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Judge Wallace Denies Plaintiff's Motion to Set Judgment Amounts and Prejudgment Interest

July 24, 2018

In Viking Pump, Inc. v. Century Indemnity Co., 2018 WL 2331990 (Del. Super. Ct.), Judge Wallace denied the plaintiff’s motion to set judgment amounts and prejudgment interest. This long-running insurance coverage dispute arose from underlying asbestos-related personal injury claims. One of the plaintiffs, Warren Pumps LLC, sought declaratory relief against several excess insurers for defense costs. Following a three-week trial, the jury found in favor of Warren, and the Court entered a final judgment. Subsequently, all parties appealed, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Thereafter, Warren filed a Motion to Set Judgment Amounts and Prejudgment Interest against the remaining excess insurers, asking the Court to set the value of its outstanding claims against the excess insurers as a “judgment.” Id. at *1. Warren argued it was entitled to judgment pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 6508 and N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 5001 (McKinney 2018).

Judge Wallace denied Warren’s motion and held that Section 6508 does not permit the award of damages without a fact finder’s determination. For example, in Olson Bros., Inc. v. Englehart, 245 A.2d 166 (Del. 1968), the Court did not enter the amount sought by the plaintiffs as a judgment, but instead granted the plaintiffs leave to amend their answer to file a counterclaim seeking money damages. Similarly, Clemente v. Greyhound Corp., 155 A.2d 316 (Del. Super. Ct. 1959), another case relied on by Warren, held only that a complaint could seek combined relief. “In short, none of the authorities Warren cit[ed] support the notion that a court may just ‘set a judgment amount’ absent a judge or jury’s specific finding on damages.” Viking Pump, 2018 WL 2331990, at *6. Judge Wallace also rejected Warren’s efforts to obtain prejudgment interest because there was no monetary recovery. Warren sought and received a declaratory judgment. With no monetary recovery sought or obtained, Warren was foreclosed from obtaining prejudgment interest.

Analysis: Because Warren’s complaint sought declaratory relief rather than breach-of-contract monetary damages, a monetary award and prejudgment interest were unavailable. This case highlights how the CCLD judges—particularly in large insurance coverage cases—will scrutinize the relief requested in the complaint to determine what type of relief will be available post-trial.

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