Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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In this case arising from settlement negotiations between Plaintiff and Defendants relating to a dispute about water and mold damage to Plaintiff's condominium the Supreme Court remanded this case with instruction that the circuit court hold an evidentiary hearing to address issues of fact as to the terms and existence of a purported settlement agreement between the parties. At the close of a settlement conference, the circuit court and the parties acknowledged that the parties had reached a settlement. Plaintiff, however, refused to sign the settlement documents and proceeded to represent herself pro se. Defendants filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the parties had entered into a binding settlement agreement but that the proposed written settlement agreement contained terms beyond those agreed to at the settlement conference. Therefore, the court struck those terms and created a revised settlement agreement. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the parties reached a valid settlement agreement and as to which terms the parties agreed to at the settlement conference, the circuit court should have granted Plaintiff's motion for an evidentiary hearing to resolve those issues. View "McKenna v. Association of Apartment Owners of Elima Lani" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from the nonjudicial foreclosure of Petitioner's apartment based on unpaid assessments the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) partially affirming the trial court's dismissal of the Petitioner's claims against the apartment owners' association and the purchaser of the property for wrongful foreclosure, holding that the complaint stated a claim against both defendants. Petitioner's claim for wrongful foreclosure was based on the association's lack of a valid power of sale. The district court found that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 667, which governs foreclosures, contained a statutory bar that precluded Petitioner's claims. The ICA concluded that the statutory bar did not preclude Petitioner's claim for damages against the association but did not preclude Petitioner's claim to title of the property against the purchaser. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner's wrongful foreclosure claim was not limited by chapter 667, and chapter 667's provisions do not bar a claim of wrongful foreclosure based on the lack of a power of sale; and (2) therefore, the complaint did state a claim against both the association and the purchaser of the apartment. View "Sakal v. Association of Apartment Owners of Hawaiian Monarch" on Justia Law

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In this certiorari proceeding arising out of a lawsuit brought by condominium owners whose unit was nonjudicially foreclosed by their association of apartment owners the Supreme Court held that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) erred in affirming the circuit court's dismissal of the unfair or deceptive acts of practices (UDAP) claim, holding that the Plaintiffs' UDAP claim should not have been dismissed. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against their association (Association), by and through its board of directors (Board), asserting wrongful foreclosure and UDAP claims based on the Board's nonjudicial foreclosure and public sale of their condominium apartment due to unpaid assessment fees. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The ICA held that the circuit court (1) erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' wrongful foreclosure claim, and (2) correctly dismissed the UDAP claim as time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed as to the UDAP claim and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the ICA correctly reinstated the wrongful foreclosure claim because the Board lacked a power of sale; and (2) based on the applicable notice pleading standard, viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, it cannot be said that Plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of their claim that would entitle them to relief. View "Malabe v. Ass'n of Apartment Owners of Executive Centre" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Land Use Commission of the State of Hawai'i erred in a 2017 by interpreting a condition of an administrative order issued almost thirty years earlier prohibiting a resort (Resort) from irrigating its golf course with "potable" water to mean that brackish water is per se "non-potable" but that the Commission did not err in determining that the Resort did not violate the condition under its plain meaning. In 1991, the Commission issued an order approving the Resort's petition seeking to effect district reclassification of a large tract of rural and agricultural land sort that the Resort could build an eighteen-hole golf course. The Commission approved the Resort's petition subject to the condition stating that the Resort was not allowed to use potable water to irrigate the golf course. In 2017, the Commission determined that the Resort's use of brackish water from two wells for golf course irrigation was allowable under the condition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission erred in interpreting the condition to mean that brackish water is per se non-potable; but (2) the Commission did not clearly err in concluding that the water from the two wells was non-potable under county water quality standards. View "Lana'ians for Sensible Growth v. Land Use Commission" on Justia Law

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In this nuisance action, the Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's final judgments and the intermediate court of appeals' (ICA) judgment affirming in part, holding that the ICA erred by concluding that damages are not recoverable for common-law public nuisance actions absent a statute designating the activity as a public nuisance. Plaintiffs alleged that by allowing individuals to live in one of its storage units in violation of land use and public health laws Allied Storage property maintained a public nuisance and that Chung Partners, as a lesser/sub-lessor of the property, had a duty not to maintain the nuisance on the property. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment. The ICA affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were foreclosed from recovering damages as a matter of law in the absence of a statutory duty. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for further proceedings, holding that, as a matter of law, a claim for common-law public nuisance is cognizable when the plaintiff has suffered individualized harm. View "Haynes v. Haas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, in foreclosure cases in which a deficiency judgment is entered, the traditional process by which Hawai'i courts calculate a deficiency judgment can result in unjust enrichment, and therefore, the equities weigh in favor of adopting the method of calculating a deficiency judgment employed by a majority of other jurisdictions because the majority rule protects all parties to the mortgage. Mortgagors defaulted on their loans, the property was sold, and the foreclosure sale process was less than the amount due on the mortgage. The mortgagee waited more than four years before it attempted to collect a deficiency judgment. Mortgagors argued that the traditional method for calculating a deficiency judgment is unfair and asked that the Court adopt the majority approach, in which the greater of the fair market value as of the date of the foreclosure sale or the sale prices of the property is deducted from the money owed when calculating the deficiency. The circuit court granted a deficiency judgment, and the intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts' judgments and remanded the case, holding that this Court adopts the majority approach to calculating deficiency judgments, and the adoption of the majority rule is prospective in effect. View "HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union v. Monalim" on Justia Law

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In this commercial landlord-tenant dispute the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the circuit court's judgment finding that Tenant was not entitled to damages and that Tenant's claims for equitable relief were moot, holding that the ICA erred in two of its holdings. Landlords performed a self-help eviction after Tenant allegedly breached the lease. Tenant filed this complaint alleging violations of Haw. Rev. Stat. 654-1, 480-2, 480-13, and 480-13.5, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and requesting injunctive relief and damages. The circuit court concluded that Tenant was not entitled to damages because two of the breaches were material and that Tenant's equitable relief claims, including a claim for replevin seeking access to his personal property, were moot. The ICA vacated the circuit court's judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment in part, holding that the ICA (1) correctly found that the breaches were not material; (2) should not have analyzed the merits of the replevin claim because Tenant had already retrieved his personal property at the time of trial; and (3) misapplied the law of equitable relief because all the equitable claims were moot. View "Kahawaiolaa v. Hawaiian Sun Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that Defendant's cattle trespassed onto his property causing damage to his sweet potato crop, holding that the legislature intended to hold owners of livestock liable for the damage caused by the trespass of their animals on cultivated land whether the land is properly fenced or not. In granting summary judgment for Defendant, the circuit court concluded (1) Hawai'i's statutory law governing the trespass of livestock onto cultivated land did not apply to Plaintiff's property because the property was neither "properly fenced" nor "unfenced"; and (2) a provision in Plaintiff's lease making Plaintiff fully responsible for keeping cattle out of his cultivated land was not void against public policy. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) livestock owners are liable for damages caused by their livestock trespassing onto cultivated land; and (2) the lease provision was contrary to statutory law and public policy and was thus invalid because it had the effect of absolving Defendant of liability for livestock damage to Plaintiff's cultivated land. View "Yin v. Aguiar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff's complaint against a partnership and a partner after concluding that Plaintiff's claims arose out of the agreement founding the partnership, signed by Plaintiff, that contained an arbitration clause, holding that the claims in Plaintiff's complaint were not subject to the arbitration clause in the partnership agreement. Plaintiff, a founding partner of the partnership, brought claims alleging conversion, fraudulent conversion, and punitive damages. The lower courts concluded that Plaintiff's claims arose out of the partnership agreement, and therefore the arbitration clause applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Defendants failed to initiate arbitration pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 658A-9 before filing a motion to compel arbitration and because the arbitration clause did not encompass Plaintiff's claims for conversion, the ICA erred in affirming the circuit court's order granting Defendants' motion to compel arbitration. View "Yamamoto v. Chee" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's determination of lien priority between the Villages of Kapolei Association's (Association) lien and the Hawai'i Housing Finance and Development Corporation's (HHFDC) competing lien and the valuation of HHFDC's senior lien, holding that the ICA did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) the ICA did not err by affirming the circuit court's alleged retroactive application of Haw. Rev. Stat. 201H-47 to rule that the HHFDC's lien was senior and superior to the Association's liens; (2) the ICA did not err in determining the appraisal process applied; and (3) the ICA did not err by holding that HHFDC had standing to enforce a shared appreciation or equity agreement between another party and HHFDC's predecessor in interest. View "American Savings Bank, F.S.B. v. Chan" on Justia Law