champerty and maintenance

As I have previously noted (most recently here), third-party litigation financing is an increasingly important part of the litigation scene in the U.S. and around the world. In a series of articles in December, Law 360 took a comprehensive overview of litigation funding in the U.S. As discussed below, the Law 360 series provides an interesting perspective on an increasingly important part of the U.S. litigation environment.
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new yorkOne of the important factors behind the recent rise of third-party litigation financing has been the view in many jurisdictions that litigation finance does not violate ancient prohibitions against “champerty” – that is, the investment by an uninvolved third-party in a lawsuit with the intent of sharing in any recovery. As I discussed in a recent post, the general view is that litigation funding arrangements are not champertous as long as the plaintiff continues to control the litigation.

However, in a recent decision, the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) held that a financial transaction in which the plaintiff had purchased securities for the purpose of filing suit violated New York’s champerty statute. The Court also ruled that the transaction did not come within the statutory safe harbor for larger financial transactions. The appellate court’s ruling on the champerty issue is interesting, but its discussion of the safe harbor provisions – which likely would protect most conventional litigation finance arrangements – may be the more significant part of the court’s decision.
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delmapBoth inside and outside the United States, litigation financing has become an increasingly important part of the litigation environment. But litigation financing remains controversial, at least in certain quarters, and questions continue to be asked about whether or not it is proper or even appropriate. In a recent decision in a Delaware lawsuit between Charge Injection Technologies and DuPont, DuPont challenged CIT’s arrangement for financing its participation in the litigation, arguing that the financing agreement violated Delaware’s prohibition against “champerty and maintenance.” In a March 9, 2016 decision (here), Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan R. Jurden rejected the challenge. Judge Jurden’s opinion supports the view that, at least under Delaware, an appropriately structured litigation funding agreement will not be found improper.

While parties and observers undoubtedly will still seek to challenge litigation funding in general and in the context of specific cases, this ruling and related developments suggest that Delaware’s courts will where appropriate condone litigation funding.  
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