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Delaware Trial Practice Blog

Stay Up To Date On Delaware State Court Matters

The Definition Of Marital Property Has Been Expanded

Posted in Delaware Family Court, Divorce, Family Law, Legislation

HouseA prior post examined House Bill 271 regarding the definition of “marital property.”  Marital property was generally defined as “all property acquired by either party subsequent to the marriage.”  House Bill 271, which has now been signed into law, expands the definition of marital property to include “jointly-titled real property acquired by the parties prior to their marriage, unless excluded by valid agreement of the parties.” With this expanded definition real estate that was acquired before the parties were married, perhaps even long before, could be divided in a divorce.

 

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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.

Vicks v. Justison Landing Apartments – The Importance of Being Timely

Posted in Civil Procedure, Delaware Superior Court

The consequences of missing the statute of limitations – even by only one day – can be dire, as illustrated by the recent Delaware Superior Court case of Vicks v. Justison Landing Apartments, C.A. No. N16C-01-063-ALR (Rocanelli, J.) (Order, April 28, 2016).  The full opinion can be read here:  http://courts.delaware.gov/opinions/

 The plaintiff, a tenant in an apartment complex owned and managed by the defendant, filed suit on January 11, 2016 for physical injuries she sustained on January 10, 2014 when she slipped and fell on ice outside the apartments.  Defendants moved to dismiss based on the two-year statute of limitations for bringing personal injury claims.  The two-year statute of limitations is set forth in Section 8119, Title 10 of the Delaware Code: “No action for the recovery of damages upon a claim for alleged personal injuries shall be brought after the expiration of 2 years from the date upon which it is claimed that such alleged injuries were sustained[.]”

The Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that “although plaintiff’s complaint was filed only one day after the statute of limitations, it was nevertheless filed outside the applicable statute of limitations and is untimely.”  The Court further noted that:

 “While the Court is cognizant of the public policy favoring resolution of cases on their merits, and that dismissing a claim that has been filed only one day after the statute of limitations may be harsh, the Court is satisfied that even if this matter were to proceed, Plaintiff’s claims have no merit under the Continuing Storm Doctrine.  Specifically, at the time that Plaintiff suffered her alleged injuries, Defendant did not owe Plaintiff any duty to remove snow or ice at the Apartments because a winter storm was ongoing.  Accordingly, because Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred and Plaintiff cannot succeed on the merits of her claims, Defendant’s motion to dismiss with prejudice must be granted.”

 Thus, it appears that the Court dismissed the case for two reasons: (1) because the plaintiff’s claim was time-barred under the statute of limitations; and (2) because the Plaintiff would not have been able to prevail anyway, due to the Continuing Storm Doctrine.

Even though the Court appeared to give a second rationale for dismissing the case, the decision still illustrates the importance of filing your complaint within the applicable statute of limitations. 

 

 

Financial Planners And Divorce

Posted in Alimony, Family Law, Property Division

Dollar SignsIn addition to stress and host of other emotions, a divorce will likely raise a number of financial concerns. Lawyers and financial planners can partner to help clients through the court process.  Although each case is unique and requires specific consideration and analysis, the commonly asked questions set forth in my recent article in ThinkAdvisor, titled “Top 5 Things Financial Planners Need to Know About a Divorce,” can assist financial planners in their general understanding  of the divorce process and the role that finances play.

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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.

 

Talk to the Judges

Posted in Uncategorized

On May 20, 2016, the Vincent Bifferato Trial Practice Forum will offer a rare chance for practitioners to talk to Judges from the Superior Court.  Admission to the forum is free and attendees will have the opportunity to hear what issues and concerns are most on the minds of the Judges.  The following Judges will be on the panel:

The panel will be moderated by David White, Esquire., and held in the NCC Courthouse, Jury Assembly Room.

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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.

Appellate Practice – Supreme Court Affirms Alimony Decision

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

Appeal-300x300In 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-Signs-216x300House 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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Spoltore_LeslieLeslie 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.