Articles Posted in Contracts

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Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V. (“Chicago Bridge”) and Westinghouse Electric Company (“Westinghouse”) had an extensive collaboration and complicated commercial relationship involving the construction of nuclear power plants by Chicago Bridge’s subsidiary, CB&I Stone & Webster, Inc. (“Stone”). As delays and cost overruns mounted, this relationship became contentious. To resolve their differences, Chicago Bridge agreed to sell Stone to Westinghouse. The purchase agreement was unusual in a few key respects: (1) the purchase price at closing by Westinghouse was set in the contract at zero ; and (2) Westinghouse agreed that its sole remedy if Chicago Bridge breached its representations and warranties was to refuse to close, and that Chicago Bridge would have no liability for monetary damages post-closing (the “Liability Bar”). In contesting Chicago Bridge’s calculation of the Final Purchase Price, Westinghouse asserted that Chicago Bridge (which had been paid zero at closing and had invested approximately $1 billion in the plants in the six months leading to the December 31, 2015 closing) owed it nearly $2 billion. Westinghouse conceded the overwhelming percentage of its claims were based on the proposition that Chicago Bridge’s historical financial statements (the ones on which Westinghouse could make no post-closing claim) were not based on a proper application of generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”). Chicago Bridge and Westinghouse unsuccessfully attempted to resolve their differences. But, once it was clear that Westinghouse would seek to have the Independent Auditor review Chicago Bridge’s accounting practices, Chicago Bridge filed this action seeking a declaration that Westinghouse’s changes based on assertions that Stone’s financial statements and accounting methodologies were not GAAP compliant were not appropriate disputes for the Independent Auditor to resolve when those changes were, in essence, claims that Chicago Bridge breached the Purchase Agreement’s representations and warranties and therefore were foreclosed by the Liability Bar. Westinghouse moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the Purchase Agreement established a mandatory process for resolving the parties’ disagreements. The Court of Chancery ruled in favor of Westinghouse, reading the process the Purchase Agreement set out for calculating certain payments (called the “True Up”) as providing Westinghouse with a wide-ranging right to challenge any accounting principle used by Chicago Bridge. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded the Court of Chancery erred in interpreting the Purchase Agreement this way. The Court therefore reversed and required entry of a judgment on the pleadings for Chicago Bridge. View "Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V. v. Westinghouse Electric Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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In 2003, Zubin Mehta and Gregory Shalov formed Finger Lakes Capital Partners as an investment vehicle to own several operating companies. Mehta and Shalov contacted Lyrical Partners L.P. to participate in their venture. The parties signed a term sheet covering their overall relationship, as well as topics relating to two specific investments. On the advice of counsel, Finger Lakes held each of its portfolio companies as separate limited liability companies with separate operating agreements. Over the course of a decade, the companies did not perform as expected. Finger Lakes asked Lyrical for additional capital. The parties agreed to allow Lyrical to “clawback” its investment money as added protection for its continued investment in the enterprise. Only one investment performed well and generated a substantial return when it was sold. The others failed or incurred substantial losses. The parties disagreed about how the proceeds from the one profitable investment should have been distributed under the network of agreements governing their business relationship. The Court of Chancery held that the proceeds should have been distributed first in accordance with the operating agreement governing the investment in the profitable portfolio company; the term sheet and clawback agreement would then be applied to reallocate the distribution under their terms. Finger Lakes argued on appeal that the profitable investment entity’s operating agreement superseded the overarching term sheet and clawback agreement; even if the clawback agreement was not superseded, the Court of Chancery applied it incorrectly; Lyrical could not recover its unpaid management fees through a setoff or recoupment; and, the Court of Chancery improperly limited Finger Lakes’ indemnification to expenses incurred until Finger Lakes was awarded a partial judgment on the pleadings, instead of awarding indemnification for all expenses related to these proceedings. With one exception, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s judgment with respect to that court's interpretation of the operating agreements. The Supreme Court found, however, that the Court of Chancery erred when it held that Lyrical could use setoff or recoupment to recover time-barred management fees. Further, Lyrical could not assert its time-barred claims by way of recoupment because the defensive claims did not arise from the same transaction as Finger Lakes’ claims. View "Finger Lakes Capital Partners, LLC v. Honeoye Lake Acquisition, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Appellant Greenville Country Club, through its workers’ compensation carrier, Guard Insurance (“Guard”), appealed a Superior Court Order affirming a decision of the Industrial Accident Board (the “Board”). While working for Greenville Country Club, Jordan Rash suffered injuries to his lumbar spine in two separately compensable work accidents. The first accident occurred in 2009 while the country club was insured by Guard Insurance Group. The second accident occurred in 2012 while the country club was insured by Technology Insurance (“Technology”). In 2014, Rash filed two Petitions to Determine Additional Compensation, one against Guard and one against Technology. After a hearing, the Board determined that the condition at issue was a recurrence of the 2009 work injury and not an aggravation of the 2012 work injury, and concluded that Guard was therefore wholly liable for the additional compensation to Rash. Guard appealed, arguing: (1) the Board failed to properly apply the rule for determining successive carrier liability; and (2) there was no substantial evidence to support the Board’s finding that Rash fully recovered from the 2012 accident or that his ongoing condition was solely caused by the 2009 work accident. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found no error in the Board’s decision, and that the decision was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Board's decision. View "Greenville Country Club (Guard Insurance) v. Greenville Country Club (Technology Insurance)" on Justia Law

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Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC sought to recover under insurance policies issued to a third company, Houdaille Industries, Inc. In the 1980's, Viking and Warren acquired pump manufacturing businesses from Houdaille. As a result, Viking and Warren were confronted with potential liability flowing from personal injury claims made by plaintiffs alleging damages in connection with asbestos exposure claims dating back to when the pump manufacturing businesses were owned by Houdaille. Houdaille had purchased occurrence-based primary and umbrella insurance from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Above the Liberty umbrella layer, Houdaille purchased layers of excess insurance. In total, Houdaille purchased 35 excess policies through 20 different carriers (the "Excess Policies"). Viking and Warren sought to fund the liabilities arising from the Houdaille-Era Claims using the comprehensive insurance program originally purchased by Houdaille. The insurance companies that issued the Excess Policies (the "Excess Insurers") contended that Viking and Warren were not entitled to use the Excess Policies to respond to the claims. The Excess Insurers also disputed the extent of any coverage available, particularly with respect to defense costs. The Supreme Court held, after careful consideration of the policies at issue: (1) the Superior Court correctly held that the 1980-1985 Liberty Primary Policies were exhausted; (2) the Superior Court held that 33 of the Excess Policies at issue in this appeal provided coverage to Viking and Warren for their defense costs, with many payments contingent on insurer consent; (3) the Court of Chancery correctly held that there were valid assignments of insurance rights to Warren and Viking under the Excess Policies; (4) the Superior Court was affirmed in part and reversed in part with respect to its determination of the Excess Policies' coverage for defense costs; and (5) the Superior Court erred with respect to the trigger of coverage under the Excess Policies. View "In Re Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC Insurance Appeals" on Justia Law

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Joann Enrique appealed the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company in an action she brought for bad faith denial of uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage stemming from a 2005 car accident. In 2005, an uninsured driver crashed into Enrique’s car by improperly turning into her lane. Enrique suffered a fractured rib, trauma to the right knee requiring arthroscopic surgery, trauma to the left knee for which she was a candidate for arthroscopic surgery, abrasions, and soft tissue injuries. Throughout the settlement negotiations and the processing of Enrique’s claim, State Farm personnel expressed concerns about whether Enrique’s knee injuries were caused by pre-existing conditions. The record was unclear as to why there were large lapses in time during the settlement negotiations. While the parties were waiting for the Independent Medical Examiner report, in July 2008, Enrique filed suit against State Farm, seeking benefits up to the $100,000 policy limits, as well as punitive damages against State Farm for bad faith by refusing to pay up to those limits. In support of the bad faith claim, Enrique alleged that State Farm refused to compensate her up to the UM policy limits without any reasonable justification. In October 2008, the Superior Court severed and stayed the bad faith claim pending resolution of the UM damages claim. The parties then stipulated to a partial dismissal of the bad faith claim without prejudice. Due to the continuing impasse, in September 2008 State Farm decided to advance Enrique $25,000, as the parties both agreed the claim was worth at least that much. As trial approached, State Farm offered Enrique another $20,000 to settle the case, for a total of $45,000. Enrique also revised her demand, and as of January 2010, was willing to settle for an additional $65,000, representing a $90,000 demand. The parties could not bridge the gap, and the damages case went to trial in February 2010. The jury returned a $260,000 verdict. State Farm did not seek remittitur, but did appeal on an evidentiary issue. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed, and State Farm paid the remaining $75,000 of their policy limits, costs and interests. Enrique then pursued her bad faith claim against State Farm, claiming as damages the unpaid $160,000 portion of the jury verdict, prejudgment interest, and punitive damages. The Superior Court granted State Farm summary judgment because Enrique failed to make a prima facie showing of bad faith. The court based its decision on causation issues arising from Enrique’s pre-existing knee problems (which gave State Farm a reasonable basis for its actions), State Farm’s multiple valuations of Enrique’s claim that put it below policy limits, and her failure to offer facts showing State Farm exhibited reckless indifference in handling her claim. Finding no reversible error as to the Superior Court's grant of summary judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Enrique v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." 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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In the first appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Chancery’s finding that SIGA Technologies, Inc. in bad faith breached its contractual obligation to negotiate a license agreement consistent with the parties’ license agreement term sheet, known throughout this litigation as the “LATS.” The Supreme Court also held that where parties have agreed to negotiate in good faith, and would have reached an agreement but for the defendant’s bad faith conduct during the negotiations, the plaintiff could recover contract expectation damages, so long as the plaintiff can prove damages with reasonable certainty. Because the Court of Chancery ruled out expectation damages in its first decision, the case was remanded for consideration of damages to SIGA ("SIGA I”). On remand, the Court of Chancery reevaluated the evidence, and held that PharmAthene, Inc. met its burden of proving with reasonable certainty expectation damages and awarded PharmAthene $113 million. The parties once again appealed to the Supreme Court. SIGA raised two claims of error in this appeal: (1) the Court of Chancery was not free to reconsider its prior holding that lump-sum expectation damages were too speculative; and (2) if reconsideration was permitted, the expectation damages awarded following remand were too speculative. After careful consideration of SIGA’s arguments, the Supreme Court found that the law of the case doctrine did not preclude the Court of Chancery from reconsidering its earlier determination that lump-sum expectation damages were too speculative. The Court also found that the court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded PharmAthene lump-sum expectation damages, and its factual findings supporting its new damages determination were not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Chancery. View "SIGA Technologies, Inc. v. PharmAthene" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified a question of Delaware law arising out of an appeal from a decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The question pertained to contract interpretation. Plaintiff-appellant NAF Holdings secured a contractual commitment of its contracting counterparty, defendant Li & Fung (Trading) Limited, to render a benefit to a third party. The counterparty breached that commitment. Could "the promisee-plaintiff bring a direct suit against the promisor for damages suffered by the plaintiff resulting from the promisor's breach, notwithstanding that (i) the third-party beneficiary of the contract is a corporation in which the plaintiff-promisee owns stock; and (ii) the plaintiff-promisee's loss derives indirectly from the loss suffered by the third-party beneficiary corporation; or must the court grant the motion of the promisor-defendant to dismiss the suit on the theory that the plaintiff may enforce the contract only through a derivative action brought in the name of the third-party beneficiary corporation?" The Delaware Supreme Court answered that under Delaware law, a party to a commercial contract who sues to enforce its contractual rights can bring a direct contract action under Delaware law. "Although the relationship of that party to the third-party beneficiary might well have relevance in determining whether the contract claim is viable as a matter of contract law, nothing in Delaware law requires the promisee-plaintiff's contract claim to be prosecuted as a derivative action. " View "NAF Holdings, LLC v. LI & Fung (Trading) Limited" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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In the name of controlling litigation costs, a heating and air conditioning contractor, Blue Hen Mechanical, Inc. sued Christian Brothers Risk Pooling Trust as subrogee for the Little Sisters of the Poor for malicious prosecution. In January 2008, the Little Sisters of the Poor contracted with Blue Hen to maintain the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment at its nonprofit residential nursing home facility. Two months later, the nursing home's air conditioner broke, requiring the unit to be replaced at a cost of $168,740. The Little Sisters of the Poor filed suit against Blue Hen, alleging that the unit's failure was due to Blue Hen's negligence in inspecting and maintaining the equipment. After briefing and oral argument, the Superior Court determined that the Little Sisters of the Poor had not produced sufficient evidence of Blue Hen's negligence, and granted Blue Hen's motion for summary judgment. Rather than seek costs in that lawsuit, Blue Hen initiated another suit against the Little Sisters of the Poor, alleging malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Blue Hen conceded that the Little Sisters of the Poor initially had good cause to sue. But it contended that during the course of that litigation, the Little Sisters of the Poor should have realized that its suit lacked probable cause, and should have dismissed its claims against Blue Hen. The Superior Court refused to enlarge the tort of malicious prosecution, which has historically been disfavored by Delaware courts, and determined that under the tort (as Delaware court have defined it), Blue Hen failed to demonstrate that the Little Sisters of the Poor acted maliciously in bringing its action and granted summary judgment to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Blue Hen appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed: "[w]hatever the original wisdom for sanctioning the tort of malicious prosecution, we refuse to extend it to encompass claims properly brought before the court in the first instance. As important, there is no basis in the summary judgment record to support a rational jury finding that the Little Sisters of the Poor acted maliciously in the original suit, rather than in a good faith belief that Blue Hen was responsible for the serious losses that the Little Sisters of the Poor had suffered." View "Blue Hen Mechanical, Inc. v. Christian Brothers Risk Pooling Trust" on Justia Law

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The Delaware Supreme Court certified two questions of New York law to the New York Court of Appeals. This case was a consolidated appeal in an insurance-coverage dispute from separate trial court judgments by the Delaware Court of Chancery and the Delaware Superior Court. Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC sought to recover under policies issued to Houdaille Industries, Inc. Viking claimed it was the successor to insurance policies that Liberty Mutual Insurance Company issued to Houdaille, or in the alternative, sought partition of the Liberty policy limits. Liberty, Viking and Warrant settled their dispute, but Viking and Warren then filed new complaints in the Court of Chancery against more than twenty other insurers that had issued excess policies to Houdaille. The Court of Chancery held that Houdaille's policies unambiguously provided for an all sums allocation. The case was then transferred to the Superior Court to determine several other issues. That court held that as a matter of New York law, Viking and Warren were obligated to horizontally exhaust all triggered "primary and umbrella insurance layers before tapping" any of Houdaille's excess coverage. The legal insurers in this appeal were controlled by New York law. As such, the Delaware Supreme Court certified two questions of New York law to the New York Court of Appeals, centering on the proper method of allocation and interpretation of the policies at issue here. View "In Re Viking Pump, Inc." on Justia Law