Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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In a case regarding the timing of appeals, the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii has clarified the interpretation of Hawaii Rules of Appellate Procedure (HRAP) Rule 4(a)(3). The case arose from a tax dispute between taxpayers Schuyler and Marilyn Cole and the City and County of Honolulu, leading to a consolidated appeal with other similar cases. In July 2017, the Tax Appeal Court granted summary judgment to the City, and the Taxpayers filed a motion for reconsideration. However, the court failed to rule on this motion within 90 days, and the court's clerk did not provide notice of automatic denial of the motion, as required by HRAP Rule 4(a)(3).The Supreme Court held that if the court clerk does not notify the parties within 5 days after the 90th day that a post-judgment motion has been automatically denied, the time to appeal starts either when the clerk provides notice to the parties or when the court enters a nullified order. The Court also held that judicial inaction cannot operate to foreclose a right to appeal. As a result, the Taxpayers' appeal clock started when the court issued its late order on the motion for reconsideration, and they filed their appeal within the 30-day window from that point, therefore the Intermediate Court of Appeals had jurisdiction over the appeal.The Supreme Court expressed concern about the potential for indefinite extension of the appeal deadline due to court and clerk oversight and suggested that the Standing Committee to Review the Hawaii Rules of Appellate Procedure may wish to consider proposing an amendment to HRAP Rule 4(a)(3). The case was remanded to the Intermediate Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "Cole v. City and County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Hawai‘i, the issue was whether a subrogee insurance company, which timely intervened pursuant to HRS § 386-8(b), has an independent right to continue to pursue claims and/or legal theories against a tortfeasor that were not asserted by the subrogor employee, after summary judgment has been granted against the subrogor employee, on the subrogor employee’s claims. This case involved Hyun Ju Park, a bartender who was shot by an off-duty Honolulu Police Department officer while at work. Park sued the City and County of Honolulu, alleging negligence and other claims. Dongbu Insurance Co., Ltd., the workers' compensation insurance carrier for Park's employer, intervened in the case, alleging additional negligence claims that Park had not raised. The City moved to dismiss all of Park’s claims and some of Dongbu's claims, which the court granted, leaving two of Dongbu's claims - negligent supervision and negligent training - remaining. The City then moved for summary judgment against Dongbu, arguing that since Park's claims were dismissed, Dongbu's claims also failed.The Supreme Court of Hawai‘i held that a subrogee insurance company, which timely intervened, does have an independent right to continue to pursue claims and/or legal theories against a tortfeasor that were not asserted by the subrogor employee, even after summary judgment has been granted against the subrogor. The court reasoned that an affirmative answer protects subrogation, aligns with Hawai‘i’s workers’ compensation subrogation law, and does not undermine employers’ and insurers’ intervention rights. The court also rejected the City's claim preclusion argument, stating that Dongbu's remaining claims for negligent supervision and negligent training had not yet been decided and were not barred by res judicata. Therefore, Dongbu may continue to pursue its non-dismissed claims. View "Park v. City and County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between the City and County of Honolulu, acting through the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), and Victoria Ward, Limited, over the amount of just compensation to be paid for two acres of easements on property previously owned by Victoria Ward. The easements were obtained by HART for the construction of a fixed rail system and a proposed Kaka‘ako Station. The Supreme Court of the State of Hawai‘i ruled that the circuit court had erred in granting summary judgment on many of the issues in the case. The supreme court ruled that the circuit court had incorrectly used summary judgment to resolve disputed factual issues including whether Victoria Ward was estopped from seeking severance damages, whether Victoria Ward's claims relating to a "lost tower" were too speculative, and whether Victoria Ward was precluded from seeking severance damages for impacts to non-taken properties. The supreme court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment on some issues, but vacated others and remanded the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings. The supreme court affirmed the circuit court's pause of the accrual of "blight of summons" interest during the pendency of the appeal. View "HART v. Ward " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court adopted conspiracy jurisdiction in this case in which three law firms petitioned the Court to order a judge to dismiss them from the underlying lawsuit, holding that the law firms demonstrated a "clear and indisputable right to the relief requested and a lack of other means to redress adequately the alleged wrong or to obtain he requested action."Plaintiffs sued certain cigarette manufacturers and retailers, bringing product liability, fraud, and conspiracy claims. Plaintiff also sued three law firms that counseled the tobacco companies, alleging two counts of conspiracy. The law firms each filed motions to dismiss under Haw. R. Civ. P. (HRCP) Rule 12(b)(2), claiming that Hawai'i courts lacked general and specific jurisdiction over them. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss without making minimum contacts findings or undertaking any due process analysis. The law firms subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition and, alternatively, for a writ of mandamus ordering dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The Court adopted conspiracy jurisdiction and granted the law firms' writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court clearly exercised jurisdiction beyond its authority, and there were no other means for the law firms to adequately address the alleged wrong or to obtain dismissal. View "Dickinson v. Kim" on Justia Law

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In this opinion, the Supreme Court answered two certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concerning the relationship between Hawaii's general long-arm statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. 634-35, and the personal jurisdiction limitations of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause.Plaintiff, a Hawaii resident, brought a product liability action against two out-of-state corporations in Hawai'i state court. The suit was removed to the United States District court for the District of Hawaii, which dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because Plaintiff's claims did not "arise out of" Defendants' activities. The Ninth Circuit certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the reach of Hawaii's long-arm statute. The Supreme Court answered (1) a Hawaii court may assert personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state corporate defendant if the plaintiff's injury "relates to" but does not "arise from" the defendant's in-state acts enumerated in Hawaii's general long-arm statute; and (2) a Hawaii court may assert personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in light of Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S.Ct. 1017 (2021). View "Yamashita v. LG Chem, Ltd " on Justia Law

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In this appeal stemming from James Smith's "complaint to initiate special proceeding," the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's final judgment dismissing Smith's complaint, holding that the circuit court should have construed Smith's complaint as an original action under Haw. Rev. Stat. 92-12(c) seeking declaratory relief.The circuit court granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the Office of Information Practices (OIP), concluding that it did not have jurisdiction to hear Smith's appeal and that Smith's remedies lay in Haw. Rev. Stat. 92-12. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court held (1) although Smith, at times, referred to his complaint as a Haw. Rev. Stat. 92F-43 appeal, it contained numerous references to Haw. Rev. Stat. Ch. 92, the Sunshine Law at issue in the OIP opinion, and therefore, the circuit court should have construed the complaint as an original action seeking declaratory relief; (2) the ICA erred in ruling that Smith was not permitted to name OIP as a defendant; and (3) the "palpably erroneous" standard, rather than the "de novo" standard, applies to a review of OIP opinions pursuant to a seciton 92-12(c) lawsuit. View "In re Office of Information Practices Opinion Letter No. F16-01" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) and the order of the circuit court determining that Appellant qualified as a "plaintiff" for the purpose of the vexatious litigant statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. 634J, and that the required circumstances were met, holding that the lower courts erred in determining that Appellant qualified as a "plaintiff" and that other requirements set forth in the statute were satisfied.Appellee filed a motion to declare Appellant a vexatious litigant under section 634J-1(2) and (3) based on Appellant's repeated assertion of arguments that Appellee contended were already resolved. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that Appellant met the definition of "plaintiff" because he had, through seven motions, sought to relitigate the merits of a summary judgment order and thereby "maintained" the litigation and that Appellant met the definition of a vexatious litigant. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Appellant did not meet the definition of "plaintiff" under section 634J-1 or 634J-1(2); (2) a finding of bad faith is required in order to conclude a litigant is vexatious under section 634J-1(2) or (3); and (3) the record did not support a finding of bad faith in this case. View "Trustees of Estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop v. Au" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Plaintiffs on their petition for an injunction against Defendant based on the testimony and findings of fact in an earlier district court civil case in which Plaintiffs prevailed against Defendants, holding that the judicially noticed facts that formed the basis of the judgment and injunction against Defendant were improperly admitted because the previous case had a lower burden of proof.The ICA held that any error in taking judicial notice of the testimony and findings of fact in the previous case was harmless. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the district court exceeded the proper scope of judicial notice with regard to the previous case; and (2) because the district court erroneously took judicial notice of the facts of the previous case, its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order granting summary judgment and an injunction in this case were erroneous. View "Uyeda v. Schermer" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal from twenty-nine General Excise Tax (GET) assessments levied by the State Director of Taxation against five online travel companies based on car rental transactions taking place in the State between 2000 and 2013, the Supreme Court held that rental cars are tourism-related services and that the assessed transactions qualified for the reduced GET rate based only on the portion of the proceeds that the online travel companies retained.The online travel companies in this case argued (1) the majority of the assessments were barred because they already litigated their GET liability for the years 2000 through 2013 to final judgment in an earlier case; and (2) the rental car transactions should qualify for a reduced GET rate calculated based only on the portion of the proceeds that they retained because rental cars are “tourism-related services” within the meaning of a statutory income-reducing provision. The Supreme Court held (1) the assessments could be considered on the merits because the claim preclusion component of res judicata is not an available defense against the government’s sovereign power of taxation; and (2) car rentals are tourism-related services that qualify for GET apportionment under the circumstances of this case. View "In re Tax Appeal of Priceline.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court expressly rejected the Twombly/Iqbal “plausibility” pleading standard in this case and reaffirmed that in Hawai’i state courts, the traditional “notice” pleading standard governs.On the first appeal before the Supreme Court, the Court vacated a foreclosure decree based on issues of fact regarding whether Bank of America, N.A. held the note at the time the foreclosure lawsuit was filed. The Court remanded the case to the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) for a determination of whether the circuit court erred by dismissing the homeowner’s counterclaim before granting summary judgment for foreclosure in favor of Bank of America. On remand, the ICA upheld the dismissal of three counts, including a wrongful foreclosure count, in the homeowner’s counterclaim. The homeowner appealed, arguing that the ICA applied the wrong pleading standard. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal, holding (1) a pleading must meet the traditional “notice” standard to overcome a Haw. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss; and (2) a party may bring a claim for wrongful foreclosure before the foreclosure actually occurs. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Reyes-Toledo" on Justia Law