Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
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In 2014, appellant and cross-appellee LCT Capital, LLC (“LCT”) helped appellee and cross-appellants NGL Energy Partners, LP and NGL Energy Holdings LLC (collectively, “NGL”) acquire TransMontaigne, a refined petroleum products distributor. LCT played an "unusually" valuable role in the transaction. The transaction generated $500 million in value for NGL, more than double the $200 million price that NGL paid to acquire TransMontaigne. NGL’s CEO Mike Krimbill represented on several occasions that LCT would receive an unusually large investment banking fee, but the parties failed to reach an agreement on all of the material terms. After negotiations broke down completely, LCT filed suit seeking compensation for its work under several theories, including quantum meruit and common law fraud. At trial, LCT presented a unitary theory of damages that focused on the value of the services that it provided, measured by the fee that Krimbill proposed for LCT’s work. Nonetheless, the jury verdict sheet had two separate lines for damages awards, one for the quantum meruit claim and another for the fraud claim. The jury found NGL liable for both counts, awarded LCT an amount of quantum meruit damages equal to a standard investment banking fee, and awarded LCT a much larger amount of fraud damages approximately equal to the unusually large fee that Krimbill proposed. Following post-trial briefing, the superior court set aside the jury’s awards and ordered a new trial on damages. LCT and NGL both filed interlocutory appeals of the superior court’s order. On appeal, LCT argued that benefit-of-the-bargain damages were available without an enforceable contract. On cross-appeal, NGL argued the superior court erred by ordering a new trial on damages because the jury’s quantum meruit award fully compensated LCT for its harm. NGL also argued it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the fraud claim. Finally, NGL argued the superior court provided the jury with erroneous fraudulent misrepresentation jury instructions. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found LCT was not entitled to benefit-of-the-bargain damages and that the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion by ordering a new trial on quantum meruit damages. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court also held the superior court abused its discretion by ordering a new trial on fraud damages because LCT did not assert any independent damages to support its fraud claim. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the superior court’s judgment. View "LCT Capital, LLC v. NGL Energy Partners LP" on Justia Law

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Glaxo Group Limited and Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (collectively, “GSK”) owned patents covering Benlysta, a lupus treatment drug. GSK filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) claiming a method for treating lupus. Biogen Idec MA Inc. (“Biogen”) held an issued patent covering a similar method for treating lupus. When parties dispute who was first to discover an invention, the PTO declares an interference. Rather than suffer the delay and uncertainty of an interference proceeding, the parties agreed to settle their differences through a patent license and settlement agreement (“Agreement”). GSK ended up with its issued patent. The PTO cancelled Biogen’s patent, and Biogen received upfront and milestone payments and ongoing royalties for Benlysta sales. Under the Agreement GSK agreed to make royalty payments to Biogen until the expiration of the last “Valid Claim” of certain patents, including the lupus treatment patent. The Agreement defined a Valid Claim as an unexpired patent claim that has not, among other things, been “disclaimed” by GSK. GSK paid Biogen royalties on Benlysta sales. After Biogen assigned the Agreement to DRIT LP - an entity that purchased intellectual property royalty streams - GSK filed a statutory disclaimer that disclaimed the patent and all its claims. GSK notified DRIT that there were no longer any Valid Claims under the Agreement and stopped paying royalties on Benlysta sales. DRIT sued GSK in the Superior Court for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing for failing to pay royalties under the Agreement. The court dismissed DRIT’s breach of contract claim but allowed the implied covenant claim to go to a jury trial. The jury found for DRIT, and the court awarded damages. On appeal, GSK argued the superior court should have granted it judgment as a matter of law on the implied covenant claim. On cross-appeal, DRIT claimed that, if the Court reversed the jury verdict on the implied covenant claim, it should reverse the superior court’s ruling dismissing the breach of contract claim. The Delaware Supreme Court found the superior court properly dismissed DRIT’s breach of contract claim, but should have granted GSK judgment as a matter of law on the implied covenant claim. Thus, the superior court's judgment was reversed. View "Glaxo Group Limited, et al. v. DRIT LP" on Justia Law

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United BioSource LLC (“UBC”), a subsidiary of Express Scripts, Inc. (“ESI”) agreed to sell three of UBC’s pharmaceutical research and development businesses to Bracket Holding Corp. (“Bracket”), a holding company formed by Parthenon Capital Partners, LP (“Parthenon”). In August 2013, Bracket and UBC signed a $187 million securities purchase agreement (“SPA”). Except for claims involving deliberate fraud and certain fundamental representations, Bracket agreed to limit its remedy for breach of the SPA’s representations and warranties to an insurance policy (the “R&W Policy”) purchased to cover these claims. After closing, Bracket claimed that ESI and UBC engaged in fraud by inflating the revenue and working capital of one of the divisions of the acquired companies. In an arbitration proceeding Bracket recovered $13 million under the R&W Policy for breach of the SPA’s representations and warranties. Bracket then sued ESI and UBC for fraud in Delaware superior court. A jury awarded Bracket over $82 million. The parties appealed the jury verdict and judgment. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found one issue dispositive: the SPA provided unambiguously that, except in the case of deliberate fraud and certain fundamental representations, Bracket could only recover up to the R&W Policy’s limits for breaches of the representations and warranties. Over ESI’s objection, however, the superior court instructed the jury that it could find for Bracket not only for deliberate fraud, but also for recklessness. "A deliberate state of mind is a different kettle of fish than a reckless one." The Supreme Court determined the superior court’s erroneous jury instruction was not harmless: it violated a key provision of the SPA and how the parties allocated risk in the transaction. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the superior court’s judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Express Scripts, Inc. v. Bracket Holdings Corp" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Appellants Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC and Meso Scale Technologies, LLC (collectively “Meso”) filed suit in Delaware against Appellee entities Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Roche Diagnostics Corp., Roche Holding Ltd., IGEN LS LLC, Lilli Acquisition Corp., IGEN International, Inc., and Bioveris Corp. (collectively “Roche”), all of which were affiliates or subsidiaries of the F. Hoffmann -- La Roche, Ltd. family of pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. Meso alleged two counts of breach of contract. Roche prevailed at trial, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in 2014. Then in 2019, Meso brought a new action asking the court to reopen the case, vacate the judgment entered after trial, and order a new trial. Meso alleged that the Vice Chancellor who decided its case four years earlier had an undisclosed disabling conflict, namely, that Roche’s counsel had been simultaneously representing him in an unrelated federal suit challenging the constitutionality of Delaware’s law providing for confidential business arbitration in the Court of Chancery (“Section 349”). In that federal litigation, which ended in 2014, the Chancellor and Vice Chancellors of the Court of Chancery, as the parties responsible for implementing the challenged statute, were nominal defendants. The Court of Chancery denied relief and dismissed the action. Meso appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC v. Roche Diagnostics GMBH" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Appellants Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC and Meso Scale Technologies, LLC (collectively “Meso”) filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery against Appellee entities Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Roche Diagnostics Corp., Roche Holding Ltd., IGEN LS LLC, Lilli Acquisition Corp., IGEN International, Inc., and Bioveris Corp. (collectively “Roche”), all of which were affiliates or subsidiaries of the F. Hoffmann -- La Roche, Ltd. family of pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. Meso alleged two counts of breach of contract. Roche prevailed at trial, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in 2014. In 2019, Meso brought a new action asking the court to reopen the case, vacate the judgment entered after trial, and order a new trial. Meso alleged that the Vice Chancellor who decided its case four years earlier had an undisclosed disabling conflict, namely, that Roche’s counsel had been simultaneously representing him in an unrelated federal suit challenging the constitutionality of Delaware’s law providing for confidential business arbitration in the Court of Chancery, 10 Del. C. 349. In that federal litigation, which ended in 2014, the Chancellor and Vice Chancellors of the Court of Chancery, as the parties responsible for implementing the challenged statute, were nominal defendants (hereinafter, the “Judicial Officers”). The Court of Chancery denied relief and dismissed the action. Meso appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery. View "Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC v. Roche Diagnostics GMBH" on Justia Law

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In 2014, appellant-cross-appellee LCT Capital, LLC (“LCT”) helped appellee- cross-appellants NGL Energy Partners, LP and NGL Energy Holdings LLC (collectively, “NGL”) acquire TransMontaigne, a refined petroleum products distributor. LCT played a valuable role in the transaction: bringing the sale to NGL’s attention, helping NGL to understand opaque but profitable aspects of TransMontaigne’s business, and enabling NGL to submit its winning bid outside of an auction process. The transaction generated $500 million in value for NGL, more than double the $200 million price that NGL paid to acquire TransMontaigne. LCT’s CEO Mike Krimbill represented on several occasions that LCT would receive an unusually large investment banking fee, but the parties failed to reach an agreement on all of the material terms. After negotiations broke down completely, LCT filed suit seeking compensation for its work under several theories, including quantum meruit and common law fraud. The jury verdict sheet had two separate lines for damages awards: one for the quantum meruit claim and another for the fraud claim. The jury found NGL liable for both counts, awarded LCT an amount of quantum meruit damages equal to a standard investment banking fee, and awarded LCT a much larger amount of fraud damages approximately equal to the unusually large fee that Krimbill proposed. The Superior Court set aside the jury's awards and ordered a new trial on damages. The court set aside the fraud award on the basis that the jury impermissibly awarded LCT benefit-of-the-bargain damages in the absence of an enforceable contract. The court set aside the quantum meruit award on the basis that providing the jury with multiple damages lines for a unitary theory of damages was confusing and may have caused the jury to spread a single award between the quantum meruit and fraud claims. Both sides appealed. The Delaware Supreme Court found LCT was not entitled to benefit-of-the-bargain damages, and that the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion by ordering a new trial on quantum meruit damages. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court also held the Superior Court abused its discretion by ordering a new trial on fraud damages because LCT did not assert any independent damages to support its fraud claim. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Superior Court’s judgment. View "LCT Capital, LLC v. NGL Energy Partners LP" on Justia Law

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After a $3.3 billion “roll up” of minority-held units involving a merger between Enbridge, Inc. and Spectra Energy Partners L.P. (“SEP”), Paul Morris, a former SEP minority unitholder, lost standing to litigate an alleged $661 million derivative suit on behalf of SEP against its general partner, Spectra Energy Partners (DE) GP, LP (“SEP GP”). Morris repeated the derivative claim dismissal by filing a new class action complaint that alleged the Enbridge/SEP merger exchange ratio was unfair because SEP GP agreed to a merger that did not reflect the material value of his derivative claims. The Court of Chancery granted SEP GP’s motion to dismiss the new complaint for lack of standing. The court held that, to have standing to bring a post-merger claim, Morris had to allege a viable and material derivative claim that the buyer would not assert and provided no value for in the merger. Focusing on the materiality requirement, the court first discounted the $661 million recovery to $112 million to reflect the public unitholders’ beneficial interest in the derivative litigation recovery. The court then discounted the $112 million further to $28 million to reflect what the court estimated was a one in four chance of success in the litigation. After the discounting, the $28 million, less than 1% of the merger consideration, was immaterial to a $3.3 billion merger. On appeal, Morris argued the trial court should not have dismissed the plaintiff’s direct claims for lack of standing. After its review, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Morris finding that, on a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, he sufficiently pled a direct claim attacking the fairness of the merger itself for SEP GP’s failure to secure value for his pending derivative claims. The Court of Chancery’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners" on Justia Law

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Appellant Alex Bäcker was the co-founder and majority common stockholder of QLess, Inc. In June 2019, the Company’s board removed Alex as CEO following an internal investigation into workplace complaints. Alex eventually relented to the change and expressed support for his successor, Kevin Grauman. In the week leading up to the November 15, 2019 board meeting, the Company’s outside counsel circulated board resolutions that, among other things, would appoint Grauman to the board. Alex made a series of statements that collectively represented support for Grauman’s appointment. On the eve of the board meeting, the Company’s independent director unexpectedly resigned, giving Alex a board majority. Alex leapt into action, devising a secret counter agenda to fire Grauman and lock-in Alex’s control of the Company. Alex caught his fellow directors by surprise at the meeting, passing his counter agenda over objections and seizing control of the Company. Palisades Growth Capital II, L.P., the majority owner of the Company’s Series A preferred stock, filed a complaint in the Court of Chancery seeking to reverse Alex’s actions. Following a paper trial, the court held that, even if technically legal, the board’s actions were invalid as a matter of equity because Alex affirmatively deceived a fellow director to establish a quorum. After review of the parties briefs and the record on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court held the Court of Chancery's finding of affirmative deception was not clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court also held that the Court of Chancery did not impose an equitable notice requirement for regular board meetings, that Appellants failed to properly raise an equitable participation defense below, and that the Court of Chancery did not exercise its equitable powers to grant relief for a de facto breach of contract claim. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s March 26, 2020 Memorandum Opinion. View "Backer v. Palisades Growth Capital" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery issued a memorandum opinion in an action brought under Delaware's Corporation Law, section 220 (the "DGCL"). The opinion ordered AmerisourceBergen Corporation to produce certain books and records to Lebanon County Employees Retirement Fund and Teamsters Local 443 Health Services & Insurance Plan (“Plaintiffs”) and granting Plaintiffs leave to take a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition “to explore what types of books and records exist and who has them.” The Company claimed Plaintiffs’ inspection demand, which, among other things, was aimed at investigating possible breaches of fiduciary duty, mismanagement, and other wrongdoing, was fatally deficient because it did not disclose Plaintiffs’ ultimate objective, which was what they intended to do with the books and records in the event that they confirmed their suspicion of wrongdoing. The Company also contended the Court of Chancery erred by holding Plaintiffs were not required to establish a credible basis to suspect actionable wrongdoing. And finally, the Company argued the Court of Chancery erred as a matter of law when it allowed Plaintiffs to take a post-trial Rule 30(b)(6) deposition. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court held that when a Section 220 inspection demand stated a proper investigatory purpose, it did not need to identify the particular course of action the stockholder will take if the books and records confirm the stockholder’s suspicion of wrongdoing. In addition, the Court held that, although the actionability of wrongdoing can be a relevant factor for the Court of Chancery to consider when assessing the legitimacy of a stockholder’s stated purpose, an investigating stockholder was not required in all cases to establish the wrongdoing under investigation was actionable. Finally, the Court found the Court of Chancery’s allowance of the post-trial deposition was not an abuse of discretion. View "Amerisourcebergen Corp v. Lebanon County Employees' Retirement Fund" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants were two of three founding owners, investors, and directors of Energy Efficient Equity, Inc. (“E3” or the “Corporation”), a Delaware corporation operating in the property-assessed, clean-energy financing industry. After a series of financing transactions with WR Capital Partners, LLC (“WR Capital”), plaintiffs filed suit against WR Capital and its representatives. Among other claims, plaintiffs alleged that defendants breached their fiduciary duties and were unjustly enriched when they negotiated and approved the financing transactions that allowed them to take control of E3 from the founders. During the litigation, plaintiffs entered into a settlement agreement and two stock repurchase agreements. Plaintiffs settled with some of the defendants in exchange for payments and the sale of the plaintiffs’ stock to E3. The Settlement Agreement contained a release, but carved out claims that the plaintiffs wanted to continue to pursue against the non-settling WR Capital and its representatives. An inconsistency between the agreements arose, however, because the Stock Repurchase Agreements transferred “all of Seller’s right, title, and interest” in E3 stock while only the Settlement Agreement contained a carve out for claims against the non-settling defendants (the “Release Carve Out”). After the partial settlement, the Court of Chancery granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding plaintiffs could not import the Settlement Agreement’s Release Carve Out into the Stock Repurchase Agreements; plaintiffs lost standing to pursue their direct breach of fiduciary duty claims when they sold their E3 stock; and plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims were duplicative of their breach of fiduciary duty claims and traveled with the sale of E3 stock. On appeal, plaintiffs argued the Court of Chancery should have found that the Stock Repurchase Agreements incorporated by reference the Settlement Agreement. If that was the case, plaintiffs claimed they could preserve their claims against the remaining defendants. In the alternative, plaintiffs fell back on the argument that their breach of fiduciary duty claims were personal and did not attach to the stock sold as part of the settlement. In addition, they argued the unjust enrichment claims were independent of the breach of fiduciary duty claims. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery: while plaintiffs had an argument that the parties intended to treat the three agreements as a unitary transaction through incorporation by reference, the Settlement Agreement’s Release Carve Out confilcted with the complete transfer of all right, title, and interest in the plaintiffs’ E3 stock under the Stock Repurchase Agreements. In the event of a conflict, the Stock Repurchase Agreements plainly stated their terms controlled. Plaintiffs’ remaining claims were also part of the rights accompanying the E3 stock sale, and the unjust enrichment claim traveled with the E3 stock when repurchased by E3. View "Urdan v. WR Capital Partners, LLC" on Justia Law