Justia Contracts 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 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 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 compensation dispute based on an oral agreement between Plaintiff and Defendants the Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate court of appeals' (ICA) judgment on appeal affirming the circuit court's final judgment, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants' Haw. R. Civ. P. 55(c) motion to set aside entry of default and did not err in its other rulings. The circuit court entered default and subsequent default judgment as to certain claims against defendants. After a bench trial regarding damages on the remaining claims the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants' motion to set aside entry of default; and (2) prospectively, a Rule 55(c) motion to set aside entry of default is to be evaluated based only on whether there has been a showing of "good cause." View "Chen v. Mah" on Justia 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 litigation concerning a dispute arising from a 1999 contract regarding the sale of approximately twenty-three acres of land in Honualua Maui, holding the the ICA erred by holding that Wailea Resort Company was clearly entitled to certain funds but otherwise did not err. The parties in this consolidated appeal were Michael Szymanski, Wailea, and ADOA-Shinwa Development and Shinwa Golf Hawai'i Company (collectively, Shinwa). Szymanski filed this application seeking a writ of certiorari raising seven questions. The Supreme Court held (1) the questions relating to the disqualification of the Honorable Rhonda I.L. Loo were without merit; (2) the ICA did not err in its application of the law of the case doctrine to the issue of whether the ICA gravely erred when it declined to review whether the Honorable Peter T. Cahill's 2015 order entering final judgment improperly dismissed with prejudice Szymanski's third-party complaint against Shinwa; and (3) the ICA erred by holding that Wailea was clearly entitled to certain funds and by affirming the circuit court's disbursal of funds. View "Title Guaranty Escrow Services, Inc. v. Wailea Resort Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) finding that no evidence was introduced at trial to support the jury's findings that Regal Capital Corporation (Regal Corp.) violated the terms of agreements of sale it entered into with Elesther Calipjo for two parcels of land, Regal Capital Co., LLC (Regal LLC) engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices, and Jack Purdy was the alter ego of Regal Corp. and Regal LLC, holding that the ICA's holding was error. Based on the alter ego finding, the jury determined that Purdy, too violated the agreements for the two properties and committed unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The Supreme Court held (1) there was evidence to support the jury's verdict that Regal Corp. violated the terms of the agreements, Regal LLC engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices, and Purdy was the alter ego of Regal Corp. and Regal LLC; and (2) the ICA erred when it reversed the circuit court's final judgment against Purdy on the breach of contract and unfair and deceptive acts or practices claims. View "Calipjo v. Purdy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and reinstated the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment to Plaintiff as to Defendant’s liability under Haw. Rev. Stat. 481B-14. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant-hotel on behalf of himself and other customers who paid a service charge to the hotel in connection with the purchase of food or beverages, claiming that the hotel’s conduct was an unfair or deceptive act or practice (UDAP) under sections 481B-14 and 480-2. The circuit court granted summary judgment as to liability only, ruling that Defendant was liable under section 481B-14. After a jury trial on damages, the jury awarded $269,114.73 to the class. The circuit court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion for JMOL on the theory that there was insufficient evidence that Plaintiffs suffered injury as a result of Defendant’s violation of the statute. The ICA affirmed on remand. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiff and the class sustained contract-based damages and damages under the UDAP statute. View "Kawakami v. Kahala Hotel Investors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-8, which governs a third party’s liability for workers’ compensation, provides the exclusive remedy for an employer to recover workers’ compensation benefits from a third-party tortfeasor. An employee of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc. (HDCC) was injured in a workplace accident, allegedly due to the actions of HDCC’s subcontractor, Fujikawa Associates, Inc. (Fujikawa). HDCC sought reimbursement from Fujikawa, claiming that workers’ compensation benefits were within the scope of the subcontract’s indemnity clause. When Fujikawa refused to indemnify HDCC, HDCC filed a complaint alleging breach of the subcontract. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Fujikawa. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was appropriate because HDCC did not avail itself of the exclusive remedy provided in section 386-8. View "Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. v. Fujikawa Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed its decision in Narayan I, in which the court held that Plaintiffs, a group of individual condominium owners, could not be compelled to arbitrate claims arising from the financial breakdown of a condominium project. Specifically, the court held in Narayan I that the arbitration clause was unenforceable because the terms of the documents at issue were ambiguous with respect to Plaintiffs’ intent to arbitrate and that portions of the arbitration clause were unconscionable. The United States Supreme Court vacated and remanded Narayan I for further consideration in light of its recent decision in DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia, 577 U.S. __ (2015), which held that state law must place arbitration agreements on equal footing with all other contracts. After recognizing this principle, the Hawaii Supreme Court held that that the arbitration clause at issue in the present case was unconscionable under common law contract principles. View "Narayan v. Ritz-Carlton Development Co." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases (Garner and Kawashima), the Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in determining that Regulation 5203 was a Haw. Rev. Stat. chapter 91 rule and in granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs for their hourly back wages contract claims. Further, the court erred in finding in the Garner case that Plaintiffs were entitled to interest on their per diem and hourly back wages under Haw. Rev. Stat. 103-10. Plaintiffs in both cases - substitute and part-time temporary teachers (PTTs) who were employed by the State, Department of Education (DOE) - claimed they were underpaid by the State. In Garner, the circuit court awarded hourly back wages to Plaintiffs who worked in a part-time capacity and also awarded interest on both the per diem and hourly back wages owed. In Kawashima, the circuit court awarded the PTTs hourly back wages but ruled that the PTTs were not entitled to interest on their unpaid hourly wages. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in Garner and affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment in Kawashima, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to hourly back wages or interest on any back wages, whether per diem or hourly, under section 103-10. View "Kawashima v. State, Department of Education" on Justia Law