Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

by
With certain exceptions, a sex offender can rebut the presumption established by the Child Protection From Sex Offenders Act by demonstrating his compliance with the conditions in the statute. This appeal raised one issue: whether the Sex Offenders Act and its rebuttable presumption operated outside of Family Court custody proceedings. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded, as did the Family Court, that the General Assembly intended that the Act and its rebuttable presumption to operate only when the Family Court determines custody, residency, and visitation as part of a Family Court custody proceeding. The Court therefore affirmed the Family Court’s order. View "Division of Family Services v. O'Bryan" on Justia Law

by
The New Castle County Office of Assessment (“New Castle County”) valued office condominium units for real property tax purposes but failed to take into account depreciation. The Superior Court affirmed the decision of the New Castle County Board of Assessment Review (the “Board”) upholding New Castle County’s valuation. The property owner appealed, arguing that its office condominium units were over-assessed because New Castle County and the Board did not factor in the age and resulting depreciation of the units. Because Delaware law required that all relevant factors bearing on the value of a property (in its current condition) be considered, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed and required that New Castle County reassess the value of the units, taking into account the influence depreciation has on their taxable value. View "Commerce Associates, LP, et al. v. New Castle County Office of Assessment, et al." on Justia Law

by
This dispute centered on subrogation claims Victoria Insurance Company and Nationwide Insurance Company asserted against the City of Wilmington. This appeal presented a question of first impression before the Supreme Court: whether, under Delaware's motor vehicle insurance statute governing subrogation disputes among insurers and self-insurers, the losing party may appeal de novo to the Superior Court from an adverse arbitration award. In considering consolidated motions to dismiss two such appeals filed by the City against the insurers, the Superior Court determined that 21 Del. C. 2118(g)(3), which mandated arbitration for subrogation disputes arising between insurers and self-insurers, did not provide a right to appeal. Because the statute unambiguously provided for appeals from mandatory arbitration of subrogation disputes between insurers and self-insurers, the Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Wilmington v. Nationwide Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Magdalena Guardado, an undocumented worker, was employed as a machine manager for Roos Foods when she was involved in a work-related accident. She injured her left wrist and thereafter received total disability benefits. The employer petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (“the Board”) to terminate those benefits on the ground that the worker was no longer disabled and could return to work. The Board found: (1) the employer met its initial burden of showing that the worker was no longer totally disabled; (2) that the worker was a prima facie displaced worker based solely on her status as an undocumented worker; and (3) the employer had failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities. Accordingly, it denied the employer’s petition. The questions this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether an injured worker’s immigration status alone rendered her a prima facie displaced worker; and (2) whether the Board properly found that the employer failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities because its evidence failed to take into account the worker’s undocumented status. The Court concluded that an undocumented worker’s immigration status was not relevant to determining whether she was a prima facie displaced worker, but it was a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker. The Court also concluded that the Board correctly rejected the employer’s evidence of regular employment opportunities for the worker because that evidence failed to consider her undocumented status. View "Roos Foods v. Guardado" on Justia Law

by
Robert Ovens appealed the Superior Court’s reversal of the Delaware Human Relations Commission’s award of damages, attorney’s fees, and costs to Ovens based on the Commission’s determination that a prison was a place of "public accommodation." The Commission found that the Department of Correction (“DOC”), through its operation of Sussex Correctional Institution (“SCI”), violated section 4504(a) of the Delaware Code (known as theEqual Accommodations Law), by not providing equal accommodations to Ovens, who was deaf, while he was incarcerated. After review of the issue, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that a prison was not a place of "public accommodation" as contemplated by the law. "Ovens’ argument hinges on his assertion that a prison is a state agency, and therefore, it falls under the second sentence of section 4502(14), which includes state agencies, local government agencies, and state-funded agencies in the definition of a place of public accommodation. But, he ignores that the second sentence of section 4502(14) cannot be decoupled from the critical language in the first." View "Ovens v. Danberg" on Justia Law

by
While off-duty, out of uniform, driving his own car, and under the influence of alcohol, Wilmington Police Officer Michael Spencer ran a red light and collided with a car driven by Morgan McCaffrey. After the accident, Officer Spencer asked McCaffrey to handle the matter without police involvement and to move their damaged cars out of the roadway and into parking spaces in front of McCaffrey’s nearby apartment. Officer Spencer and McCaffrey then went into the apartment, where Officer Spencer undressed and made sexual advances toward McCaffrey, which she refused. McCaffrey called the police after Officer Spencer passed out in her bed. The responding officers took Officer Spencer to the hospital, and later to the police station, where after a delay of five hours, Officer Spencer supposedly passed field tests for intoxication. The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) disciplined Officer Spencer for his conduct that evening. McCaffrey filed suit against Officer Spencer, the WPD, and others, including former Chief of Police Michael Szczerba, stemming from the car accident and Officer Spencer’s admitted inappropriate conduct with McCaffrey. In a series of opinions, the Superior Court dismissed all claims against the defendants other than Officer Spencer, and entered a final judgment excluding Officer Spencer. McCaffrey raised two issues on appeal: (1) the Superior Court erred by dismissing Count I of her complaint arguing that she sufficiently alleged that Spencer was acting within the scope of his employment as a Wilmington Police Officer when he ran into McCaffrey’s car and made inappropriate sexual advances after the accident; (2) that the Superior Court erred in dismissing Count IV, against Chief Szczerba and the City because the County and Municipal Tort Claims Act did not immunize them from suit for Officer Spencer’s actions. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court. View "McCaffrey v. City of Wilmington, et al." on Justia Law

by
In this appeal, Mary DiFebo argued that the Superior Court erred by dismissing her amended petition seeking review of a Board of Adjustment decision that granted a variance application for two land plots located near DiFebo's home to be subdivided into four flag lots. The Superior Court had two related reasons for dismissing the amended petition: (1) that DiFebo had not named the owners of the two properties that were the subject of the Board's proceeding within the thirty-day statute of limitations for commencing a petition challenging a Board decision, and for that reason alone she was foreclosed from proceeding; (2) alternatively, the court found that DiFebo had not met the requirements for relation back under Superior Court Civil Rule 15(c)(3). The Supreme Court concluded that the Superior Court correctly determined that DiFebo did not satisfy all of Rule 15(c)(3)'s requirements to have her amended petition relate back to her initial filing. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of DiFebo's amended petition. View "DiFebo v. Board of Adjustment of New Castle County, et al." on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented to the Delaware Supreme Court arose out of a situation where a police officer retired while his conduct was under investigation by his employing police force. After the officer retired, the Council on Police Training revoked his certification as a police officer in the State of Delaware on the grounds that the officer’s retirement itself constituted a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court concluded that because the plain language of section 8404(a)(4)(e) provided that the Council could only revoke the certification of a retired officer if the officer both retired pending the resolution of an investigation that could have resulted in his discharge from the police force and “knowingly and voluntarily waived” his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, the Council erred. The Superior Court’s reversal of the Council’s revocation of his certification was affirmed. View "Council on Police Training v. Delaware" on Justia Law

by
RB Entertainment is one of a complicated web of at least seventeen different companies that Appellant Jeffrey Cohen allegedly owns and controls. Central to this appeal was one issue: whether the delinquency proceedings for Indemnity Insurance Corporation, RRG violated the constitutional due process rights of Cohen or Co-Appellant RB Entertainment Ventures. Co-Appellant IDG Companies, LLC (Indemnity's managing general agent), was also one of the Cohen-affiliated entities. After uncovering evidence that Cohen had committed fraud in his capacity as Indemnity's CEO and that Indemnity might be insolvent, the Delaware Insurance Commissioner petitioned the Court of Chancery for a seizure order. The Delaware Uniform Insurers Liquidation Act. Based on the detailed allegations and supporting evidence presented by the Commissioner, the Court of Chancery granted that seizure order, which, among other things, prohibited anyone with notice of the proceedings from transacting the business of Indemnity, selling or destroying Indemnity’s assets, or asserting claims against Indemnity in other venues without permission from the Commissioner. The seizure order also prohibited anyone with notice of the proceedings from interfering with the Commissioner in the discharge of her duties. Cohen, who founded Indemnity and had served as its President, Chairman, and CEO, resigned from Indemnity's board during the ensuing investigation and the board removed him from his managerial positions. After his resignation, Cohen interfered with the Commissioner's efforts to operate Indemnity in various ways. The Commissioner returned to the Court of Chancery several times, first seeking an amendment to the seizure order to address Cohen's behavior and then seeking sanctions against him. The Court of Chancery entered a series of orders that increased the restrictions on Cohen's behavior and imposed stiffer sanctions upon him. Cohen argued that he was denied due process at several junctures during the Court of Chancery proceedings. Because Cohen's claims alleged violations of his right to due process, the focus of the Supreme Court's opinion was on whether Cohen was given notice of the allegations against him and a fair opportunity to present his side of the dispute. Having carefully examined the record in this case, the Court concluded that he was given that opportunity: no violation of Cohen's or the affiliated entities' due process rights occurred. View "Cohen, et al. v. State of Delaware, et al." on Justia Law

by
Barley Mill, LLC appealed a Court of Chancery judgment invalidating a vote of the New Castle County Council on a rezoning ordinance. Barley Mill planned to develop a piece of property to house office space and a regional shopping mall. The increase in traffic associated with the development was of considerable concern to both the public and members of the Council itself. But the Council was advised that: (1) it could not obtain the traffic information and analysis that Barley Mill was required to provide to the Delaware Department of Transportation as part of the overall rezoning process before the Council exercised its discretionary authority to vote on the rezoning ordinance; and (2) that the traffic information was not legally relevant to the Council's analysis. That advice was incorrect and there were no legal barriers that prevented the Council from obtaining the information or considering it before casting its discretionary vote on the rezoning ordinance. After the rezoning ordinance was approved, nearby resident homeowners and Save Our County, Inc. challenged the zoning ordinance, arguing that not only was the Council allowed to consider the traffic information, but the New Castle County Unified Development Code required it to consider that information before its vote. They also argued that, even if the Council was not required to consider the information before the vote, the vote on the rezoning ordinance was arbitrary and capricious because the Council had received erroneous legal advice that the information was both unavailable and irrelevant at the time the Council cast its vote. The Court of Chancery held that the mistake of law caused the Council to vote without first obtaining the information, rendering the vote arbitrary and capricious. On appeal, Barley Mill argued that the Court of Chancery erred when it invalidated the Council's vote. Save Our County and New Castle County cross-appealed, arguing that the Court of Chancery erred in holding that neither 9 Del C. Sec. 2662 nor the UDC required the Council to consider a traffic analysis before casting its discretionary vote on the rezoning ordinance. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery's decision. View "Barley Mill, LLC v. Save Our County, Inc." on Justia Law