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Furtado v. AOAO Villas

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

December 17, 2013

MICHAEL S. FURTADO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
AOAO GOLF VILLAS, JOHN DOE ENTITIES 1-10, and DOE ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants-Appellees

NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 09-1-0153(3))

James Richard McCarty, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Barbara A. Krieg Zachary A. McNish (Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing) for Defendant-Appellee.

Nakamura, C.J., Fujise and Reifurth, JJ.

SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER

Plaintiff-Appellant Michael S. Furtado (Furtado) appeals from a Circuit Court of the Second Circuit (Circuit Court) April 9, 2010 Judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee Association of Apartment Owners of the. Golf Villas (Golf Villas).[1] Furtado filed a complaint in Circuit Court alleging two causes of action for breach of (1) an alleged employment agreement in Furtado's capacity as Golf Villas's Maintenance Supervisor and (2) a lanai retrofit bonus agreement. Golf Villas filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ) on Furtado's complaint and the Circuit Court granted Golf Villas's MSJ in its entirety.

On appeal, Furtado maintains that the Circuit Court erred in granting Golf Villas's MSJ as to his two breach of contract claims because for each claim (1) genuine issues of material fact existed, and (2) Golf Villas was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[2]

After a careful review of the record, the points raised by the parties, their arguments and the applicable legal authority, we resolve Furtado's appeal as follows and affirm.

1. The Circuit Court did not err by granting Golf Villas's MSJ as to Furtado's claim for breach of an employment agreement for permanent or life-long employment because viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Furtado, there was no genuine issue of material fact for trial and Golf Villas was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Thomas v. Kidani, 126 Hawai'i 125, 129-30, 267 P.3d 1230, 1234-35 (2011).

a. Golf Villas produced evidence of no genuine issue of material fact as to Furtado's at-will employment status. See Shoppe v. Gucci America, Inc., 94 Hawai'i 368, 383, 14 P.3d 1049, 1064 (2000) (In Hawai'i, the at-will employment doctrine prevails absent "a written employment agreement, a collective bargaining agreement, or a statutorily-conferred right[.]"). Neither Golf Villas's actions nor the language of Golf Villas's Employee Handbook can be said to have encouraged Furtado's reliance as to permanent or life-long employment as Maintenance Supervisor.

Golf Villas produced evidence that all of Golf Villas's employees were at-will, and Golf Villas never considered or discussed whether to change Furtado's at-will status, much less entered into a written agreement with him. Moreover, Golf Villas's Employee Handbook clearly and unambiguously states that Furtado's employment was at-will and could be terminated at any time with or without notice and with or without cause.

After Golf Villas produced sufficient evidence to establish no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifted to Furtado to demonstrate specific facts presenting a genuine issue worthy of trial. Hawai'i Rules of Civil Procedure (HRCP) Rule 56 (e); Exotics Hawai'i-Kona, Inc. v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., 116 Hawai'i 277, 312, 172 P.3d 1021, 1056 (2007). Even when taking the evidence in the light most favorale to him, we conclude that Furtado failed to produce specific evidence of an agreement modifying his at-will employment.

Furtado does not allege, and we do not find, any evidence supporting the existence of a written agreement with Golf Villas altering his at-will employment status. Furthermore, we do not agree, as Furtado alleges, that his at-will status was altered by (1) an oral promise, (2) detrimental reliance, (3) continuous employment, or (4) Golf Villas's references to an "agreement."

b. Golf Villas was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it showed that based on the undisputed facts, Furtado could not meet his burden of proof at trial on his claim for breach of an employment agreement for permanent or life-long employment. See Thomas, 126 Hawai'i at 130, 267 P.3d at ...


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