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Lauster v. Eckerle

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

June 28, 2013

CARLA E. LAUSTER, as Trustee of the Carla E. Lauster Trust dated August 25, 2003, STEVEN M. MARKS, SR.; ROBERTA L. BATES; G. DAVID NAHUINA; KEITH WALTER FITCH-McCONNELL; SYLVIA KAY FITCH-McCONNELL; PAUL MICHAEL TREVITHICK; MARY KATHERINE TREVITHICK; TORY M. TAGUMA; CALVIN B. DETWILER, III, Trustee under unrecorded Revocable Trust Agreement of Calvin D. Detwiler, III, dated July 19, 2001; SUSAN H. DETWILER, Trustee under unrecorded Revocable Trust Agreement of Susan H. Detwiler, dated July, 19, 2001; ARCHIE COX; LAVERNE COX; STEPHEN COX; RENETTA COX; STEVEN E. CUSTODE; KIMBERLY A. CUSTODE; PHYLLIS GLEAN HANNON SELLENS, Trustee of The Phyllis Sellens Trust dated May 30, 1991; ROBERT L. BATES, Trustee of The R.L. Bates Trust dated May 30, 1991; GARY J. PRIES; MELISSA A. PRIES; JOHN HAMPDEN MOORE; and BONNIE ALYCE SHANNON-MOORE, Plaintiffs/Counterclaim Defendants/Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
RICHARD D. ECKERLE, DANIELA ECKERLE, and JOHN DOES, 1-10, Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiffs/Appellants/Cross-Appellees



Mark Van Pernis and Gary W.Vancil for Plaintiffs/Counterclaim Defendants/Appellees/ Cross-Appellants.

Fujise, Presiding Judge, Leonard and Reifurth, JJ.


Plaintiffs/Counterclaim Defendants/Appellees/Cross- Appellants Carla E. Lauster, Steven M. Marks, Sr., Roberta L. Bates, G. David Nahuina, Keith Walter Fitch-McConnell, Sylvia Kay Fitch-McConnell, Paul Michael Trevithick, Mary Katherine Trevithick, Troy M. Taguma, Calvin B. Detwiler, III, Susan H. Detwiler, Archie Cox, Laverne Cox, Stephen Cox, Renetta Cox, Steven E. Custode, Kimberly A. Custode, Phyllis Glean Hannon Sellens, Robert L. Bates, Gary J. Pries, Melissa A. Pries, John Hampden Moore, and Bonnie Alyce Shannon-Moore (collectively, Plaintiffs) appeal from the October 20, 2009 judgment in which the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit (Circuit Court)[1] awarded $12, 000 in damages to Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiffs/ Appellants/Cross-Appellees Richard D. and Daniela Eckerle (collectively, Defendants) against eleven of the twenty-three Plaintiffs for Daniela Eckerle's (Eckerle) intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) counterclaim.[2]


The facts in this case are largely undisputed. On July 30, 2003, Defendants purchased real property (Eckerle Property) designated on the tax maps of the Third Tax Division, State of Hawaii, as Tax Map Key (3)7-3-002-022, from Emma Jane Kapehe (Kapehe). Plaintiffs are owners of various lots located makai of the Eckerle Property in a subdivision known as Ka'u'ilani Estates.

When Defendants purchased the property from Kapehe, it enjoyed a Grant of Access Easement and First Right of Refusal (Easement) over Plaintiffs' properties. The Easement was recorded on August 23, 2002.[3] The Easement read, in part, "The rights herein granted are given solely for access to and from the one single family residence located on the real property described in Exhibit C attached hereto (and not for any commercial, agricultural, multi-family or other uses of such real property) as herein described . . . ." The Easement also specified that

[t]he term of this Grant shall commence upon the recording of this Grant in the Bureau of Conveyances of the State of Hawaii and shall continue until the earlier to occur of (i) the Grantee's breach of any covenant condition or agreement contained herein and on the part of the Grantee to be observed and performed, which such breach the Grantee shall not have cured within thirty (30) days of the receipt of a written notice from Grantor of such breach; or (ii) the Grantee's use of the real property described in Exhibit C attached hereto for any purposes other than one single family residence.

The Easement allowed Defendants to access a road that runs through the Ka'u'ilani Estates subdivision to the Eckerle Property. There was a gate at the base of the Easement access road which had been in place since the first homes in the subdivision were built. Plaintiffs possessed keys to unlock the gate, while Defendants did not.[4] Plaintiffs locked the gate to prevent access to Defendants, their guests, or other visitors. Rocks were also placed on the south side of the gate by one of the Plaintiffs to prevent vehicles from driving around the gate.

After their purchase, Defendants grubbed and graded the Eckerle Property to start a coffee farm. They planted approximately 15, 000 coffee trees on the Eckerle Property in grow bags or otherwise.

Plaintiff Carla E. Lauster (Lauster) wanted to terminate the easement because of traffic to and the noise and smoke from the Eckerle Property. Other Plaintiffs were bothered by the smoke from burning fires and noise, including noise from generators, coming from the Eckerle Property and did not like the traffic to the Eckerle Property, or the amount or quality of the visitors to the Eckerle Property. Lauster kept a dated journal of people she saw using the Easement to get to the Eckerle Property as well as other activities on the Eckerle Property.

Plaintiffs met several times to discuss the Defendants and what action, if any, to take against them. Defendants received a letter dated February 28, 2008, signed by persons calling themselves "homeowners of the Ka'u'ilani Estates, " some of whom were the Plaintiffs, but with no printed names, illegible signatures, and no contact information. The letter accused Defendants of violating the conditions of the Easement and gave Defendants 30 days to "immediately cancel all pending and approved permits pertaining to the above stated [farm] plan and property, and to cease any and all ongoing operations, or permanently and legally surrender your access easement rights through our subdivision, as provided for by the GRANT."

From approximately 2004 to the time of trial in 2009, Plaintiffs took hundreds of photographs of Defendants, their property, and any visitors to the Eckerle Property. The pictures were taken from various vantage points around the Eckerle Property, including overhead aerial photographs. Plaintiffs stopped and blocked vehicles coming and going to the Eckerle Property along the Easement ...

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