Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

by
VP & PK purchased an insurance policy from Lexington Insurance Company for work on a construction site. Kila Kila, one of VP & PK’s subcontractors, purchased an insurance policy from Nautilus Insurance Company. Both policies contained an “other insurance” provision and included duties to defend and indemnify. When VP & PK and Kila Kila were sued for damages resulting from the construction, Nautilus funded the defense of both Kila Kila and VP & PK. Lexington satisfied the judgment against VP & PK but did not contribute to the defense costs. Nautilus filed a complaint seeking (1) a declaration that Lexington owed VP & PK a duty to defend, which it breached; and (2) equitable contribution from Lexington for defense costs. The U.S. district court granted summary judgment for Lexington, holding that Lexington’s policy was in excess to Nautilus’s policy, and therefore, Lexington’s duty to defend was not triggered. The Hawaii Supreme Court accepted certified questions from the court of appeals and held, inter alia, that (1) an “other insurance” clause purporting to release an otherwise primary insurer of the duty to defend if the insurer becomes excess as to liability is enforceable, but only as between two or more insurers seeking to allocate or recover defense costs; and (2) an otherwise primary insurer who becomes an excess insurer by operation of an “other insurance” clause has a duty to defend as soon as a claim is tendered to it and there is the mere possibility that coverage of that claim exists under its policy. View "Nautilus Ins. Co. v. Lexington Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer and supervisors, alleging that he suffered discriminatory conduct while employed as a car salesman. Plaintiff asserted claims for state harassment and retaliation, federal harassment and retaliation, unlawful termination as against public policy, and breach of his employment contract. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) (1) vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer and one of Defendant’s supervisors on the state harassment and retaliation claims and vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on the federal harassment and retaliation claims and the public policy claim, and (2) otherwise affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the ICA’s judgment on the state harassment and retaliation claims with respect to Plaintiff’s supervisor, holding that individual employees are not liable as employers under Haw. Rev. Stat. 378-2(1)(A) and 378-2(2); and (2) otherwise affirmed. View "Lales v. Wholesale Motors Co." on Justia Law

by
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

by
Respondents in this case included Kaiser Foundation Health and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (collectively, Kaiser). Michael Siopes, a public school teacher, enrolled in a Kaiser health plan offered through the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF). Michael was later diagnosed with cancer by a Kaiser medical professional. Michael and his wife, Lacey, subsequently consulted a medical team at Duke University Medical Center. The Duke team determined that Kaiser's diagnosis was erroneous and recommended a different treatment plan. Michael received treatment at Duke that was ultimately successful. Kaiser denied Michael's request for coverage. Michael and Lacey sued Kaiser for, among other things, breach of contract and medical malpractice. Kaiser filed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that a group agreement entered into Kaiser and the EUTF was applicable to Michael when he signed the enrollment form. The group agreement contained an arbitration provision. The circuit court granted the motion to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's orders, holding (1) the arbitration provision was unenforceable based on the lack of an underlying agreement between Kaiser and Michael to arbitrate; and (2) accordingly, Lacey was also not bound to arbitrate her claims in this case. View "Siopes v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Aloha Tower Development Corporation filed a petition to expunge a deed restriction on a park requiring that it be preserved as a public park. Scenic Hawaii, Inc. subsequently intervened in the litigation. After a non-jury trial, the land court denied the petition. Scenic Hawaii filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs under the private attorney general doctrine. The land court granted the request. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) reversed the award of attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the ICA and affirmed the final judgment of the land court, holding that the land court was correct in awarding attorneys' fees and costs to Scenic Hawaii under the private attorney general doctrine inasmuch as the three prongs of the private attorney general doctrine were satisfied in this case. View "In re Application of Honolulu Constr. & Draying Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a Hawaii non-profit corporation, entered into a lease agreement with Defendant, the trustee of a trust. Plaintiff subsequently began renting cabins on the property to the public. After a dispute arose between the parties regarding the terms of the lease, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court seeking a declaratory judgment that its commercial uses of the property and rental of cabins to the public was permitted under the lease, among other things. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's claim regarding cabin rentals but granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on Defendant's counterclaims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated summary judgment as to the issue of cabin rentals. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the ICA regarding cabin rentals, holding that the portion of the lease delineating permissible uses of the property was ambiguous; and (2) reversed the ICA's judgment regarding Defendant's counterclaims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment because the issue of whether Plaintiff was prohibited by the lease from renting cabins to the general public had yet to be resolved on remand. Remanded. View "Hawaiian Ass'n of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Wong" on Justia Law

by
The Waikoloa Beach Villas condominium project was developed by Respondent, Sunstone Waikoloa, LLC. Petitioner, the Association of Apartment Owners of the Waikoloa Beach Villas, contacted Respondent to resolve issues resolving purported construction defects. Petitioner then filed a motion to compel mediation and arbitration. Respondent argued that it could not request arbitration because it had failed to comply with the requirements of the Declaration of Condominium Property Regime for the Villas. The Declaration imposed numerous requirements that Petitioner must meet before initiating arbitration or litigation proceedings against Respondent. The lower court granted Petitioner's motion. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) reversed. The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the ICA, holding that section R.4(c) of the Declaration violated Haw. Rev. Stat. 514B-105(a) because it imposed limitations on Petitioner in arbitration or litigation more restrictive than those imposed on other persons. Remanded. View "Ass'n of Apartment Owners of Waikoloa Beach Villas v. Sunstone Waikoloa, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner was a passenger in an uninsured vehicle that was in an accident. At the time, Petitioner had a certificate policy issued by the Department of Human Services through its Joint Underwriting Program (JUP). The JUP Bureau determined Petitioner was entitled to receive benefits under the JUP and assigned Petitioner's claim to Respondent. Respondent, however, denied Petitioner's request for coverage because Petitioner's certificate policy did not include uninsured motorist coverage. Petitioner sued Respondent, alleging claims of, inter alia, bad faith. The circuit court entered summary judgment for Respondent. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that an underlying insurance contract was required to assert a claim of bad faith against an insurer. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding (1) under the JUP, the insurer assigned to a claim owes the same rights to the person whose claim is assigned to it as the insurer would owe to an insured to whom the insurer had issued a mandatory motor vehicle insurance policy; (2) the insurer's good faith covenant implied in such motor vehicle policies applies to claimants under the assigned claim procedure despite the absence of an insurance policy; and (3) accordingly, Respondent owed Petitioner a duty of good faith. View "Willis v. Swain " on Justia Law

by
Respondent awarded Petitioner a contract to develop an affordable housing development project. The parties entered into a development services agreement (DSA) that contained a provision stating that the parties would proceed to arbitration under state law in the event of a dispute. Petitioner was subsequently terminated from the project. Respondent filed a complaint against Petitioner asserting several causes of action, including intentional misrepresentation and negligence. Petitioners counterclaimed. Petitioners later filed an arbitration motion, which the circuit granted. The intermediate court of appeals denied Petitioners' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the order compelling arbitration in this case was sufficiently final under the collateral order doctrine to be appealable under the general civil matters appeal statute; (2) the scope of the arbitration clause contained in the DSA encompassed all claims of Respondent and counterclaims of Petitioners; and (3) the circuit court correctly granted the motion to compel alternative dispute resolution and to stay proceedings. Remanded. View "County of Hawaii v. UniDev, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 1971, Plaintiff began subleasing a half-acre parcel of land that was part of an undivided 1040-acre parcel of property (master parcel). Plaintiff and the master parcel's owner, Princeville Development Corporation, subsequently entered into a license agreement effective until 2003 that included an option to purchase and a right of first refusal. The agreement also contained a provision stating that any holding over after the expiration of the term of the agreement should be on the terms and conditions specified in the agreement. In 2005, the Corporation sold the master parcel to Princeville Prince Golf Course (PPGC). Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Corporation in 2005, praying for specific performance of the option to purchase clause. PPGC was substituted as Defendant. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's claim for specific performance, holding that the sale of the master parcel did not constitute a "decision to sell" the premises which would trigger Defendant's right of first refusal. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's right of first refusal continued into the holdover period; and (2) the right of first refusal was triggered by the Corporation's decision to sell the master parcel in 2005. Remanded. View "Kutkowski v. Princeville Prince Golf Course, LLC" on Justia Law