Justia Delaware Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In 2017, Sibanye Gold Ltd. (“Sibanye”) acquired Stillwater Mining Co. (“Stillwater”) through a reverse triangular merger. Under the terms of the merger agreement, each Stillwater share at closing was converted into the right to receive $18 of merger consideration. Between the signing and the closing of the merger, the commodity price for palladium (which Stillwater mined) increased by nine percent, improving Stillwater’s value. Certain former Stillwater stockholders dissented to the merger, perfected their statutory appraisal rights, and pursued this litigation. During the appraisal trial, petitioners argued the flawed deal process made the deal price an unreliable indicator of fair value and that increased commodity prices raised Stillwater’s fair value substantially between the signing and closing of the merger. In 2019, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued an opinion, holding that the $18 per share deal price was the most persuasive indicator of Stillwater’s fair value at the time of the merger. The court did not award an upward adjustment for the increased commodity prices. Petitioners appealed the Court of Chancery’s decision, arguing that the court abused its discretion when it ignored the flawed sale process and petitioners’ argument for an upward adjustment to the merger consideration. After review of the parties’ briefs and the record on appeal, and after oral argument, the Delaware Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the Court of Chancery. View "Brigade Leveraged Capital Structures Fund Ltd v. Stillwater Mining Co." on Justia Law

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Following two operation-disabling accidents, Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation, an insured aluminum-products manufacturer, whose “all-risks” property-insurance policy included business- interruption coverage, did not rebuild its damaged facility and consequently did not resume operations. Noranda and its insurers agreed that the failure to rebuild and resume operations did not negate the business-interruption coverage. But when Noranda submitted its business-interruption claim, the parties could not agree on how to calculate the Noranda's gross-earnings loss, which was the measure of the insurers’ liability under the relevant policy. After a seven-day trial, a jury found in favor of Noranda, and the insurers appealed. At trial, Noranda's damages expert employed a model that measured the insured’s gross-earnings loss by comparing the value of the insured’s production had the accident not occurred with the value of its production after the accidents had it repaired and resumed operations with due diligence. Although the parties disputed whether the insurers took issue with this methodology at trial in this appeal, the insurers contended that the model was inconsistent with the policy’s formula for calculating gross-earnings loss and that it grossly exaggerated the amount of the Noranda's claim. The insurers also challenged Noranda's expert’s factual assumptions and claimed he improperly included amounts that the insured had waived in an earlier property-damage settlement. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded Noranda's expert's damages model was consistent with the relevant policy provisions, and that the trial court's determination that the factual assumptions made by the expert were sufficiently reliable for the jury to consider was not an abuse of discretion. Likewise, the Court held the insurers' claim that the earlier property-damage settlement precluded a portion of Noranda's recovery was without merit. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "XL Insurance America, Inc., et al. v. Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation" on Justia Law

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Windsor I, LLC appealed a superior court's decision to grant defendants' CWCapital Asset Management LLC (“CWCAM”) and U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) motion to dismiss. Windsor owned a 48,000 square foot commercial property and building encumbered by debt eventually held by U.S. Bank. In 2015, after learning that the Property’s sole tenant intended to vacate, Windsor sought special servicing to refinance the debt. After nearly two years of negotiation and litigation, CWCAM, the special servicer, offered to sell the loan to Windsor in a proposed transaction for $5,288,000, subject to credit committee approval. The credit committee, however, rejected the transaction, and Defendants filed a foreclosure action against Windsor in 2017. Defendants thereafter held an online auction to sell the loan. A Windsor representative participated in the auction. After the auction, Defendants sold the loan to a third party, WM Capital Partners 66 LLC (“WM Capital”), and Windsor ultimately paid $7.4 million to WM Capital in full satisfaction of the loan. In its action seeking relief based upon quasi-contractual theories of promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment, Windsor alleged that but for the credit committee’s arbitrary rejection of the proposed transaction, Windsor would have purchased the note and loan nearly a year earlier for over $2,112,000 less than it paid to WM Capital. The Superior Court ultimately held that Windsor failed to state claims for promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment, and that the claims were barred because Windsor’s representative had agreed to a general release as part of an auction bidding process. Finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Windsor I, LLC v. CWCapital Asset Mgmt, LLC" on Justia Law

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A superior court determined State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company’s (collectively, “State Farm”) payment practices with Spine Care Delaware, LLC (“SCD”) for medical fees incurred by its Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) insureds in connection with covered multi-injection spine procedures contravened 21 Del. C. 2118(a)(2). When State Farm received SCD’s charges for a multi-injection procedure performed on one of its PIP insureds, it unilaterally applied a Multiple Payment Reduction (“MPR”) to the charges for injections after the first injection in a manner consistent with Medicare guidelines, paying SCD less than what it charged. SCD sought a declaration that State Farm's application of its MPRs was inconsistent with section 2118(a)(2)’s requirement of reasonable compensation for covered medical expenses, and sought a declaration that State Farm had to pay SCD any reasonable amount charged for PIP-related medical expenses, without applying MPRs. Both parties then moved for summary judgment. The superior court held that State Farm failed to show that the MPR reductions correlated to reasonable charges for the multiple-injection treatments, and thus contravened section 2118(a)(2). On appeal, State Farm contended the superior court incorrectly placed the burden of proof on State Farm to demonstrate that its application of MPRs was reasonable, and that SCD failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that State Farm’s application of MPRs was a failure to pay reasonable and necessary expenses under the statute. Alternatively, State Farm argued that even if it had the burden of proof, it satisfied that burden. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with State Farm's first premise, that the superior court erred in assigning State Farm the burden of proof. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "State Farm v. Spine Care Delaware" on Justia Law

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Todd Green appealed the Superior Court’s denial of his motion for postconviction relief under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61. Green was arrested during the first week of June 2014 after his girlfriend’s thirteen-year old daughter reported to her sister, a sexual abuse nurse examiner and a Child Advocacy Center forensic interviewer, that Green had raped her on the evening of May 28, 2014 and that “it wasn’t the first time.” A grand jury returned a twenty-two count indictment against Green, and after a five-day trial, he was convicted by jury on three of those counts: attempted rape in the second degree, attempted sexual abuse of a child, and unlawful sexual contact in the second degree. After a pre-sentence investigation, the Superior Court sentenced Green to a cumulative period of Level V incarceration of 50 years and nine months. To the Delaware Supreme Court, Green appealed his convictions. arguing that the jury’s exposure to several instances of inadmissible testimony had a “cumulative prejudicial effect” and deprived him of a fair trial. The Supreme Court rejected that argument and affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment, concluding that “[a]ny prejudicial effect of the testimony relied upon by Green [was] . . . far outweighed by the overwhelming evidence of his guilt.” Green then filed a pro se motion for postconviction relief, alleging his trial counsel was ineffective throughout the trial in violation of his Sixth, Eighth, and Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution and under Article I, sections 4, 7, and 11 of the Delaware Constitution. Several of the issues at the heart of Green’s ineffective-assistance claims were touched upon in the Supreme Court's earlier order denying Green’s direct appeal, but a few were not. So Green also alleged in his motion that his counsel on direct appeal was ineffective for not raising those issues. A Superior Court Commissioner “recommend[ed] that Green’s motion be denied as procedurally barred by Rule 61(i)(3) and (4) for failure to prove cause and prejudice and as previously adjudicated.” The trial judge, without addressing the commissioner’s procedural-bar analysis, adopted the Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation and denied Green’s motion. In this appeal, Green dropped his claim that his appellate counsel was ineffective, but challenged the Superior Court’s determination that his claims were procedurally barred and that his trial counsel rendered constitutionally effective representation. Although the Supreme Court agreed with Green that his claims were not procedurally barred under Rule 61(i)(3) and (4), the Supreme Court concluded nonetheless that Green’s trial counsel’s performance, viewed as a whole, did not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness. Therefore, the Court affirmed. View "Green v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father appealed a Family Court order terminating their parental rights to Giselle, who was four months old when the Family Court first ordered her removed from the parents’ care. The court found Giselle was at risk of chronic and life threatening abuse based on the previous unexplained serious injuries to her older sibling. The Family Court also found Mother and Father failed to plan for Giselle’s physical needs and her mental and emotional health and development. Mother and Father challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the termination of parental rights and raised a number of constitutional arguments on appeal. Finding the arguments lacked merit, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Family Court’s judgment. View "Sierra v. DSCYF" on Justia Law

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Since 2010, appellant Mark Spanakos has tried to gain control over and revive Hawk Systems, Inc., a void Delaware corporation, by filing a series of direct and derivative actions in Florida against former Hawk Systems insiders and taking several steps outside of court to establish himself as the Company’s majority stockholder and sole director. Spanakos was successful in his direct Florida litigation, having won a Partial Final Judgment in one action and favorable Summary Judgment rulings in another. Spanakos’s derivative claims in the third Florida action, however, were stayed to allow Spanakos to clarify his standing to pursue those claims. Accordingly, in 2018 Spanakos filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery seeking: (1) a declaration that he controlled a majority of the voting shares of Hawk Systems and that he was the validly elected, sole director and officer of Hawk Systems; or (2) in the alternative, an order compelling the company to hold an annual election of directors under 8 Del. C. sections 223(a) and 211(c). Following a trial, briefing, and post-trial argument, the Court of Chancery denied both of Spanakos’s requests for relief, ruling that he had not carried his burden of proof to obtain any of the relief that he sought. On appeal, Spanakos argues that the Court of Chancery abused its discretion when it declined to order a stockholders’ meeting for the election of directors despite the fact that Spanakos satisfied the elements of Section 211. Having reviewed the record on appeal and the court’s opinion below, the Delaware Supreme Court found the Court of Chancery did not abuse its discretion when it declined to compel a stockholders’ meeting given the unique facts of this case. View "Spanakos v. Page, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart sued Daniel Parker alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. Appellee, the Estate, moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court concurred the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Court therefore reversed the dismissal, and remanded this matter back to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law

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Two limited partners demanded the books and records of certain limited partnerships. Most of the documents demanded were produced, but one category of documents remains in dispute: the Schedule K-1s (“K-1s”) attached to the partnerships’ tax returns. Although the limited partners were provided with their own K-1s, the limited partners sought the K-1s of the other limited partners for the purpose of valuing their ownership stake in the partnerships and in order to investigate mismanagement and wrongdoing. The partnerships countered that the K-1s were not necessary and essential to the valuation purpose and there was no credible basis to suspect wrongdoing. The Court of Chancery, based upon its history of interpreting 6 Del. C. section 17- 305 in the same manner as 8 Del. C. section 220, held that the K-1s were subject to the requirement that documents sought be “necessary and essential” to the stated purpose, and found they failed the "necessary and essential" test. The Delaware Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the limited partners were entitled to the K-1s under the terms of the partnership agreements. The Court thus reversed the Court of Chancery and remanded for further proceedings. View "Murfey v. WHC Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellants Nancy and Scott Hart brought suit alleging tort damages from an automobile accident caused by Daniel Parker. Before the Harts filed their complaint, Daniel Parker passed away. The Harts were unsure as to whether Parker was still alive when they filed their complaint and named both Parker and the Estate of Daniel Parker (the “Estate”) as defendants. The Appellee-Estate moved to dismiss the Harts’ complaint on numerous grounds. The Superior Court granted the Appellee’s motion, holding that the complaint was time-barred by 12 Del. C. 2102(a). On appeal, the Harts challenged the Superior Court’s order dismissing their claims against the Estate and argued that the Superior Court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Harts’ claims were time-barred by Section 2102(a). The Delaware Supreme Court agreed that the Harts’ claims were not time-barred by Section 2102(a), reversed the dismissal, and remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings. View "Hart v. Parker" on Justia Law