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Delaware Trial Practice Blog

Stay Up To Date On Delaware State Court Matters

Appellate Practice – Supreme Court Affirms Alimony Decision

Posted in Alimony, Appellate Practice, Delaware Supreme Court, Family Law

AppealIn the case of Grant v. Grant, Del. Supr., No. 283, 2015 (Apr. 25, 2016), Justin Grant sought to challenge the Family Court order requiring him to pay $254.21 per month in alimony to Darlene Grant.   Mr. Grant did not argue that in reaching its decision the Family Court had erred as a matter of law.  To the extent he argued that the Family Court erred in its findings of fact, the Supreme Court noted those findings “will not be disturbed on appeal unless [they] are clearly wrong and justice requires they be overturned.”  Id. at 3.  However, Mr. Grant did not provide the Supreme Court with the transcript of the alimony hearing.  The Supreme Court concluded that under the circumstances it had no basis to overturn the Family Court’s findings.  The judgement of the Family Court was affirmed.

 

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

General Jurisdiction Over Foreign Corporations Revised By The Delaware Supreme Court

Posted in Delaware Supreme Court, Jurisdiction

The interlocutory appeal in the case of Genuine Parts Company v. Cepec presented one question:  “whether Delaware may exercise general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation for claims having nothing to do with Delaware, as a price for the corporation agreeing simply to be able to do business in Delaware.” Genuine Parts Company v. Cepec, No. 528, 2015, *1 (Apr. 18, 2016).

Genuine Parts Company (“Genuine Parts”) brought this significant question to the forefront when it filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction in the trial court.  The Superior Court denied the motion.  The Superior Court relied on the decision in Sternberg v. O’Neil, 550 A.2d 1105 (Del. 1988) in holding that consent to Delaware’s general jurisdiction is found in registering to do business in Delaware.  On appeal Genuine Parts urged the Supreme Court to depart from Sternberg and to overrule the Superior Court.  It support of its position, Genuine Parts argued that United States Supreme Court decisions such as Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014) altered the legal landscape since the Sternberg decision.

In a four to one decision reversing the Superior Court the Majority agreed with Genuine Parts stating in part:

After Daimler, we hold that Delaware’s registration statutes must be read as a requirement that a foreign corporation must appoint a registered agent to accept service of process, but not as a broad consent to personal jurisdiction in any cause of action, however, unrelated to the foreign corporation’s activities in Delaware.  Rather, any use of the service of process provision for registered foreign corporations must involve an exercise of personal jurisdiction consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In most situations where the foreign corporation does not have its principal place of business in Delaware, that will mean that Delaware cannot exercise general jurisdiction over the foreign corporation. In that circumstance, the core statute to evaluate whether the foreign corporation is subject to specific jurisdiction is Delaware’s long-arm statute, 10 Del. C. § 3104. The long-arm statute operates smoothly in tandem with § 376, which provides that a foreign corporation can be served via its registered agent in the state. Under the long-arm statute, a foreign corporation ‘submits to the jurisdiction of the Delaware court’ as to any cause of action that arises out of certain enumerated acts by the corporation in this state such as ‘transact[ing] any business or perform[ing] any character of work or service,’ or ‘contract[ing] to supply services or things.’ Moreover, a plaintiff who brings a cause of action fitting under the long-arm statute against a registered foreign corporation need not use cumbersome means of service of process, but instead can serve the foreign corporation‘s registered agent, as contemplated in the long-arm statute. Genuine Parts Company v. Cepec, No. 528, 2015, *3. (citations omitted)

The dissenting opinion by Justice Vaughn states:

I agree with those federal judicial officers who have concluded that Daimler and Goodyear have no effect upon general jurisdiction that is based upon consent through corporate registration statutes. Daimler and Goodyear involved only general jurisdiction by presence where the corporate defendant had not consented to jurisdiction. Just last month, a circuit court judge of the Federal Circuit wrote in a concurring opinion mentioned by the Majority that ― Daimler did not overrule the line of Supreme Court authority establishing that a corporation may consent to jurisdiction over its person by choosing to comply with a state‘s registration statute. The case originated in Delaware and the opinion concluded that [Sternberg v. O’Neil, 550 A.2d 1105 (Del. 1988)] itself remains good law. I fully agree with the reasoning of that concurring opinion and see no need to duplicate it here.

It may be that the United States Supreme Court will go in the same direction as the Majority. But we won‘t know until it gets there. I would not divest the trial courts of this state of significant jurisdiction unless I was sure I was right, and I am not sure the Majority is right. I would affirm the judgment of the Superior Court. Id. at 45. (citations omitted)

The decision may be read in its entirety here.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

Cameras in the Courtroom

Posted in Uncategorized

Last month, the Delaware Supreme Court announced that non-confidential oral arguments will now be available online live as they happen in Dover.  A link to the Court’s live stream can be found on the Court’s website and here.  The Court hopes that the live broadcasts will provide an educational opportunity for those interested in learning about he Delaware Courts.

Live broadcasting from the Courtroom is not a new concept.  Perhaps the most notable example is the television broadcast of the OJ Simpson murder trial.  For those that are interested, the new FX miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story highlights some of the controversy that came out of the broadcast of that trial.

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Seth Niederman is a partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. Seth practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office. You can reach Seth at 302-622-4238, or sniederman@foxrothschild.com.

 

Tax Issues And Divorce

Posted in Alimony, Divorce, Family Law, Property Division

A divorce raises any number of tax issues in the short and long term.  As described in my recent article in Delaware Business Times entitled “If there’s one sure thing in divorce, it’s taxes,” couples going through a divorce may need to consider who will claim the dependency exemption for their children, whether financial support is considered alimony for tax purposes, and whether legal fees associated with a divorce are deductible.  Gathering the necessary information and planning ahead can help parties avoid stress at tax time and beyond.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

 

Legislation Proposes To Collect Personal Injury Or Workers’ Compensation Awards To Satisfy Child Support Arrears

Posted in Child Support, Family Law, Legislation, Personal Injury

Dollar SignsHouse Bill 294, which was introduced on March 23rd, proposes a new method of collecting child support arrears.  The Bill requires the Division of Child Support Enforcement to maintain a list of persons who are in arrears of their child support obligation.  In addition, it would impose an obligation on any attorney or insurer to consult this list before releasing any funds to clients or prevailing parties in a claim, lawsuit or civil arbitration for bodily injury or death under a property and casualty insurance policy, or paid as a workers’ compensation or occupational disease act award under a workers’ compensation policy.  If support is owed, the Bill requires that the total amount of support arrears to be paid before any funds (except the first $1,000) may be released to the support obligor.  The Bill is currently assigned to the Health & Human Development Committee in the House of Representatives.

 

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Leslie B. Spoltore, Partner, Fox Rothschild LLPLeslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

Delaware Judiciary Issues 2015 Annual Report

Posted in Delaware Court of Common Pleas, Delaware Family Court, Delaware Superior Court, Delaware Supreme Court, Legislation, Practice Issues

The Delaware Judiciary recently issued its 2015 Annual Report. The Report includes a message from Chief Justice Strine, as well messages from the Chancellor, President or Chief Judge from each Court.  The Report also contains a fiscal overview and a summary of 2015 legislation that impacts the Judiciary.

In addition, the Judiciary published Statistical Information for 2015. The Statistical Information includes,

  • The Average time from filing to disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court;
  • The Average time from submission to disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court; and
  • Caseload breakdown and disposition of matters filed in each Court with comparisons to previous years.

The 2015 Annual Report and Reports from prior years can be found on the Court’s website.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

Child Support Payments Can Be Made At The DMV

Posted in Child Support, Family Law

The Division of Child Support Enforcement can now accept child support payments at TouchPay Kiosks throughout Delaware.  The Kiosks are located at Probation offices in New Castle and Seaford, as well as Division of Motor Vehicle locations in Delaware City, Greater Wilmington, Dover and Georgetown.  The Kiosks accept cash payments and credit or debt card payments.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

Legislation Proposes To Expand The Definition Of “Marital Property”

Posted in Family Law, Legislation, Property Division

Prior posts have examined how Delaware law defines and divides marital property.  Presently, marital property is generally defined as “all property acquired by either party subsequent to the marriage.”  13 Del. C. § 1513(b). House Bill 271, which was recently introduced, proposes to expand that definition to include “jointly-titled real property acquired by the parties prior to their marriage, unless excluded by valid agreement of the parties.”  The Bill is currently assigned to the Judiciary Committee in the House.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

Unusual Assets in Divorce – Delaware License Plates

Posted in Divorce, Property Division

As highlighted by Adam Duvernay’s recent article in The News Journal, many Delawareans have an abiding love of black and white license plates – particularly those with low digits.  For example, license plate number 14 recently sold at auction for $325,000, tag number 457 sold for $32,000 and tag number 1785 sold for $8,000.  So, if you are itemizing your marital estate don’t forget to check the back of your car.  It may be hard to believe, but you may something of value there.

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leslie_SpoltoreLeslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

FAFSA, Financial Aid And Residential Placement

Posted in Family Law

For divorced or separated parents the consideration of where a child primarily resides can be an important issue at tax time.  That, however, is not the only time that residential placement can have a financial impact.  Consider the issue of student aid and student loans.

Different loan programs examine residential placement to determine which parent’s financial information should be reported.  Some financial aid programs require both parents to provide financial information.  Others do not.  For example, many students apply for aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program.  Pursuant to FASFA, the financial aid form should include information on the parent with whom the child resided the most over the last year.  If the child resided equally with both parents, it requires the financial information from the parent who provided the most financial support over the past year.

Whatever the reporting requirements are, it makes sense for parents to work together to maximize the chances to getting aid.  Find out early what forms need to be filled out, by whom and with what information.  If there is a residency requirement, figure out what it is and whether it works for your family.  Working collaboratively could make the difference in whether your child is eligible for finical aid programs or not.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.