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H & S Ventures, Inc. v. Rm Techtronics, LLC

Superior Court of Delaware

January 18, 2017

H & S VENTURES, INC., Plaintiff,

          Date Submitted: December 16, 2016



         Upon consideration of Defendant RM Techtronics, LLC's Motion to Stay or Dismiss in Favor of Arbitration, [1] and Plaintiffs Response thereto;[2] and the record in this case, IT APPEARS THAT:

         1. This dispute arises out of a 2013 transaction between Plaintiff H&S Ventures, Inc. ("H&S") and Defendant RM Techtronics, LLC ("RM") in which H&S sold its assets to RM in exchange for one-third ownership in RM.[3] RM and H&S signed multiple agreements in connection with the transaction, including the Asset Purchase Agreement ("APA"), executed on October 14, 2013, and the LLC Operating Agreement ("LLC Agreement"), executed on December 23, 2013.[4]

         2. The APA contains a "Put Right" Provision which provides that H&S "shall have the right to require [RM] to purchase all . . . of the Membership Units" owned by H&S "if and only if RM fails to meet three financial performance conditions (the "Put Conditions"), set forth in the APA, within twelve months from the Closing Date.[5]

         3. The APA also contains an Integration Clause which provides: "This Agreement and the schedules referred to herein and the Transaction Documents constitute the entire agreements of the parties hereto with respect to the purchase of the Purchased Assets and the other transactions contemplated herein. Any reference herein to this Agreement shall be deemed to include the schedules hereto."[6] The APA defines "Transaction Documents" as "all such other bills of sale, endorsements, assignments, or other instruments or documents . . . ."[7] In addition, a form LLC Operating Agreement, referred to as a "counterpart" to the later-executed LLC Agreement, [8] is listed as "Exhibit D" on the APA's "List of Schedules and Exhibits."[9] The APA also contains a list of deliveries to be made by H&S to RM at the Closing; all of the Exhibits on the "List of Schedules and Exhibits, " including the LLC Operating Agreement, are expressly included in this list.[10]

         4. The LLC Agreement contains an arbitration clause which provides: "[A]ny dispute, claim, or controversy arising from or related in any way to this agreement or the interpretation, application, breach, termination or validity thereof . . . will be resolved by arbitration before a single arbitrator in Hartford, Connecticut, pursuant to the commercial rules then obtaining of the American Arbitration Association" (the "Arbitration Provision").[11] The Arbitration Provision contains one exception for violations of Section 11 of the LLC Agreement, [12] which are instead subject to injunctive relief.[13]

         5. The LLC Agreement includes an Integration Clause which provides: "This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement among the parties hereto pertaining to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior agreements and understandings pertaining thereto."[14] The LLC Agreement also contains the following Counterparts Provision: "This Agreement may be executed in any number of counterparts with the same effect as if all parties hereto had signed the same document. All counterparts shall be construed together and shall constitute one instrument."[15]

         6. Sections 8.8(c) and 8.10 of the LLC Agreement specifically contemplate the APA's Put Right Provision-the provision pursuant to which H&S has filed the instant suit against RM.[16]

         7. On November 10, 2015, H&S sued RM for breach of contract.[17] H&S seeks to enforce the Put Right defined in the APA, alleging that RM failed to meet the Put Conditions by December 31, 2014.[18]

         8. On October 17, 2016, RM moved to dismiss or stay this suit in favor of arbitration.[19] RM asserts that this dispute should be submitted to arbitration pursuant to the Arbitration Provision in the LLC Agreement.[20]

         9. In opposition, H&S contends that this dispute arises solely under the APA, and therefore, the Arbitration Provision in the LLC Agreement is inapplicable.[21] H&S further argues that even if the Arbitration Provision is deemed applicable, RM waived its right to demand arbitration because RM substantially participated in these proceedings, and because RM waited over ten months to raise the issue of arbitration.[22]

         10. RM contends that the Arbitration Provision is broad and applies because it is incorporated into the APA.[23] RM argues that it has not waived its right to demand arbitration because H&S has not been prejudiced by RM's delay in bringing this motion.[24]

         11. The APA and the LLC Agreement are integrated and must be read together. The APA's definition of "Transaction Documents" is broad, including a list of "all such . . . bills of sale, endorsements, assignments, or other instruments or documents."[25] This broad definition of "Transaction Documents" includes the LLC Agreement.[26] The APA's List of Schedules and Exhibits includes a form LLC Agreement, [27] and the APA's Integration Clause states that the Transaction Documents and Schedules, along with the APA, "constitute the entire agreements of the parties hereto."[28] The APA's list of documents to be delivered at the Closing expressly includes the LLC Agreement.[29] Moreover, the LLC Agreement, which functions to "further[] the transaction outlined in the [APA], "[30] references the APA's Put Right Provision in two sections and states that it "supersedes all prior agreements." The numerous cross-references between the two agreements, [31] and the fact that they are both parts of the same overall transaction, [32] are "sufficient nexus[es] to justify the merging of... these documents."[33]

         12. The Arbitration Provision encompasses disputes "in any way related to" the LLC Agreement. In BAYPO Partnership v. Technology JP, LP, [34] at issue was an arbitration clause containing the language, "arising out of and related to the Transactions."[35] The dispute in BAYPO arose under an agreement that was separate from, but integrated with, the agreement which contained the arbitration clause.[36] Because the agreements were integrated, the Court of Chancery found the language sufficient to send the dispute to arbitration.[37] Here, the language "in any way" precedes "related to" in the Arbitration Provision. The phrase "in any way" thus makes the Arbitration Provision here even broader than that at issue in BAYPO. Given this language, it is apparent that the parties intended for the Arbitration Provision to have a broad scope.[38]

         13. The claim sub judice is related to the LLC Agreement: the LLC Agreement contemplates the Put Right in two sections; the execution of the LLC Agreement, along with the other Transaction Documents, perfected the Closing as contemplated in the APA; and the LLC Agreement and the APA are integrated and therefore should be read together. Consequently, this dispute does not arise solely under the APA.[39]

         14. With regard to waiver, while it is undisputed that RM waited over ten months before it raised the issue of arbitration, and actively participated in this lawsuit for over ten months, [40] Delaware has a strong public policy favoring arbitration.[41] It is very difficult to waive arbitration even when there has been a delay in demanding arbitration, or where the party demanding arbitration has already played a substantial role in the litigation.[42] Courts generally look to whether the party opposing arbitration has suffered any prejudice as a result of the delay in demanding arbitration.[43] Here, there is no substantial prejudice to H&S resulting from the delay. While it is true that H&S's Motion for Summary Judgment will not be considered by the Court should this claim be arbitrable, H&S will have the opportunity to present its arguments, and related evidence, to an arbitrator. Consequently, this prejudice is not so substantial as to overcome the strong public policy favoring arbitration in Delaware.[44]

         NOW THEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Stay in Favor of Arbitration is GRANTED and this matter is STAYED pending, and subject to, the arbitrator's decision on arbitrability. The parties shall report the ...

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