Dansko Holdings Inc. v. Benefit Trust Co., No. 19-3847 (3d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Dansko conducted due diligence to replace the trustee for its employee stock ownership plan. Benefit falsely denied having been recently been investigated by the Department of Labor. Dansko’s board passed a resolution appointing Benefit as the new trustee under the Trust Agreement. Around that time, Dansko decided to refinance its debt. Benefit never agreed in writing to help with the refinance but allegedly said it would “be able to do the [deal]” and estimated that it would need a month or more to do due diligence for the trust. Dansko thought Benefit would be the trustee for the deal. In December 2014, Benefit told Dansko that it would not serve as trustee for the debt deal, which delayed the deal and allegedly cost Dansko more than $2 million in extra interest.
Dansko sued Benefit, alleging breach of the trust agreement, breach of an implied promise (promissory estoppel), and that Benefit fraudulently induced Dansko to hire it by falsely denying the DOL investigation. Benefit counterclaimed for its defense costs under an indemnification clause in the trust agreement. The district court rejected Dansko’s claims but held that Dansko did not have to indemnify Benefit for its defense costs. Applying Pennsylvania law, the Third Circuit vacated. The court erred in rejecting Dansko’s contract, estoppel, and fraud claims but under the trust agreement, Dansko must advance the trustee’s reasonable litigation expenses.