Justia Delaware Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Stephanie Buckley sought PIP benefits following an accident involving a school bus. Defendant State Farm insured the school bus that Buckley intended to take to school on March 27, 2012. Buckley was hit by another vehicle when, after receiving the signal from the bus driver, she crossed the street to board the bus. In a detailed opinion, the Superior Court explained why Buckley was entitled to PIP coverage from State Farm. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the Superior Court had no difficulty finding that the school bus was involved in the accident for purposes of 21 Del. C. 2118, "because the bus driver, by law, controlled the process by which Buckley entered and exited the bus, and the accident occurred after the bus driver signaled her to proceed and she followed that instruction." View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Buckley" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Martin Fountain appealed a superior court judgment denying his motion for resentencing on grounds that the Amended Sentencing Act did not apply retroactively. With the help of amicus curiae, he argued that the Act vested a judge with the discretion to modify a consecutive sentence entered before the Act was effective July 9, 2014, and to reimpose concurrent prison terms. The State argued the judicial discretion provided for in the Act operated prospectively only, because there was no express statement in the amendment that made it retroactive. After review, the Supreme Court agreed with the State that the Act applied prospectively. Therefore, the superior court's judgment was affirmed. View "Fountain v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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In this case, a large Georgia corporation that properly registered to do business in Delaware was sued in Delaware over claims having nothing to do with its activities in Delaware. Adhering to the interpretation given to Delaware's registration statutes, the Superior Court held that, notwithstanding the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Daimler AG v. Bauman," the foreign corporation consented to Delaware's general jurisdiction merely by registering to do business in Delaware. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that after "Daimler," it was "not tenable to read Delaware's registration statutes" in the same way as the Superior Court did in "Sternberg v. O'Neil … Delaware cannot exercise general jurisdiction over it consistent with principles of due process. Furthermore, the plaintiffs concede that they cannot establish specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant under the long-arm statute or principles of due process. Therefore, the plaintiffs' claim must be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Accordingly, we reverse the Superior Court‘s judgment." View "Genuine Parts Co. v. Cepec, et al." on Justia Law

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A group of New York-based third party payor health insurers (“TPPs”) that provided prescription drug benefits to union members appealed a Superior Court judgment dismissing with prejudice their second amended complaint. At issue were claims brought by the TPPs under various state consumer fraud laws against AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, and Zeneca Inc. (collectively “AstraZeneca”). The TPPs alleged that AstraZeneca falsely advertised its more expensive patented prescription drug "Nexium" as superior to the less expensive generic drug "Prilosec," causing the TPPs to overpay for Nexium when generic Prilosec would have sufficed. After conducting an extensive choice of law analysis, the Superior Court determined that New York law controlled the TPPs’ claims. The court then held that the TPPs failed to state a claim under New York’s consumer fraud statute for failure to allege legally sufficient causation. The TPPs appealed, arguing the Superior Court's choice of law analysis was flawed, and that the Superior Court's causation analysis was equally flawed. After a careful review of the record on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the ultimate judgment of the Superior Court, finding it not necessary to discuss whether the Superior Court correctly analyzed the choice of law issue, because under either state consumer fraud statute the TPPs could not recover damages as a matter of law. View "Teamsters Local 237 Welfare Fund, et al. v. AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP" on Justia Law

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This litigation arose from the construction of a "Johnny Janosik" furniture store in Laurel. The Plaintiff-appellant LTL Acres Limited Partnership (LTL) was the owner of the Janosik Building. Defendant-appellee Butler Manufacturing Company (Butler) provided pre-engineered components which were used to build the roof and exterior walls. Defendant-appellee Dryvit Systems, Inc. (Dryvit) supplied a product used on the exterior finish of the walls, to protect and seal them. Dryvit warranted its product for ten years from the "date of substantial completion of the project." The building was completed in 2006. Unfortunately, the building had issues with water infiltration from the beginning. By February 2012, cladding began to crack and buckle. The water infiltration and delamination persisted through 2013 despite attempts to fix the issues. LTL brought this action in 2013, alleging breach of warranty, breach of contract, and negligence claims against Butler; and breach of warranty and breach of contract claims against Dryvit. The Superior Court granted summary judgment to both Butler and Dryvit on the grounds that the actions against both were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. It held that the action against Butler was barred by 10 Del. C. sec. 8127,which is a six year statute of limitations relating to alleged defective construction of an improvement to real property. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that summary judgment in favor of Butler was proper. The Superior Court ruled that LTL’s action against Dryvit was barred by a four year statute of limitations set forth in 6 Del. C. sec. 2-725. Dryvit gave LTL a ten year express warranty. The Superior Court described the warranty as a “repair and replacement warranty” and reasoned that such a warranty cannot be one that extended to future performance. It therefore concluded that the statute of limitations for an action on the warranty expired not later than four years after the Dryvit product was tendered and applied to the building; that is, not later than four years after 2006. The Supreme Court concluded that grant of summary judgment in favor of Dryvit was inappropriate, and had to be reversed. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "LTL Acres Limited Partnership v. Butler Manufacturing Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Jhavon Goode was convicted by jury of first degree assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. The jury determined that Goode shot Jason Terry in the course of a drug sale in Milford. The court sentenced Goode to a total of eighteen years at Level V incarceration with credit for time previously served. Goode appealed, raising a number of arguments. The Supreme Court found no merit to any of these arguments. With respect to Goode’s primary argument, that Terry’s identification of Goode should have been suppressed as unduly suggestive because Terry identified Goode only after Terry’s cousin, Raye Boone, showed him a photograph of Goode, the Court held that a state actor must play a role in an identification before due process concerns arise. "If no state actor is involved in the identification, as was the case here, then the normal rules of evidence and procedure provide sufficient protection to the rights of the accused to challenge the identification." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Goode v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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After being out of prison for two days and while on probation, defendant Phillip Rossi was spotted at a department store with a woman who was believed to have stolen almost $200 of merchandise. Rossi was the suspected lookout. The alleged scheme culminated in Rossi supposedly returning the stolen items to a different store for store credit later that same day. Criminal charges followed soon after the incident. And although the State entered a nolle prosequi on all charges against Rossi subject to certain conditions, it nonetheless sought to revoke Rossi's probation, and the Superior Court found that Rossi had violated terms of his probation by shoplifting. On appeal, Rossi argued that the Superior Court could not find that he violated probation by shoplifting because the evidence was insufficient to support the violation. "The State's burden to prove a violation of probation is much lighter than it is to convict a defendant of a crime. All that the State must do is prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the 'conduct of the probationer has not been as good as required by the conditions of probation.'" The only piece of competent evidence the State produced showed that Rossi was at the store on the key date in question. But, the State did not introduce any competent evidence that showed a crime had been committed there. Finding that was insufficient to support revocation of Rossi's probation, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Rossi v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Gerald Masarone appealed a Superior Court order denying his motion for postconviction relief. He raised two issues as grounds for appeal: (1) that his trial counsel was ineffective by not advising him that he had a right to wear street clothes, rather than a prison uniform, at his trial, and by failing to provide him with street clothes; and (2) the Superior Court erred by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing on his first claim. On this record, the Delaware Supreme Court could not conclude that Masarone was compelled to go to trial in a prison uniform. In addition, given the nature of the evidence against Masarone, no arguable error on this point or on the lack of an evidentiary hearing caused Masarone harm or prejudice. The Superior Court's order was affirmed. View "Masarone v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Earl Bradley petitioned the Supreme Court for postconviction relief. He was convicted on fourteen counts of first-degree rape, five counts of second-degree assault and five counts of sexual exploitation of a child. Bradley was sentenced to fourteen mandatory life sentences and 164 years at Level V imprisonment. In a 2012 direct appeal, Bradley argued that the search warrant for his former medical practice, BayBees Pediatrics, P.A., was defective because the affidavit in support of the search warrant application did not allege facts establishing probable cause that the medical files of certain patients would be found in a white outbuilding on the BayBees Pediatrics property, would be contained in digital format, or would relate to the crimes described in the search warrant application. Bradley also asserted that the police exceeded the scope of the search warrant by proceeding with a general search to locate and seize evidence without probable cause. The Delaware Supreme Court rejected those claims. Bradley raised three issues in this appeal: (1) the Superior Court erred when it denied his request for an evidentiary hearing and held that State action did not deprive him of his right to choice of counsel; (2) the Superior Court erred when it held that his trial and appellate counsel were not ineffective when they failed to object to the presentation of evidence outside of the four corners of the search warrant; and (3) the Superior Court erred in finding that his trial and appellate counsel litigated, in an effective and professionally reasonable manner, the claim that the police had performed an unrestricted search of his property in violation of the federal and state Constitutions. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's denial of postconviction relief. View "Bradley v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Christina Connelly appealed the dismissal of her claim against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. She contended that a claim accrued only when the insured suffers a judgment in excess of policy limits, and that judgment becomes final and non-appealable. Connelly's appeal raised this question as it pertained to the applicable statute of limitations on Connelly's insurance claim. State Farm contended that the claim accrued when the insurer allegedly acts in bad faith and breaches its duty to the insured. Although the Delaware Supreme Court had never addressed that precise issue, courts in other states that have considered it, and the weight of expert authority on insurance law, were in accord that a bad-faith failure-to-settle claim accrued when an excess judgment became final and non-appealable. "That approach conserves litigant and judicial resources. It also properly aligns the incentives of the insurer and its insured by allowing them to join efforts in defending the underlying third-party insurance claim without a stayed breach-of-contract claim causing a conflict of interest between them. Further, to state a claim that the insurer breached its implied duty to act in good faith, the insured must plead damages, which she cannot do before there is a final excess judgment against her." In view of these considerations, the Delaware Court found that a claim against an insurer for acting in bad faith by failing to settle a third-party insurance claim accrued when an excess judgment against an insured becomes final and non-appealable. Accordingly, it reversed the Superior Court's decision. View "Connelly v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law