Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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The Supreme Court held that class action tolling applies to Haw. Rev. Stat. 46-72 and that a class action complaint may therefore satisfy the statue's notice requirement and that the availability of class action tolling turns on whether the class action provided the defendant notice of the subject matter and potential size of the litigation at issue.Plaintiff Hakim Ouansafi filed a putative class action lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu alleging that Honolulu's failure to inspect and maintain its storm and drainage system caused him and other Honolulu residents to be injured by the April 2018 flood. Ouansafi then settled on an individual basis with Honolulu. The district court denied class certification, after which individuals affected by the 2018 flood brought twelve separate actions against Honolulu. At issue was whether the' suits were timely. The Supreme Court held that class action tolling applied to the individual suits because the Ouansafi complaint satisfied tolled the statute of limitations applicable to the individual suits. View "Coles v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed this class action suit individually and on behalf of employees (and their dependent-beneficiaries) who began working for the State or its political subdivisions before July 1, 2003 and who had accrued or will accrue a right to post-retirement health benefits as a retiree a retiree’s dependent. Plaintiffs alleged that the State, the City and County of Honolulu, and the Counties of Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawai’i impaired Plaintiffs’ accrued retirement health benefits in violation of Haw. Const. art. XVI, 2. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the State and Counties violated their statutory rights under Haw. Rev. Stat. 87 by not providing retirees and their dependents with dental and medical benefits that were substantially equal to those provided to active workers and their dependents. After a lengthy procedural history, the Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs’ accrued retirement health benefits have been diminished or impaired in violation of article XVI, section 2. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Dannenberg v. State" on Justia Law

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This case involved dibromochloropropane, a powerful nematode worm killer, and the litigation was multi-jurisdictional. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment against Plaintiffs and in favor of Defendants on statute of limitations grounds. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed. At issue on certiorari was (1) whether the filing of a putative class action in another jurisdiction operated to toll the state of Hawaii’s statute of limitations, and (2) if so, at what point did such tolling end? The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding (1) the filing of a putative class action in another jurisdiction does toll the statute of limitations in the state of Hawaii because such “cross-jurisdictional tolling” supports a purpose of class action litigations, which is to avoid a multiplicity of suits; (2) under the circumstances of this case, cross-jurisdictional tolling ended when the foreign jurisdiction issued a final judgment that unequivocally dismissed the putative class action; and (3) Plaintiffs’ complaint was timely filed within the applicable limitations period and, therefore, was not time-barred. View "Patrickson v. Dole Food Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action complaint alleging that Defendants violated Hawaii law by charging customers of certain hotels service charges without fully disclosing to customers that the charges were not entirely being distributed to non-managerial service employees. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff on Plaintiff’s wage law claims and granted summary judgment for Defendants on the unfair methods of competition (UMOC) claim. Defendants appealed, and Plaintiff cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to the unpaid wages but vacated the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment for Defendants on the UMOC claim and remanded for further proceedings. Plaintiff then requested an award of attorneys’ fees and costs for the appeal and cross-appeal and an award of post judgment interest on the damages. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff was entitled to attorneys’ fees for both the appeal and the cross-appeal, and Defendants were jointly and severally liable for the payment of Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs; and (2) post judgment interest was not appropriate under the circumstances of this case. View "Gurrobat v. HTH Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of all persons similarly situated, filed a first amended class action complaint alleging that Gentry Homes, Ltd. constructed Plaintiffs’ home without adequate high wind protection. Gentry filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to a provision in the Home Builder’s Limited Warranty (HBLW) between Gentry and Plaintiffs. The circuit court ordered Plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims against Gentry but severed and struck an arbitrator-selection provision for potential conflict of interest. The intermediate court of appeals concluded that the circuit court should have enforced the HBLW’s arbitrator-selection provision. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and affirmed the circuit court orders, holding (1) the ICA erred in required a party challenging an arbitrator-selection provision to show evidence of “actual bias”; and (2) in resolving a challenge to an arbitrator-selection provision, the “fundamental fairness” standard should be applied, and under this standard, the arbitrator-selection provision was fundamentally unfair. View "Nishimura v. Gentry Homes, Ltd." on Justia Law