Topic: Contracts

Court of Chancery Dismisses Fraud Claim for Alleged Extra-Contractual Misrepresentations Based on Anti-Reliance Clause

By: Claire S. White and Rachel P. Worth

In ChyronHego Corporation, et al., v. Cliff Wight and CFX Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0548-SG (Del. Ch. July 31, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim for extra-contractual fraud on the basis that the stock purchase agreement contained an effective anti-reliance clause that precluded such claim. The Court found that the anti-reliance clause rebutted the common law fraud element of reliance on any extra-contractual representations, as described further below.  At the same time, the Court dismissed the defendants’ motion to dismiss claims for fraud and breaches of express representations and warranties under the stock purchase agreement, finding that the plaintiffs had sufficiently pleaded the elements of these claims.

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CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES BREACH OF CONTRACT AND FIDUCIARY DUTY CLAIMS BROUGHT UNDER AN UNENFORCEABLE CONTRACT

By Scott E. Waxman and Michael Bill

In Eagle Force Holdings, LLC v. Campbell, No. 10803-VCMR (Del. Ch. Ct. September 1, 2017), the Court of Chancery dismissed plaintiffs’ breach of contract and fiduciary duty claims against the defendant due to a lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Plaintiffs argued the defendant consented to personal jurisdiction in Delaware by entering into the (1) Contribution and Assignment Agreement (the “Contribution Agreement) and (2) Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement (the “LLC Agreement,” and together with the Contribution Agreement, the “Transaction Documents”), but the Chancery Court found the Transaction Documents to be missing material terms and, thus, held them to be unenforceable.

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Chancery Court Rules Against Enforcement of a Call Right Due to Failure to Tender the Contractual Consideration

By: Jill B. Louis and Gilbert A. Perales

In Simon-Mills II, LLC, et al., v. KanAm USA XVI Limited Partnership, et al., C.A. No. 8520-VCG (Del. Ch. March 30, 2017), the Court of Chancery denied Plaintiffs’ request to enforce its call right and granted Defendants’ request for declaratory judgment when the contracted consideration for the call right could not be tendered.

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Chancery Court Grants in Part and Denies in Part Motion to Dismiss in Fraud Dispute

By Eric Feldman and James Parks

On a motion to dismiss in Prairie Capital III, L.P. v. Double E Holding Corp., the Delaware Court of Chancery, granting in part and denying in part the defendant’s motion, re-enforced the importance of bargained-for contractual terms in the context of a dispute over a transaction consummated pursuant to a stock purchase agreement.

The case involves a transaction between two private equity firms, Prairie Capital Partners and Incline Equity Partners. Prairie Capital Partners, through its sponsored funds Prairie Capital III, L.P and Prairie Capital III QP, L.P. (collectively, “Prairie Capital”), owned Double E Parent LLC (the “Company”), a portfolio company, which it sold to Double E Holding Corp., which was an acquisition vehicle formed by Incline Equity Partners III, L.P., which was sponsored by Incline Equity Partners (collectively the “Buyer”). Prairie Capital III L.P. and Prairie Capital III QP, L.P. (the “Sellers”) were the principal sellers, and the Stock Purchase Agreement (the “SPA”) was signed and the transaction closed on April 4, 2012.  The SPA established an escrow fund for a limited period of time for the parties’ respective indemnification obligations and included procedures to make a claim against such escrow fund.

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Chancery Court Confirms Delaware’s Merger Statutes Inapplicable to Options

By Lisa Stark and Eric Jay

In Kurt Fox v. CDX Holdings, Inc. (f/k/a Caris Life Sciences, Inc.), C.A. No. 8031-VCL (Del. Ch. July 28, 2015), the Delaware Court of Chancery confirmed that Delaware’s merger statutes do not effect a statutory conversion of options at the effective time of a merger. Rather, the treatment of stock options in a merger is governed by the underlying stock option plan, which must be amended in connection with a merger if the treatment of options in the merger differs from the treatment contemplated by the plan. The Court also confirmed that a standard qualification in stock option plans, requiring a corporation’s board of directors to determine the fair market value of the option for purposes of cashing out the options, could not be satisfied by informal board action or a delegation to management or a third party.

This class action arose from a 2011 spin-off/merger transaction pursuant to which Miraca Holdings, Inc. (“Miraca”) acquired CDX Holdings, Inc. (formerly known as Caris Life Sciences, Inc.) (“Caris”) for $725 million (the “Merger”). Immediately prior to the Merger, Caris spun off two of its three subsidiaries to its stockholders (the “Spin-Off”). In the Merger, each share of Caris stock was converted into the right to receive $4.46 in cash. Each option was terminated with the right to receive the difference between $5.07 per share and the exercise price of the option, minus 8% of the total option proceeds, which were held back to fund an escrow account from which Miraca could satisfy indemnification claims brought post-closing.

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JD Holdings, L.L.C., et. al. v. The Revocable Trust of John Q. Hammons, et. al., C.A. 7480-VCL (Laster, V.C.)

By Masha Trainor and Ryan Drzemiecki

This case involves a dispute over interpretation of a right of first refusal clause. In 2005, John Q. Hammons, a hotel entrepreneur, entered into a complex transaction (the “2005 Transaction”), structured as a triangular merger, in which Hammons’ publicly traded company, John Q. Hammons Hotels, Inc., emerged as indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of JD Holdings, LLC, which is controlled by Jonathan Eilian. As part of the 2005 Transaction, Hammons granted Eilian a right of first refusal (the “ROFR”) to purchase any interest in a hotel or other real property described therein (each a “JQH Subject Hotel”).

The plaintiffs, entities affiliated with Eilian (“Plaintiff”), originally filed suit to obtain a declaration regarding the meaning of certain provisions of the ROFR Agreement. Subsequently, Hammons died. The parties agreed that, pursuant to the ROFR Agreement, Hammons’ death triggered a 90-day period during which Eilian would negotiate exclusively with JQH Trust and Hammons’ estate (“Defendant”) to determine whether Eilian would buy the JQH Subject Hotels. However, they disagreed about the JQH Trust’s obligations following the expiration of the exclusivity period. Plaintiff argued that the ROFR clause required the JQH Trust to liquidate all of the JQH Subject Hotels for cash within a certain period after Hammons’ death even if the parties did not agree on a transaction during the exclusivity period, and the ROFR would apply to any such sale. In the answer and counterclaim to the amended complaint, Defendant rejected this interpretation of the ROFR, contending, among other things, that the ROFR failed to create any affirmative obligation to sell and, even if it did, would be void under the rule against perpetuities. The parties have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings on this and other claims and counterclaims.

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Kostyszyn v. Martuscelli, et al., C.A. No. 8828-MA (July 14, 2014)

By Annette Becker and Lauren Garraux

On July 14, 2014, Master in Chancery Kim E. Ayvazian issued her draft report in Kostyszn v. Martuscelli, a dispute between the purchasers (“Plaintiffs”) and sellers (“Defendants”) of Paciugo Gelato and Café (the “Business”), an ongoing business which Plaintiffs purchased in December 2011 for a purchase price of $272,500.00.  According to Plaintiffs, their decision to purchase the Business and the purchase price were based on sales information provided to them by Defendants, as well as subsequent statements made by Defendants regarding, among other things, business earnings, on-site sales, catering sales and profits.

In August 2013, Plaintiffs commenced a lawsuit against Defendants in the Delaware Chancery Court alleging that this information and Defendants’ statements were false and misleading, and directly resulted in Plaintiffs both calculating a purchase price that was more than they otherwise would have been willing to pay for the Business and entering into a long-term lease exposing the assets of the Business to risk and the Plaintiffs to personal liability if the Business ultimately failed.  In their amended complaint (the “Amended Complaint”), Plaintiffs asserted claims against Defendants for breach of contract, breach of warranty, indemnification, equitable fraud, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and sought indemnification and monetary damages from Defendants, as well as cancellation of the agreement to purchase the Business.  Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on grounds that the Chancery Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims.  In her draft report, Master Ayvazian recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiffs’ equitable claim (for equitable fraud) with prejudice, decline to apply the “clean up” doctrine to address Plaintiffs’ remaining legal claims and to allow Plaintiffs to transfer those remaining legal claims to a court of law.

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Capano v. Capano, C.A. No. 8721-VCN (June 30, 2014)

By Eric Feldman and Sophia Lee Shin

Capano, et al. v. Capano, et al. is a consolidated case involving three brothers that came before the Delaware Court of Chancery, in which Joseph and Gerry Capano each filed a complaint against Louis Capano.

Facts

Louis, Joseph and their father, Louis Sr., were equal partners in a Delaware partnership, Capano Investments. Upon Louis Sr.’s death, the partnership structure changed such that Louis and his son controlled 48.5% of the partnership, Joseph and his son controlled 48.5%, and Gerry (as the beneficiary with voting control of CI Trust) controlled 3%. In 2000, the partnership was subsequently converted into a Delaware limited liability company, Capano Investments, LLC (“CI-LLC”), with the same membership and respective ownership interests as those of the partnership

In 2000, Louis and Gerry executed two documents that purportedly granted Louis an interest in CI Trust: (1) Gerry granted Louis the “Power to Direct”, an irrevocable proxy to direct CI Trust’s trustee (at the time, Daniel McCollom) to vote its interest in CI-LLC; and (2) Gerry granted Louis the “Option” to purchase Gerry’s interest in CI Trust, but only with the consent of CI Trust’s trustee, and at a purchase price of $100,000 and the forgiveness of a $100,000 advance. Both the Power to Direct and the Option were signed by Louis and Gerry and had “(SEAL)” printed next their signatures.

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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.

Touch of Italy v. Louis Bascio

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.

Touch of Italy v. Louis Bascio

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