A short ruling today by the Delaware Court of Chancery contains excellent quotes on two procedural topics, with which proficiency may not be needed every day–but this decision still deserves a place in the toolbox of those who labor in the vineyard of corporate and commercial litigation. In Chrome Systems, Inc. v. Autodata Solutions, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 11808-VCG (Del. Ch. Sept. 21, 2016), the court addressed the public policy reasons that spoliation of evidence is contemptible and why interlocutory appeals are rarely permitted.
On spoliation, which was also addressed in another recent Chancery ruling highlighted on these pages, even though the court stayed its hand pending a decision by an arbitrator handling other issues in the case, the court explained that:
Because spoliation inhibits the search for truth and the administration of justice, it is anathema to our courts; accordingly, allegations of spoliation are taken seriously. There are, to my mind, two components involved in the appropriate resolution of claims of spoliation: minimizing its effect on the administration of justice, which may require shifting burdens of proof or excluding submissions of evidence by the spoliator to prevent prejudice to the non- spoliating party; and use of the contempt power to vindicate the integrity of the Court and the interest of the public in the preservation and presentation of evidence, in the interest of justice.
This topic has been in the news lately in connection with one of the candidates for president, but litigators recognize it as a serious issue.
Regarding the trial court’s review of a request for an interlocutory appeal, before the Delaware Supreme Court addresses it, the Vice Chancellor observed that:
As Supreme Court Rule 42 makes clear, interlocutory appeal is an extraordinary remedy, which “should be exceptional, not routine, because [such appeals] disrupt the normal procession of litigation, cause delay, and can threaten to exhaust scarce party and judicial resources.” Before certifying an appeal, I must determine that an interlocutory appeal would bring “substantial benefits that will outweigh the certain costs that accompany” such an appeal. (citing Supr. Ct. R. 42(b)(ii)).
The court declined the invitation to certify the interlocutory appeal. Notably, the Delaware Supreme Court recently amended the rule to emphasize that such an appeal should only be considered in truly rare circumstances.