Touch of Italy Salumeria & Pasticceria, LLC, et al. v. Louis Bascio, et al., C.A. No 8602 (January 13, 2014) (Glasscock, V.C.)
By Eric Feldman and Eric Taylor
Touch of Italy Salumeria & Pasticceria, LLC, et al. v. Louis Bascio, et al. is about the members of a Delaware limited liability company, Touch of Italy Salumeria & Pasticceria, LLC (the “Company”), suing a former member of the Company seeking injunctive and monetary relief after the former member withdrew from the Company in accordance with the terms of its limited liability company agreement (the “LLC Agreement”) and opened a competing business on the same street as the Company a mere ten weeks later. Emphasizing that limited liability companies are explicitly contractual relationships, the Court of Chancery dismissed the action because the LLC Agreement permitted any member to withdraw from the Company by giving written notice of the decision to withdraw to the other members, at which time the remaining members would have 60 days to elect to purchase the withdrawing member’s interest in the Company. The LLC Agreement did not contain a covenant not to compete following withdrawal. Adding to the plaintiffs’ ire was the fact that the withdrawing member allegedly lied about his intentions after withdrawal, saying that he was planning to move to Pennsylvania and perhaps open a new business there. The remaining members of the Company said that, had they known of his true intentions, they would have objected. However, the Court of Chancery noted that the plaintiffs’ lacked the means to object in any legally effective way and interpreted the complaint as “an attempt to achieve a result–restraint on post-withdrawal competition–that the members could have but chose not to forestall by contract.” The Court of Chancery emphasized that it must enforce LLC agreements as written, in this case allowing a member of the Company to withdraw and open a competing business because the LLC Agreement contained no restriction on doing so.