Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
by
The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment against Jonah Ke'eaumoku Kapu and in favor of Makila Land Co., LLC on Makila's paper title claim to real property in Maui and denying Kapu's claim for ownership of the property by adverse possession, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether a letter from Kapu should have been liberally construed by the circuit court as a motion for reconsideration of the order granting summary judgment to Makila Land Co., LLC, an order that resulted in Kapu losing his home. The Supreme Court agreed with Kapu on appeal, holding (1) Kapu's pro se letter should have been liberally construed as a motion for reconsideration pursuant to the Supreme Court's policy to afford pro se litigants equal access to justice; and (2) the circuit court erred in failing to provide Kapu an opportunity to be heard on the merits of that motion. View "Makila Land Co., LLC v. Kapu" on Justia Law

by
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

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's order dismissing Plaintiff's complaint challenging the presence of police officers from the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and Maui County Police Department (MPD) within the County of Hawai'i as a violation of Haw. Rev. Stat. 52D-5, holding that section 52D-5 does not provide for a private right of action.Plaintiff and a group of people assembled at Pu'u Huluhulu near the access road of Mauna Kea's summit after police officers block public access to the summit to express opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Police officers from the HPD and MPD were assisting the Hawaiʻi County Police Department (HCPD) at the scene. Plaintiff later brought this complaint challenging the presence and legal authority of the police officers from HPD and MPD within the County, alleging that the Chiefs of Police violated section 52D-5. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that there was no private right of action pursuant to section 52D-5. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed the complaint. View "Flores v. Ballard" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) to the extent it affirmed the circuit court's judgment as to the "Reinstated Hawaiian Nation," vacated the circuit court's final judgment as to the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, and affirmed the circuit court's judgment as to all other defendants, holding that the circuit court erred in part.In 2011, Nelson Armitage and a group of others (collectively individual defendants), and Frederick Torres-Pestana, entered onto and began occupying land in Maui owned by Alexander & Baldwin, LLC (A&B). The individual defendants claimed they were acting on behalf of the organization called the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation. A&B brought suit seeking a writ of ejectment, damages, and injunctions barring the individual defendants and the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation from entering A&B's property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for A&B and entered an injunction. The ICA dismissed the appeal as to the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation and rejected Armitage's appeal individually. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding (1) the judgment against the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation must be voided due to the public policy behind the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law; and (2) the judgment against Armitage or any other defendant still stands. View "Alexander & Baldwin, LLC v. Armitage" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the authority of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to issue revocable permits is subject to the environmental review requirements of the Hawai'i Environmental Policy Act (HEPA), Haw. Rev. Stat. ch. 343.At issue was the water rights for 33,000 acres of land in the Ko'olau Forest Reserve and Hanawi Natural Area Reserve. In 2000, the BLNR approved the issuance of four revocable water permits to Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. (A&B) and East Maui Irrigation Co., Ltd. (EMI). The BLNR subsequently continued the permits. Petitioners brought this action alleging that the renewal of the revocable permits required the preparation of an environmental assessment pursuant to the HEPA. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Petitioners, concluding that the continuation decision was not a HEPA action but that the revocable permits were invalid because they exceeded the BLNR's authority under Haw. Rev. Stat. 171-55. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the revocable permits were not authorized under section 171-55; and (2) the circuit court erred in holding that there was no "action" within the meaning of Haw. Rev. Stat. 343-5(a) and that HEPA's environmental review process was thus inapplicable. View "Carmichael v. Board of Land & Natural Resources" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the failure of the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and the prosecutor in this case to comply with the twenty-day and forty-five-day statutory deadlines contained in Haw. Rev. Stat. 712A-7 and 712A-9 applicable to the seizure of Petitioner's property required its return to Petitioner.In 2012, HPD seized twenty-seven Product Direct Sweepstakes (PDS) machines from six Winner'z Zone locations for violating Hawaii's gambling statutes. For two years, while the machines remained in police custody, HPD did not initiate foreclosure proceedings, give notice of the seizure of forfeiture to all parties, or provide the prosecutors a written request for forfeiture. In 2014, HPD "re-seized" the PDS machines, and the prosecutor initiated forfeiture proceedings. The Supreme Court held that the agency was required to return the seized property because the agency failed to commence forfeiture proceedings according to the specific timing requirements set forth in sections 712A-7 and 712A-9. View "Kaneshiro v. Eleven Products Direct Sweepstakes Machines" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court remanded this case to the Leeward Planning Commission (LPC) for proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding that the LPC and the Planning Director of the County of Hawai'i wrongfully denied The Community Associations of Haualali (Hualalai) a hearing and decision on its petition to intervene as a party to contest a special permit application.The special permit application at issue requested approval to use an agricultural parcel of land as an equipment base yard and security dwelling and for stockpiling and crushing natural materials for commercial use. Hualalai, a group of Hawaii County community associations, filed a "Petition for Standing in a Contested Case Hearing," or petition to intervene. The petition was denied. Hualalai appealed, challenging the LPC's failure to issue a decision on Hualalai's petition and objecting to the decision to treat the proceeding as a closed matter. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the actions in this case were made upon unlawful procedure and constituted abuses of discretion. View "Community Ass'ns of Hualalai, Inc. v. Leeward Planning Comm'n" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court and granting Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees on appeal, holding that the ICA should have limited its appellate attorney's fees.Plaintiffs alleged that their neighbor, Defendant, was in breach of a restrictive covenant contained in the parties' subdivision's declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions stating that trees and shrubs on every lot shall be maintained at a reasonable height. After a trial, the circuit court ordered Defendant not to maintain any plants on her property at a height not to exceed the roofline of her residence. The court awarded Plaintiffs $40,000 in damages plus attorney's fees. The ICA affirmed and granted Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees on appeal. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment in part, holding (1) the ICA should have limited its appellate attorney's fees to twenty-five percent of the damages award Plaintiffs received; and (2) the ICA did not otherwise err. View "Gailliard v. Rawsthorne" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that wrongful foreclosures in violation of the power of sale are voidable, rather than void, and to the extent Silva v. Lopez, 5 Haw. 262 (1884), is to the contrary, it is overruled.Plaintiffs' property was foreclosed by nonjudicial foreclosure. Several years later, Plaintiffs sued for wrongful foreclosure and quiet title against various defendants. The circuit court granted Defendants' motion for dismissal of all claims. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed as to one defendant and otherwise reversed. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an application for a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment as to the one defendant, holding (1) the "tender rule" was inapplicable on the facts, and as to the defendant who sought to assert the tender rule was not Plaintiffs' mortgagee, Plaintiffs did not need to plead tender to establish superior title as to that defendant; and (2) wrongful foreclosures in violation of the power of sale are voidable, not void. View "Delapinia v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the final judgment order of the circuit court in connection with a dispute over whether Hitoshi Yoshikawa was allowed to moor his boat in the Kalele Kai marina, holding that when a judgment upon which attorneys' fees and costs were based has been vacated, the attorneys' fees and costs should also be vacated.The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Association of Owners of Kalele Kai, awarded attorneys' fees and costs, and entered final judgment in favor of the Association. The ICA vacated the summary judgment but affirmed the related attorneys' fees and costs award. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment to the extent it affirmed the attorneys' fees and costs award, which arose from the vacated summary judgment and vacated the order of the circuit court awarding fees and costs, holding that the ICA abused its discretion by limiting the issues on remand to prevent the circuit court from considering attorneys' fees and costs awarded based on the vacated summary judgment. View "Association of Owners of Kalele Kai v. Yoshikawa" on Justia Law