Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii

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In this arbitrability dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the intermediate court of appeals’ (ICA) order denying Petitioners’ request for appellate attorneys’ fees and affirmed the portions of the ICA’s order granting Petitioners’ request for appellate costs and denying Petitioners’ request for fees and costs incurred in the circuit court without prejudice. The court held (1) for purposes of Haw. Rev. Stat. 607-14, the appeal of the arbitrability issue is a separate action from the underlying dispute on the merits; (2) Petitioners prevailed in the arbitrability action and were therefore entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees under section 607-14 and a fee-shifting provision in a purchase agreement; and (3) as to Petitioners’ request for an order stating that they were entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in proceedings before the circuit court and in arbitration, the circuit court properly denied without prejudice to Petitioners’ right to request fees and costs from the circuit court. View "Charles v. Kapalua Bay, LLC " 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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Appellants, a group of individual condominium owners in the Kapulua Bay condominium, challenged the vote of the Association of Apartment Owners of Kapulua Bay Condominium to convert the residential community into a hotel. The dispute was submitted to arbitration. On appeal, Appellants challenged the adequacy of the neutral arbitrator’s disclosures in the arbitration. The circuit court concluded that vacatur was not required because the undisclosed relationships did not constitute “evident partiality.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in concluding that the arbitrator’s undisclosed connections with certain parties did not constitute evident partiality. View "Narayan v. Ass'n of Apartment Owners of Kapalua Bay Condominium" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, it was unconscionable to require an employee to pay half the estimated arbitration costs up front in order to access the arbitral forum, and therefore, the requirement was unenforceable. Plaintiff signed and submitted an employment contract that contained an arbitration provision. Plaintiff, however, never did work for Defendant. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant refused to hire her in retaliation for her filing a sexual harassment complaint. Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff opposed the motion to compel, arguing, inter alia, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because it required her to pay for the arbitration costs in a civil rights matter. The circuit court ultimately granted Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. The court found it would be unconscionable for Plaintiff to pay half the arbitration estimate to access the arbitral forum but nonetheless concluded that the arbitration clause could be enforced by requiring Defendant to pay for all arbitration fees and costs. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order, holding that the circuit court (1) correctly concluded that the parties entered into a valid arbitration agreement; but (2) improperly reformed the arbitration agreement instead of invalidating the entire agreement. View "Gabriel v. Island Pacific Academy, Inc." on Justia Law

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RT Import Inc. filed a complaint against Jesus and Mila Torres seeking damages for merchandise allegedly misdelivered by WFS to the Torreses, which was then converted by the Torreses. RT Import and the Torreses agreed to resolve their dispute through binding arbitration. The arbitrator found that the Torreses committed the intentional tort of conversion and awarded RT Import damages. The arbitrator also found that the Torreses were responsible for arbitration fees and costs. The circuit court granted RT Import’s motion to confirm the final award and awarded RT Import $106,711.62 in damages and $8,355.49 for arbitration attorney’s fees and costs. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court’s confirmation of the final arbitration award and judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment as to $4,738.74 of the $8,355.49 for RT’s arbitration attorney’s fees and costs and otherwise affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred by including in the judgment confirming the arbitration award $4,738.74 directly billed by RT Import to the Torreses, which was not a part of the final award. Remanded. View "RT Import, Inc. v. Torres" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a construction contract dispute between homeowners Ramon Romero and Cassie Romero and contractor Noel Madamba Contracting LLC (Madamba). The case proceeded to arbitration. Arbitrator Patrick K.S.L. Yim issued a partial final arbitration award concluding that Madamba breached the construction contract and that the Romeros were entitled to compensatory damages. Following the issuance of the partial final award, the parties learned that the law firm representing the Romeros throughout the arbitration had been retained by the administrator of Yim’s personal retirement accounts. Madamba moved to vacate the arbitration award based on this previously undisclosed information. The circuit court denied the motion, determining that Yim’s failure to disclose this information did not constitute evident partiality. The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding that Yim’s failure to disclose his relationship with the Romeros’ counsel’s law firm constituted evident partiality requiring vacatur of the arbitration award. Remanded with instructions to vacate the arbitration award. View "Noel Madamba Contracting, LLC v. Romero" on Justia Law