Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on a general partner's obligations under a limited partnership agreement. The plaintiffs alleged that the general partner obtained excessive consideration for its incentive distribution rights when an unaffiliated third party purchased the partnership. Notably, the plaintiffs did not allege that the general partner breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the limited partnership agreement's conflict of interest provision created a contractual safe harbor, not an affirmative obligation. Therefore, the general partner needed only to exercise its discretion in good faith, as the parties intended that term to be construed, to satisfy its duties under the agreement. The general partner obtained an appropriate fairness opinion, which, under the agreement, created a conclusive presumption that the general partner made its decision in good faith. Therefore we the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery's dismissal of the complaint. View "Norton v. K-Sea Transportation Partners, L.P., et al." on Justia Law

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On August 26, 1992, Jermaine Wright was convicted of first degree murder and other crimes arising from a 1991 robbery at the Hi-Way Inn bar and liquor store. Following a penalty hearing, Wright was sentenced to death. The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court in this case was whether Wright's murder conviction should have been overturned. The trial court granted Wright's fourth motion for postconviction relief, finding that his confession should have been excluded from evidence, and that the State improperly withheld evidence of a similar crime that the police determined he did not commit. The trial court then granted bail. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in reviewing the admissibility of the confession sua sponte, and in concluding that there was a so-called Brady violation. The trial court also erred in deciding that Wright could be granted bail. Therefore the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Delaware v. Wright" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff–Appellee PharmAthene, Inc., and Defendant–Appellant SIGA Technologies, Inc., are both Delaware corporations engaged in biodefense research and development. SIGA appealed the Vice Chancellor's finding that it breached a contractual obligation to negotiate in good faith and was liable under the doctrine of promissory estoppel. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that where parties agree to negotiate in good faith in accordance with a term sheet, that obligation to negotiate in good faith is enforceable. Where a trial judge makes a factual finding that the parties would have reached an agreement but for the defendant's bad faith negotiation, the Court held that a trial judge may award expectation damages. In regard to the facts of this case, the Court reversed the Vice Chancellor's promissory estoppel holding because a promise expressed in a fully enforceable contract cannot give rise to a promissory estoppel claim. The Court also reversed the Vice Chancellor's equitable damages award based on his factual conclusion that the parties would have reached an agreement. The case was remanded for further proceedings in light of the Court's decision in this opinion. View "Siga Technologies, Inc. v. Pharmathene, Inc." on Justia Law

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New Cingular Wireless PCS (now known as "AT&T") filed an application with the Sussex County Board of Adjustment ("the Board") for a special use exception to construct a 100-foot telecommunications cell tower on a commercially zoned property located just outside of Bethany Beach. A special use exception was required before a cell tower may be erected within 500 feet of a residential zone. The Sea Pines Village Condominium Association of Owners, along with individual residents who lived near the proposed location opposed the application. The Board ultimately denied AT&T's application. On appeal to the Superior Court, the court acknowledged in its opinion that while this appeal was pending "Bethany voted unanimously to reject AT&T's request to use [Bethany's] water tower as an antenna location" and that "Bethany was in fact unwilling to negotiate with AT&T." The trial court did not explain its reasoning for refusing to allow a collocation on the Bethany water tower. The Superior Court affirmed based on the record presented. In its written decision denying AT&T's application, the Board concluded that AT&T "had not met its burden [under the Sussex County Code] of proving that the proposed use would not affect adversely the uses of adjacent and neighboring properties." The Superior Court explained AT&T's burden with similar language. But the Sussex County Code required a lesser burden, "special use exceptions shall be granted unless the Board finds such exceptions will not substantially affect adversely the uses of adjacent and neighboring property." AT&T argued that the Board's decision should have been reversed because the Board failed to apply the correct legal standard. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS v. Sussex County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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In a reformation action concerning cash flow distributions in three real estate joint venture agreements, the Supreme Court held that the Vice Chancellor properly reformed the agreements on the basis of unilateral mistake and knowing silence by the other party. "Negligence in discovering an alleged mistake does not bar a reformation claim unless the negligence is so significant that it amounts to a failure to act in good faith and in accordance with reasonable standards of fair dealing. Ratifying a contract does not create an equitable bar to reformation unless the ratifying party had actual knowledge of the mistake giving rise to the reformation claim." In this matter, the Court reversed the Vice Chancellor's fee award because a contractual fee-shifting provision incorporating the words "incurred" and "reimburse" did not apply where counsel for the party seeking fees represented the party free of charge to avoid a malpractice claim. View "Scion Breckenridge Managing Member, LLC, et al. v. ASB Allegiance Real Estate Fund, et al." on Justia Law

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Claimant-appellant Stephen Arrants appealed a superior court order that affirmed an Industrial Accident Board's order granting employer-appellee Home Depot's petition to terminate appellant's total disability benefits. Appellant raised two claims on appeal: (1) the Board's decision was in error because all experts agreed that his condition had not improved since the 2007 Board finding of total disability; and (2) the Board's decision was not supported by competent evidence in the record. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that both arguments were without merit, and affirmed the superior court. View "Arrants v. Home Depot" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Stanley Taylor appealed his convictions on: eighteen counts of Unlawful Sexual Conduct Against a Child by a Sex Offender; one count of Attempted Unlawful Sexual Conduct Against a Child by a Sex Offender; and two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The indictment was based on allegations that Defendant engaged in unlawful sexual conduct with his two minor step-granddaughters. To avoid prejudice to Defendant, the sex offender element of his crimes was redacted from the indictment and a separate bench trial was held on that element after the jury returned its verdict. The State dismissed five counts at the close of the evidence. The jury was ultimately left to consider the following charges: four counts of Rape in the First Degree; four counts of Rape in the Second Degree; seven counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Child; one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child; and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Defendant was found guilty of all of the offenses presented to the jury. Thereafter, in a bench trial, the Superior Court found that Defendant was a registered sex offender at the time of the offenses, resulting in guilty verdicts on all of the sex offender charges. Defendant was sentenced to eight life sentences, plus an additional 225 years of incarceration. Defendant has raised four arguments in his direct appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) that the prosecutor made an improper closing argument that jeopardized the fairness and integrity of his trial; (2) that the trial judge abused his discretion and violated Defendant's right to a fair trial when, despite Defendant's request, he refused to strike allegedly irrelevant and highly prejudicial testimonial evidence by a nurse; (3) the trial judge abused his discretion when he allowed the jury to view one of the complainant's out-of-court statements; and (4) the cumulative impact of all of the errors amounts to plain error. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that each of Defendant's first three assignments of error were without merit. Accordingly, there was no cumulative impact amounting to plain error. View "Taylor v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Jason Gallaway appealed his conviction for Murder by Abuse or Neglect in the First Degree, in connection to the death of his daughter. Defendant raised one claim of error in this direct appeal: the Superior Court abused its discretion by permitting the State to admit into evidence a YouTube video of Defendant performing a prank as part of a radio contest, several months after his daughter’s death. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the YouTube video was properly admitted as rebuttal evidence. View "Gallaway v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant Omari Clark was convicted for manslaughter. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a trial judge improperly commented on the evidence when he instructed the jury and whether a defendant was entitled to a justification jury instruction for a crime that requires a reckless mental state. Upon review, the Court reaffirmed that jury instructions must be construed as a whole to determine whether a trial judge commented on the evidence and conclude that the trial judge's statements were proper. Furthermore, the Court held that 11 Del. C. sec. 470(a) does not bar a justification instruction for crimes requiring a reckless mental state and that judges should give a justification instruction, where appropriate, for those charges. Therefore the Court reversed the Superior Court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Clark v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Steven Schwan directly appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court after a jury convicted him of two counts of Unlawful Sexual Contact in the Second Degree, and a bench trial resulted in an additional conviction for Unlawful Sexual Conduct by a Sex Offender Against a Child. Defendant argued that the trial judge committed reversible error by not excluding, for cause, a juror who was acquainted with a prosecutor, although that same prosecutor was not involved in Defendant's case. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial judge erred by failing to exclude the juror, in the absence of a determination that the juror could render a fair and impartial verdict. The Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Schwan v. Delaware" on Justia Law