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Hawai`i Supreme Court Hears Argument on August 21, 2019

posted Aug 23, 2019, 9:15 PM by Vivien Akiyama   [ updated Aug 23, 2019, 9:29 PM ]
On the 60th Anniversary of statehood, when Hawai`i accepted the solemn duty to act as trustee and fiduciary of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust, the Hawai`i Supreme Court heard argument on the Beneficiaries and State's cross-appeals.

In Kalima v. State (Kalima I), 111 Hawaiʻi 84, 137 P.3d 990 (2006), the Court had held that the Beneficiaries were permitted to file a complaint seeking individual damages under Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes Chapter 674.  After the Court affirmed the Beneficiaries' right to sue it sent the case back to the Circuit Court.  The Circuit Court first found the State liable for various breaches of the trust.  It later adopted a fair market value based damages model to calculate the damages to be awarded to each waiting list beneficiary.  Another trial was held to resolve methodological issues regarding the circuit court’s fair market value model.  In 2008, the circuit court entered a final judgment.

On appeal, the State contends that the circuit court erred in (1) establishing an overbroad subclass list; (2) finding that the State breached its trust duties by not recovering lands that were “withdrawn from the Trust prior to Statehood[;]” (3) adopting a damages model that is not connected to the breaches of trust that were found by the circuit court; (4) adopting a damages model that fails to limit recovery to “actual damages” as required by statute; (5) applying the Oʻahu fair market rental value model for residential leases to the entire State; (6) incorrectly determining that subclass members had no duty to mitigate damages until 1995; (7) incorrectly providing for temporary suspension of damages when claimants “deferred” from participation in a homestead offering; and (8) shifting the burden of proof to the State on essential elements of Beneficiaries' case.

On cross-appeal, the Home Lands Beneficiaries argued that the circuit court erred in (1) ruling that beneficiaries must prove out-of-pocket expenditures to recover individual damages; (2) ruling that a waiting list subclass member’s “deferred” status suspends their individual damages; (3) imposing a six-year delay before individual damages accrue; (4) not bringing damages to present value; and (5) adopting the “best fit” curve and reducing individual subclass damages.

Carl Varady and Thomas Grande argued for the Beneficiaries. The Court was very well informed and the parties arguments and Court's questions lasted for 2 hours. The Court originally had scheduled the argument for only 30 minutes.

You can click on the link to the argument to the Court here: https://www.courts.state.hi.us/oral-argument-before-the-hawaii-supreme-court-scap-18-0000068

We are hopeful for a decision by the end of the year.  Please keep checking this site for updates.

A photo of the hui and lawyers after argument is shown.

Mahalo nui!


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