Topic: Statute of Limitations

Chancery Court Finds Statute of Limitations Bars Humvee Joint Venture Breach of Contract Claims

By Scott Waxman and Mark Hammes

In AM General Holdings v. The Renco Group, C.A. No. 7639-VCS (Del. Ch. Aug. 22, 2016), the Court of Chancery held that Delaware’s three-year statute of limitations barred contract claims brought by one party in a joint venture to produce Humvee automobiles against its joint venture partner.

AM General LLC (“AM General”) manufactured and sold specialized vehicles including the Humvee. Prior to 2004, its sole member was The Renco Group, Inc. (“Renco”).  In August 2004, Renco and MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.  (“M&F”) entered into a joint venture with Renco whereby they formed AM General Holdings LLC (“Holdco”).  Renco contributed AM General to Holdco and M&F contributed cash.  An M&F subsidiary became the managing member of Holdco.  A Holdco Agreement set forth the mechanisms for distribution of profits between Renco and M&F and provided for certain contractual protections for Renco, restricting certain related party transactions, management fees, distributions and the like and giving Renco access to books and records of Holdco.

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Court of Chancery Discusses Statute of Limitations in Claim for Indemnification

By Scott Waxman and Stephanie S. Liu

In Francis S. Branin, Jr. v. Stein Roe Investment Counsel, LLC, et al, the Court of Chancery considered whether Plaintiff’s claim for indemnification for expenditures related to litigation that had begun in 2002, but not was resolved with finality until 2012, was time-barred. The Court concluded that the statute of limitations on Branin’s indemnification claim did not begin to run until the underlying litigation was resolved, and thus his claim was timely. The Court granted Branin’s motion to strike Defendants’ affirmative defenses and granted his motion for summary judgment on Defendants’ obligation to indemnify him. The Court also found that Branin was entitled to prejudgment simple interest at the statutory legal rate, as well as fees incurred in successfully prosecuting his indemnification claim.

After Plaintiff Francis S. Branin, Jr. (“Branin” or the “Plaintiff”) resigned from Bessemer Trust, N.A. (“Bessemer”) on July 12, 2002, he began working for Defendant Stein Roe Investment Counsel LLC (“SRIC LLC”). On November 22, 2002, Bessemer sued Branin for improperly soliciting its clients and impairing its goodwill in violation of a New York implied covenant (“New York Action”). In 2012, after a decade of litigation, Branin successfully defended against all claims. On April 17, 2013, Branin turned to the Court to enforce a purported indemnification right against SRIC LLC, Stein Roe Investment Counsel, Inc., and Atlantic Trust Group, Inc. (collectively, the “Defendants”).

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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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