Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In this case concerning the enforceability of a non-compete agreement the Supreme Court vacated the intermediate court of appeals' judgment on appeal and the circuit court's final order in favor of Lorna Gagnon with respect to her alleged breach of a non-solicitation clause as to one real estate agent but otherwise affirmed, holding that a genuine issue of material fact precluded summary judgment as to this issue.A non-compete agreement restricted Gagnon, a former employee of Prudential Locations, LLC, from establishing her own brokerage firm in Hawaii within one year after terminating her employment with Locations and from soliciting persons employed or affiliated with Locations. The Supreme Court held (1) the ICA erroneously failed to address whether the non-compete and non-solicitation clauses were ancillary to a legitimate purpose not violative of Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 480; (2) restricting competition is not a legitimate ancillary purpose; (3) to establish a violation of a non-solicitation clause, there must be evidence that the person subjective to the clause actively initiated contact; and (4) as to the non-compete clause, summary judgment was proper, but as to the non-solicitation clause, a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Gagnon actively initiated contact. View "Prudential Locations, LLC v. Gagnon " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence, holding that the police officers' actions did not constitute a breaking and that the search of a gray backpack did not exceed the terms of the search warrant in this case.On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence against him should be excluded because police officers failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Haw. Rev. Stat. 803-37 that officers "demand entrance" before entering a building and because the search of his backpack exceeded the terms of the search warrant executed by the officers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the purposes of Haw. Rev. Stat. 803-37 were satisfied when the officers' entry did not create any risk of harm; and (2) the searches of Defendant's backpack did not exceed the terms of the search warrant. View "State v. Keanaaina" on Justia Law

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Maui Electric Company, Limited (MECO) and Paeahu Solar LLC (Paeahu), holding that the PUC satisfied its public trust duties in this case.Under the PPA, MECO would purchase renewable energy from Paeahu's solar-plus-battery plant located within the Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui. Pono Power Coalition, a Maui community group, challenging the winning bidders' post-selection use of the same counsel to negotiate non-price PPA terms and asserting that the PUC failed to fulfill its public trust duties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court declines to inject antitrust standards into PPA approval proceedings; (2) the PUC appropriately evaluated the allegations of anticompetitive conduct; (3) the statutes governing the PUC's PPA review reflect the core public trust principles; and (4) the PUC properly approved the PPA. View "In re Maui Electric Company, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that marital agreements that consider fault or misconduct when dividing the marital property are not enforceable.The parties in this case entered in a postnuptial agreement that if Husband engaged in extramarital affairs or physically harmed his wife Wife would receive most of the parties' joint assets. Husband later filed a complaint for divorce. The family court held that the marital agreement at issue was unenforceable as violating statutory policy and principles of no-fault divorce and equitable distribution. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the family court's decision, holding that the marital agreement was valid and enforceable. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the marital agreement violated public policy and was therefore unenforceable. View "Crofford v. Adachi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Keep the North Shore Country's (KNSC) appeal from the decision of the Board of Land and Natural Resources approving Applicant's habitat conservation plan and authorizing Applicant to take fewer than two and a half Hawaiian hoary bats per year, holding that there was no error.To operate a proposed wind farm, Applicant was required to obtain an incidental take license as part of a habitat conservation plan approved by the Board. KNSC opposed the application citing the wind farm's potential impact on the ope'ape'a, the Hawaiian hoary bat. The Board approved the plan and authorized Applicant to take up to fifty-one ope'ape'a over the course twenty-one years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly applied the clear error standard in reviewing KNSC's challenges based on mixed questions of law and fact; (2) substantial evidence supported the Board's conclusions; and (3) there was no other error in the Board's proceedings. View "Keep the North Shore Country v. Board of Land & Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning two restrictive clauses within a non-compete agreement the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the entry of summary judgment in favor of Lorna Gagnon, a former employee of Prudential Locations, LLC (Locations), holding that summary judgment was improper as to one agent as to a non-solicitation clause.The non-compete agreement in this case restricted Gagnon from establishing her own brokerage firm in the state within one year after terminating her employment with Locations and from soliciting persons "employed by" or "affiliated with" Locations. The two restrictive clauses at issue were a non-compete clause and a non-solicitation clause. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding (1) summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Gagnon as to the non-compete clause because the clause was not ancillary to a legitimate purpose; and (2) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to one agent with respect to the non-solicitation clause. View "Prudential Locations, LLC v. Gagnon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) to the extent it affirmed the denial of Defendant's motion for a deferred acceptance of no contest (DANC) plea, holding that the circuit court's consideration of sexual penetration was an abuse of discretion under the circumstances.Defendant was indicted for the sexual assault of a twelve-year-old and accepted a plea agreement allowing her to plead no contest to an amended charged of sexual assault in the fourth degree. Defendant moved for DANC plea, which the circuit court denied. The ICA affirmed the denial of Defendant's DANC motion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that Defendant's no contest plea to sexual assault in the fourth degree excluded any allegation of sexual penetration. View "State v. Satoafaiga" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) in this dispute regarding payment of uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits to Plaintiff, holding that the circuit court properly excluded evidence related to an unleaded claim but erred in denying Plaintiff's motion to amend complaint solely on the basis of undue delay.Plaintiff, individually and as personal representative of the estate of her son, who died as a passenger in an automobile accident, brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment, arguing that Defendant improperly failed to recognize that UM and UIM coverages totaling $1.2 million were available to her. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the circuit court erred in granting Defendant's motion to present evidence or in denying Plaintiff's motion to amend complaint. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in granting Defendant's motion to preclude evidence; but (2) erred in concluding that Plaintiff could not amend her complaint due to undue delay. View "Carvalho v. AIG Hawaii Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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In this case, the Supreme Court clarified the proper timing of Alvarado calculations, which determines the reimbursement due the insurer from a third-party settlement, and the reimbursement process for an insurer when the amount of workers' compensation (WC) benefits the insurer has already dispensed to the employee is less than the amount it owes the employee for its share of attorney's costs and fees for the third-party action.Petitioner received WC benefits from Respondent. Petitioner brought suit against the owner of the building in which she was injured and reached a settlement. Respondent then sought reimbursement of the WC benefits it had paid to Petitioner under Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-8 and Alvarado v. Kiewit Pacific Co., 993 P.2d 549 (Haw. 2000). At issue was whether certain WC benefits that Respondent owed Petitioner were properly classified as "paid compensation" and whether the process of Respondent's reimbursement of WC benefits exceeded the amount it had previously contributed to Petitioner as "paid compensation." The Supreme Court held (1) Alvarado calculations shall be performed based on the date on which the employee receives the third-party recovery; and (2) an insurer's "share" of the attorney's fees and costs the employee incurs while pursuing third-party recovery is based on the insurer's total WC liability. View "Moranz v. Harbor Mall, LLC" on Justia Law