December 27, 2013
ILWU MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION, a Hawaii eleemosynary corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
BANK OF HAWAII, a Hawaii corporation, Successor Trustee of the Trust Estate of George H. Holt, deceased, HEIRS OF KEAWEOPALA, HEIRS OF KAPAKUKOHANA, HEIRS OF KAHIKO, HEIRS OF KAOPUA, HEIRS OF MAIAU, HEIRS OF KEMELIA, HEIRS OF RODE, STATE OF HAWAII, COUNTY OF HAWAII, JOHN DOES 1-10; JANE DOES 1-10; DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-10; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10; DOE ENTITIES 1-10 AND DOE GOVERNMENTAL UNITS 1-10, Defendants-Appellees
NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS OR THE PACIFIC REPORTER.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE' THIRD CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 03-1-0303).
Eichi Oki and William L. Goo (Suzuki & Goo) for Plaintiff-Appellant.
Michael W. Moore (Law Offices of Yeh & Moore) for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Nakamura, C.J., Reifurth and Ginoza, JJ.
SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER
Plaintiff-Appellant ILWU Memorial Association ("ILWU") appeals from the December 8, 2009 Judgment Based Upon Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order on Plaintiff's Claim of Adverse Possession (Count II of the Complaint to Quiet Title) ("Judgment") entered in the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit ("Circuit Court") in favor of Defendants-Appellees Sarah Bell, Charles M. Bell, and Saffrey M. Bell (collectively, the "Bell Defendants") and against ILWU on ILWU's claim of title to certain real property at Hamakua, Hawai'i (the "Property"), by way of adverse possession.
On appeal, ILWU contends that the trial court erred: (1) when it denied the ILWU's motion for summary judgment because, based on "the undisputed facts, the statutory provisions and judicial precedents in existence and in force" between 1954 and 1964, ILWU possessed a "vested and indefeasible title to the [Property] on the expiration of the ten-year statutory limitation period"; and (2) "in relying upon and applying an unknown and nonexistent future case, viz. City & County of Honolulu v. Bennett, 57 Haw. 195, 52 P.2d 1380 (1976), " in denying ILWU's motions for summary judgment.
Upon careful review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties and having given due consideration to the arguments advanced and the issues raised by the parties, as well as the relevant statutory and case law, we find no merit in ILWU's claims.
Each of ILWU's arguments relating to its first point of error depend on adverse possession vesting as it would according to the law in place in 1964, and rely on Bennett not applying to any cotenancy in this case. Regarding its second point of error, ILWU does not rely on any of the exceptions to the rule announced in Bennett,  but argues that the holding itself in Bennett could not apply because it was "nonexistent" in 1964. In sum, resolution of ILWU's points of error turns on the applicability of Bennett.
In 1976, the Hawai'i Supreme Court explained that if the land in question is held by cotenants, a "tenant in common claiming by adverse possession must prove that he acted in good faith towards the cotenants during the statutory period." Bennett, 57 Haw. at 209, 552 P.2d at 1390. In most cases, this requires that the tenant claiming adversely "must actually notify his cotenants that he is claiming against them." Id.
"[J]udicial decisions are assumed to apply retroactively, but not automatically." Kamaka v. Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, 111 Hawai'i 92, 117, 176 P.3d 91, 116 (2008) (original brackets omitted) (quoting Catron v. Tokio Marine Mgmt., Inc., 90 Hawai'i 407, 411, 978 P.2d 845, 849 (1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[W]here substantial prejudice results from the retrospective application of new legal principles to a given set of facts, the inequity may be avoided by giving the guiding principles prospective application only." Id. (quoting Catron, 90 Hawai'i at 411, 978 P.2d at 849) (internal quotation marks omitted).
ILWU contends that the instant case falls within the ambit of three Hawai'i adverse possession cases that did not require actual notice: Deponte v. Ulupalakua Ranch, Ltd., 48 Haw. 17, 395 P.2d 273 (1964), Gomes v. Upchurch, 50 Haw. 125, 432 P.2d 890 (1967), and Thomas v. State, 55 Haw. 30, 514 P.2d 572 (1973). ILWU argues that adverse possession was found in Deponte, Gomes, and Thomas after a ten-year period of adverse possession between the years 1928 to 1954, and that the only difference between those cases and the instant case is that this one arises after Bennett was decided.
ILWU's contention is unpersuasive. Deponte, Gomes, and Thomas are inapposite, as those cases involved claimants who provided actual notice or tenants who had actual knowledge. Hawai'i courts have repeatedly applied the Bennett principles to claims of adverse possession covering time periods prior to 1976, the year Bennett was decided. Bennett, in fact, arose out of decisions and principles extant in 1964. In Bennett, the court interpreted two prior cases, Yin v. Midkiff, 52 Haw. 537, 481 P.2d 109 (1971), and Poka v. Holi, 44 Haw. 464, 357 P.2d 100 (1960), concluding that "because of the general fiduciary relationship between cotenants, a tenant in common claiming by adverse possession must prove that he acted in good faith towards the cotenants during the statutory period." Bennett, 57 Haw. at 209, 552 P.2d at 1390 (emphasis added). In Bennett itself, the parties claiming adverse possession and their predecessors had possession of the parcel since 1880. See id. at 205, 552 P.2d at 1388; see also Wailuku Agribusiness Co. v. Ah Sam, 114 Hawai'i 24, 35-36, 155 P.3d 1125, 1136-37 (2007) (holding that a motion for summary judgment in a 2002 quiet title action should not have been granted because the Bennett notice requirement applied to defendant's claim of adverse possession covering a period commencing in 1935); Morinoue v. Roy, 86 Hawai'i 76, 79, 947 P.2d 944, 947 (1997) (applying Bennett to a 1990 claim of adverse possession, where the period in question commenced in 1920) .
"Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together, with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Blaisdell v. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 119 Hawai'i 275, 282, 196 P.3d 277, 284 (2008)(brackets and emphasis omitted) (quoting Omerod v. Heirs of Kaheananui, 116 Hawai'i 239, 254-55, 172 P.3d 983, 998-99 (2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). ILWU admitted that no actual notice had been given to the Bell Defendants of its claim to adverse possession. Therefore, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, ILWU was not entitled to summary judgment because it failed to show that it acted in good faith in providing notice to the Bell Defendants. Thus, the Circuit Court did not err in denying ILWU's motions for summary judgment as to the Bell Defendants.
Therefore, the December 8, 2009 Judgment Based Upon Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order on Plaintiff's Claim of Adverse Possession (Count II of the Complaint to Quiet Title) is affirmed.