, the Court found that Williams' argument that a mitigation specialist should have been retained in a serious non-capital case as an invariable requirement of effective representation was without legal basis. View "Williams v. Delaware" on Justia Law

By Justia Inc
A jury found appellant Victor Rodriguez guilty of Reckless Burning, Burglary in the Third Degree, two counts of Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree, and three counts of Arson in the Second Degree. After finding that he was an habitual offender, the Superior Court sentenced Rodriguez to life in prison for each of his arson convictions. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Rodriguez's convictions on direct appeal. Filing a pro se motion for postconviction relief, Rodriguez argued he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Superior Court ultimately denied the motion, and Rodriguez appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial. View "Rodriguez v. Delaware" on Justia Law