Tag: Motion to Dismiss

Court of Chancery Hesitates to Dismiss Lawsuit, Stays Litigation Pending Texas Lawsuit

By: Scott E. Waxman and Marissa Leon

In EnVen Energy Corporation v. David M. Dunwoody, Jr., et al. (C.A. No. 2019-0579-KSJM), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) stayed litigation pending the outcome of a separate lawsuit filed in Texas to give deference to a plaintiff’s chosen forum, to avoid wasting judicial resources and to foreclose potential conflicting rulings.

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Court Reviews Fiduciary Disclosure Obligations in Connection with Seeking Investments

By Annette E. Becker and Samira F. Torshizi

In Clark v. Davenport, C.A. No. 2017-0839-JTL (Del. Ch. July 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled on a motion to dismiss claims brought by Plaintiff Kenneth Clark (“Clark” or “Plaintiff”) against former officers, directors, and controlling stockholders of a now-defunct Basho Technologies Inc. (“Basho”) by an investor, who accused defendants of violating their fiduciary duties and committing fraud by inducing plaintiff to invest millions in what defendants knew was a failing enterprise.  The motions to dismiss were granted in part and denied in part dependent on the involvement of the particular defendant in the scheme. 

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COURT OF CHANCERY DENIES ITALIAN CITIZEN’S MOTION TO DISMISS

By:  Scott E. Waxman and Rachel Cheasty Sanders

In AlixPartners, LLP et al. v. Giacomo Mori, Case No. 2019-0392-KSJM (Del. Ch. Nov. 26, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed Defendant Giacomo Mori’s motion to dismiss for (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction and standing, (2) lack of personal jurisdiction, (3) improper venue, and (4) failure to state a claim. Defendant primarily contended that two foreign laws divested the Court of subject matter jurisdiction and that the forum selection clauses contained in particular agreements to which he was a party were unenforceable.  The Court rejected Defendant’s contentions finding that the claims against Defendant were transitory in nature and did not divest the Court of subject matter jurisdiction, the forum selection clauses were sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over Defendant, and that Plaintiffs’ compliant adequately stated numerous claims. In denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss, however, the Court stayed certain counts against Defendant which arose solely from his employment agreement with one of the Plaintiffs on the basis of the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

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COURT OF CHANCERY RULES ON THE APPLICABILITY OF FORUM SELECTION CLAUSES TO NON-SIGNATORIES TO A CONTRACT AND A PLAINTIFF’S BURDEN IN ALLEGING BREACH OF THE “COMMERCIALLY REASONABLE EFFORTS” STANDARD

By: Scott E. Waxman and Teresa Teng

In Neurvana Medical, LLC v. Balt USA, LLC et al., C.A. No. 2019-0034-KSJM (Del. Ch. Sep. 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss by a defendant parent company, whose subsidiary entered into a purchase agreement containing a Delaware forum selection clause. The court applied the “closely related” test in finding that the plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to show that the non-signatory parent entity was “closely related” to the underlying purchase agreement and as a result, plaintiff could not bind the parent entity to the agreement’s forum selection clause.

In the subsequent Neurvana Medical, LLC v. Balt USA, LLC et al., C.A. No. 2019-0034-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb. 27, 2020), the court split its decision in granting the motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over one of the defendant officers of the purchaser in the transaction, and for failure to state a claim with respect to all but one count of the plaintiff’s complaint. The court denied the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction with respect to another officer of the purchaser who had also served as chairman of the board of the seller. The court also denied such defendant’s motion to dismiss on the cause of action of breach of fiduciary duty.

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earn-out provision of merger agreement requires extrinsic evidence to aid interpretation

By Scott E. Waxman and Pouya D. Ahmadi

In Western Standard, LLC, v. SourceHOV Holdings, Inc. and Pangea Acquisitions, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0280-JRS (Del. Ch. July 24, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) refused to the grant SourceHOV Holdings, Inc. (“SourceHOV”) and Pangea Acquisitions, Inc.’s (“Pangea”) motion to dismiss, holding that more extrinsic evidence was needed for the Court to be able to interpret the terms of the merger agreement (the “Merger Agreement”) among Pangea and BancTec, Inc. (“BancTec”) and decide whether there was a valid breach of a contract claim.

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CONTRACTUAL AMBIGUITIES FAVOR THE NON-MOVING PARTY AT MOTION TO DISMISS STAGE

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Coyne v. Fusion Healthworks, LLC Civil Action No. 2018-0011-MTZ (Del. Ch. April 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (the “Motion”) filed by Fusion Healthworks, LLC (the “LLC”), James Sheehan with his personal medical practice, and Andrew Lietzke, with his personal medical practice (collectively, the “Defendants”). In denying the Motion, the court reiterated the standing principal that, when presented with a contractual ambiguity, dismissal at the motion to dismiss stage is only appropriate “if the defendants’ interpretation [of the ambiguity] is the only reasonable construction as a matter of law.” Coyne highlights the critical nature of competent drafting of LLC Agreements.

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CHANCERY COURT DENIES MOTION TO DISMISS CLAIM FOR BREACH OF MERGER AGREEMENT EARN-OUT EFFORTS PROVISION

By: Remsen Kinne and Greyson Blue

In Himawan, et al. v. Cephalon, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 2018-0075-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 28, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery in a Memorandum Opinion denied a motion to dismiss a breach of contract claim brought against defendants Cephalon, Inc. (“Cephalon”), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (“Teva”) and Teva’s affiliate Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. (“Teva USA”) by former shareholders of Ception, Inc. (“Ception”), a biotech company acquired by Cephalon in a merger transaction. The case concerns a dispute over the phrase “commercially reasonable efforts” as used in an earn-out provision in the merger agreement. The decision highlights pleadings requirements for supporting an initial claim for breach of an objective contractual standard.

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Chancery Court Denies Dismissal of Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims after Concluding that Stockholder Vote was Not Informed

By: David Forney and Rachel P. Worth

In In re Tangoe, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 2017-0650-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 20, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the director defendants’ motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiffs’ claim for breach of fiduciary duties on the basis that the stockholder vote approving the transaction was not informed and the defendants were therefore not entitled to business judgment rule deference at the pleading stage. The Court also found that the plaintiffs had adequately pled a breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty against each of the director defendants, which would not be covered by the exculpatory clause in the company’s certificate of incorporation.

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CHANCERY COURT VALIDATES A DEFECTIVE MERGER AND REAFFIRMS RELIANCE ON OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL UNDER DELAWARE LAW

By Holly Hatfield and Dean Brazier

In The Cirillo Family Trust v. Aram Moezinia, Lewis Tepper, Mark Walter, and DAVA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., C.A. No. 10116-CB (Del. Ch. Jul. 11, 2018), the Delaware Chancery Court granted the defendants’ motion dismissing certain claims arising from the 2014 merger between DAVA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“DAVA”) and an affiliate of Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (such affiliate, “Endo”).  The Court held that Section 205 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (the “DGCL”) validated deficiencies in the written consents to the merger (the “Written Consents”) and a director’s reasonable, good faith reliance on the advice of legal counsel hired for specific expertise can exculpate the director for a fiduciary duty breach.  The Court also granted part of the plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint to add a claim against certain directors in their capacities as officers of DAVA.

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A Conflicted Controller Transaction Survives a Motion to Dismiss

By: Lisa R. Stark and Samira F. Torshizi

In In re Hansen Medical, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 12316-VCMR (Del. Ch. June 18, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery found that plaintiffs had stated a reasonably conceivable claim that the acquisition of Hansen Medical, Inc. (“Hansen”) by Auris Surgical Robotics, Inc. (“Auris”) should be reviewed under the entire fairness standard of review because the transaction involved a controlling stockholder group which extracted benefits from the transaction not shared with the minority. The Court denied motions to dismiss filed by the alleged control group and Hansen’s directors and officers.

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Court of Chancery Holds That Plaintiff Failed to Meet Burden of Proof With Respect to Mistake-Based Reformation Claim

By: Scott Waxman and Tami Mack

In Richard B. Gamberg 2007 Family Trust v. United Restaurant Group, L.P., C.A. No. 10994-VCMR (Del. Ch. January 26, 2018), the Court of Chancery held that limited partner, Richard B. Gamberg 2007 Family Trust (the “Plaintiff”), failed to meet its burden of proof with respect to various claims against United Restaurant Group L.P. (the “Partnership”), Atlantic Coast Dining, Inc. (the “General Partner”), and the directors/shareholders of the General Partner (the “Shareholder Defendants”; together with the Partnership and the General Partner, the “Defendants”), which included a mistake-based reformation claim, among other breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims.

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MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT MANAGER AND DIRECTORS REMAIN AT RISK

By: Kevin Stichter and Samira Torshizi

In Cumming v. Edens, et al., C.A. No. 13007-VCS (Del. Ch. Feb. 20, 2018), the Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss a derivative suit for breach of fiduciary duties brought by a stockholder of New Senior Investment Group, Inc. (“New Senior”) against New Senior’s board of directors (the “Board”) and related parties in connection with New Senior’s $640 million acquisition of Holiday Acquisition Holdings LLC (“Holiday”). The Court made clear that compliance with Section 144 does not necessarily provide a safe harbor against claims for breach of fiduciary duty and invoke business judgment review of an interested transaction. Because the complaint alleged with specificity “that the Board acted out of self-interest or with allegiance to interest other than the stockholders,” the court applied the entire fairness standard of review and concluded that the transaction was not fair to New Senior stockholders. Read More

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