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Brown v. Wiltbank

Court of Chancery of Delaware

November 14, 2012

Kathleen Brown
v.
Benjamin Wiltbank, II, et al.

Submitted: September 24, 2012

Michael L. Sensor, Esq.. Perry & Sensor

Robert G. Gibbs, Esq Wilson Halbrook & Bayard

Mr. Benjamin Wiltbank, II Ms. Juanita Wiltbank

Ms. Claudia Wiltbank-Johnson

Dear Counsel:

This Letter Opinion addresses two motions for reargument pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 59(f). The first was filed by Plaintiff, Kathleen Brown ("Kathleen"), and the second by Defendants Homeowners Loan Corporation ("HLC") and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. ("MERS"). Both motions pertain to the aspect of the Court's September 13, 2012 Letter Opinion (the "Opinion") granting in part and denying in part the movants' respective requests for attorneys' fees and expenses. For the reasons stated below, I deny both motions.

In the Opinion, I held Defendant Claudia Wiltbank-Johnson ("Claudia") liable for reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses incurred in this action after March 8, 2011 to (1) Kathleen in the amount of $5, 035.54 and (2) HLC and MERS in an amount to be determined.[1] I based that ruling on my finding that Claudia has engaged in vexatious conduct and bad faith litigation since March 8, 2011.

On September 20, 2012, Kathleen moved for reargument on the Court's award of attorneys' fees. On September 24, HLC and MERS made a similar motion. Specifically, Kathleen, HLC, and MERS contend that the Court misapprehended the facts, which they assert demonstrate that Claudia has engaged in bad faith and vexatious conduct from the very outset of this litigation. Therefore, Kathleen, HLC, and MERS seek an award of all of the attorneys' fees and expenses they incurred in this action.

I. Legal Standard

A motion for reargument under Rule 59(f) will be denied "unless the Court has overlooked a decision or principle of law that would have controlling effect or the Court has misapprehended the law or facts so the outcome of the decision would be affected."[2] This standard is flexible, and reargument is permitted if it can be shown that the Court's misunderstanding of a factual or legal principle is both material and would have altered the outcome of its prior decision.[3] A court will not grant a motion for reargument, however, if the motion is "merely a rehash of arguments already made."[4]

II. Kathleen's Motion

In order for this Court to award attorneys' fees under the American Rule, the party against whom the award is sought must have acted in subjective bad faith.[5] This Court also will not award attorneys' fees against a party for failing to succeed on the merits, so long as that party stated a "conceivable" or "possible" cause of action.[6]

Claudia contended that her father, Arlington Wiltbank ("Arlington"), granted her a life estate in his Property. Ultimately, Court of Chancery Master Kim E. Ayvasian and this Court both found that Claudia had failed to prove that she had a life estate in the Property. The fact that Claudia did not succeed on the merits of her claim, ...


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