Weiss v. Weiss, (Del. Ch., Feb. 15, 2007), 2007 WL 522290, read opinion here, is a Chancery Court decision that I post on this blog for its useful insights into, and pronouncements about, statutory construction principles in general. Although it deals with Section 4503 of Title 12 of the Delaware Code related to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, and the challenge to the delegation of a custodian in connection with the change in beneficiary form for the IRA of the mother of the disinherited son, here are a few principles that I gleaned from the decision that I think have broad application in business litigation cases:
1) summary judgment is a procedurally appropriate method for the court to make an early determination regarding interpretation of an arguably ambiguous statute, compared to contractual ambiguity that often requires a trial to resolve factual issues.
2) if a literal interpretation of a statute would cause a result inconsistent with the general statutory intention, the general intent must prevail. If a literal interpretation of the words of the statute would lead to an unreasonable or an absurd result, then ambiguity is likely present.
3) the legislature is presumed to know the common law and a court should not assume that a statute was intended to change the common law beyond what is clearly expressed or expressly implied in the legislative language used.
In this case, the court concluded that allowing a delegation of the power to nominate a custodian was most consistent with the legislative intent and analogous common law, such as cases construing "powers of appointment".