Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

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Homeowners filed a complaint against the County and certain Developers, alleging that the Mayor had unlawfully exempted certain projects from a height restriction law (“Law”). On December 31, 2008, the circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Homeowners and entered an order for declaratory and injunctive relief. The circuit court subsequently denied Homeowners’ request for attorneys’ fees under the private attorney general doctrine. After the parties appealed, the Maui County Council passed a bill making the Mayor’s previously illegal conduct legal. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) (1) vacated the circuit court’s December 31, 2008 order because the Law issue was frustrated based on mootness, and (2) concluded that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court (1) vacated that portion of the ICA’s judgment that vacated the circuit court’s judgments and order, holding (i) when a case is mooted while on appeal, the appellate could should remand the case to the trial court for a consideration of the vacatur issue, and (ii) the ICA did not properly analyze the vacatur issue; and (2) affirmed that portion of the ICA’s judgment that affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Homeowners’ request for attorneys’ fees. Remanded. View "Goo v. Arakawa" on Justia Law

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The owner of certain property and surveying company filed a shoreline certification application with the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the property. Petitioners filed a notice of appeal of the proposed shoreline certification. In an amended decision, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) concluded that Petitioners failed to establish that the proposed certified shoreline was not proper. The Supreme Court vacated the BLNR’s amended decision, holding (1) in making a shoreline determination pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 205A-42, the BLNR must consider the historical evidence of the upper reaches of the wash of the waves; and (2) in this case, the BLNR’s amended decision establishing a certified shoreline for the subject property effectively failed to consider the historical evidence of the upper reaches of the wash of the waves and contained errors of law and erroneous findings of fact. Remanded. View "Diamond v. Dobbin" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over a real estate transaction contract, final partial judgment and final judgment were entered against Szymanski. On September 19, 2011, Szymanski moved for reconsideration of the final partial and final judgments under Haw. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The circuit court denied the motion. On January 13, 2012, Szymanski filed a motion for reconsideration of the order denying his Rule 60(b) motion. The circuit court denied the motion on July 11, 2012. On August 10, 2012, Szymanski appealed from the order denying his Rule 60(b) motion and the order denying his motion for reconsideration. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissed the appeal as untimely because Szymanski did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after the April 12, 2012 deemed denial of his January 13, 2012 motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s order dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because when a timely post-judgment tolling motion is deemed denied, it does not trigger the thirty-day deadline for filing a notice of appeal until entry of the judgment or appealable order. View "Title Guar. Escrow Servs., Inc. v. Waialea Resort Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a forty-nine acre parcel of land. After the County of Hawai’i and the County Planning Director (collectively, County Defendants) gave the subject property’s owners approval to subdivide the property, Plaintiff, an adjacent land owner, filed an action challenging the subdivision approval. The circuit court ultimately granted summary judgment on all counts for the County Defendants, concluding that no genuine issue of material fact existed in this case. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for an order dismissing the case, concluding that Appellant failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and therefore, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to act on the complaint. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded to the ICA for consideration of the remaining issues raised by Plaintiff in his appeal, holding that Appellant did not fail to exhaust administrative remedies. View "Kellberg v. Yuen" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a complaint against Respondents for violations of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act (UFTA). The circuit court dismissed the action without discussing Respondents’ argument that Petitioners’ claim was untimely. Petitioners appealed. Respondents cross-appealed, asserting that Petitioners’ UFTA claim was time-barred. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) ruled on the statute of limitations issue raised in the cross-appeal and concluded that Petitioners’ UFTA claim should have been dismissed as untimely, holding that the one-year limitations period begins when a transfer, rather than its fraudulent nature, is discovered. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the ICA, holding (1) the one-year limitations period under UFTA begins on the date a transfer commences when a plaintiff discovers or could reasonably have discovered a transfer’s fraudulent nature; and (2) the ICA erred in its ruling on the statute of limitations issue and should have decided the merits of the claim raised in Petitioner’s appeal. Remanded. View "Schmidt v. HSC, Inc." on Justia Law

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Trustee alleged that Defendants owned an interest in a parcel of land and moved for summary judgment to partition their interest along with the remainder of the parcel. The circuit court granted summary judgment for partition, directed that the parcels be sold at a public auction, and ordered the sale proceeds to be distributed pursuant to court order. Defendants’ property was sold to Trustee at the public auction. The sale was confirmed to Trustee pursuant to a confirmation order. Defendants appealed from the confirmation order. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissed Defendants’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction because no final judgment had been entered in the case. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s dismissal order and remanded to the ICA for disposition of the appeal, holding that the confirmation order met the requirements of appealability under the doctrine announced in Forgay v. Conrad, which addresses the narrow relaxation of the finality rule for orders transferring property. View "Lambert v. Teisina" on Justia Law

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Because of a property dispute, Petitioner filed a complaint against Respondents. The trial court granted Respondents judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on Petitioner’s breach of fiduciary duty claim. The jury then rendered a special verdict against Petitioner on the remainder of Petitioner's claims. After the verdict was read into the record and the jury was discharged, the trial court recalled the jury. The jurors were polled, and one juror responded that the verdict as read did not reflect his verdict. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) sustained the verdict, holding that a jury cannot be recalled following an order discharging the jury. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the ICA, holding (1) a court may recall a jury following a formal discharge if the jury is subject to the control of the court; (2) the jurors’ statements that they misunderstood the legal effect of their answers to a special verdict question did not provide a basis for overturning the jury’s verdict in favor of Respondents; and (3) JMOL was correctly granted on Petitioner’s breach of fiduciary duty claim. View "Lahaina Fashions, Inc. v. Bank of Hawai'i" on Justia Law

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In April 2010, the State Senate expressly rejected Duane Kanuha's nomination for a second term as a commissioner on the State Land Use Commission (LUC). Following the Senate's rejection, Kanuha continued to serve on the board and to participate in the LUC's consideration of a development project involving the reclassification of agricultural land for urban use. Sierra Club filed an action to disqualify Kanuha from serving on the LUC and to invalidate the actions Kanuha had taken with regard to the development project. The LUC denied the action. That same day, LUC voted to approve the development project. Without Kanuha's vote, the LUC lacked the requisite number of votes to approve the reclassification. The circuit court reversed the LUC's decision and order. The ICA reversed, determining that Kanuha continued to serve as a valid holdover member of the LUC after the Senate's rejection of his nomination for a second term. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Kanuha was not a valid holdover when he voted on the reclassification; (2) Kanuha did not qualify as a de facto member of the LUC; and (3) therefore, Kanuha's actions taken with respect to the reclassification petition were invalid. View "Sierra Club v. Castle & Cooke Homes Haw., Inc. " on Justia Law

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The County of Kauai Planning Commission approved a subdivision application for a Trust's development of land in Koloa, Kauai. During the Commission's consideration of the application, the parties assumed that a historic road (Road) that the Trust needed to breach to provide access into the subdivision belonged to the County of Kauai. Plaintiff filed a civil complaint alleging several claims against Defendants, including breaches of the public trust. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint because he discovered that the road belonged to the State and not the County and asserted two additional claims against the Trust for allegedly breaching the Road. The circuit court dismissed the claims, concluding (1) because the State had not given its approval to breach the Road, the issues raised in Plaintiff's complaint were not ripe; and (2) even if Plaintiff had claims that were ripe and severable, the court had the discretion to dismiss the claims in the interest of judicial economy. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's final judgment, holding (1) all of Plaintiff's claims were ripe for adjudication; and (2) the circuit court erred in dismissing claims on the basis of judicial economy. Remanded. View "Blake v. County of Kauai Planning Comm'n" on Justia Law

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A homeowners association commenced a judicial foreclosure on Defendant's condominium unit after Defendant failed to pay her association fees and dues. The circuit court subsequently entered a default judgment and foreclosure decree. On May 29, the circuit court confirmed the sale to a third-party purchaser. Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration on the order and judgment confirming the sale. The circuit court did not rule on the motion within ninety days, and the motion was automatically deemed denied on September 5. On October 16, Defendant appealed the May 29 judgment. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissed Defendant's appeal for untimeliness, concluding that Defendant failed to timely appeal following the deemed denial of a post-judgment tolling motion. Specifically, the ICA determined that Defendant should have filed her notice of appeal by October 5, thirty days after the deemed denial of her motion. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's dismissal order, holding that when a timely post-judgment tolling motion is deemed denied, it does not trigger the thirty-day deadline for filing a notice of appeal until entry of the judgment or appealable order. Remanded. View "Ass'n of Condo. Homeowners of Tropics at Waikele v. Sakuma" on Justia Law