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Malulani Group, Ltd. v. Kaupo Ranch, Ltd.

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai'i

May 5, 2014

THE MALULANI GROUP, LIMITED fka MAGOON BROTHERS, LTD., a Hawaii corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
KAUPO RANCH, LTD., a Hawaii corporation; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF HAMOLE AKA MARIA HAMOLE; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF KALEIMOMI PIIMAUNA AKA ROBERT KALEIMOMI PIIMAUNA; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF KAWAI AKAHI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF IPOALOHA KALALANI AKA IPO KEKIWI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OR BENJAMIN KEKIWI AKA BENJAMIN KAHALE KEKIWI; SAM K. KAAWA AKA SAMSON K. KAAWA; MAUREEN LISA BULLER; JEFFREY LOU BULLER; JEROME PIIMAUNA; JEFFREY NOHUA PIIMAUNA; ANDREW PIIMAUNA; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF JOSEPH N. PIIMAUNA, JR., AKA JOSEPH NAHALE PIIMAUNA, JR.; WALTER HIU, JR.; BEATRICE KAHUILA CHERRY; PATRICK KAHUILA; YOLANDA Y. MATA AKA YOLANDA Y. HAUKI; EDWINA L. HIU; CLARENCE K. T. HIU; NANCY MISAO KAHUILA BOND AKA NANCY M. MCDANIEL; LINDA A. CLARK; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF ABEL WAILANI HAI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF ADAM SCOTT HAI, SR.; AGNES KANALULU SMITH; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF JOHN E. KAMAI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF PALAONEA; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF JOSHUA AHULII; LUCINDA PUPUHI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF KAMAKALOHI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF PUPUHI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF HOLI; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF A. KAWEA AKA ANE KAWEA and as ANE KAULAINAMOKU; HEIRS AND/OR DEVISEES OF WAHINEAEA and JOHN DOES 1-100; JANE DOES 1-100; DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-100; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-100; DOE ENTITIES 1-100 and DOE GOVERNMENTAL UNITS 1-100, Defendants-Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND CIRCUIT. CIVIL NO. 08-1-0501(3).

On the briefs: Gregory J. Garneau, (Kiefer & Garneau LLC), for Plaintiff-Appellant, The Malulani Group, Limited.

Brian R. Jenkins, (Jenkins & Jenkins), for Defendant-Appellee, Kaupo Ranch, Ltd.

FUJISE, PRESIDING JUDGE, LEONARD and GINOZA, JJ.

OPINION

[133 Hawai'i 426] GINOZA, J.

Page 331

Plaintiff-Appellant The Malulani Group, Limited, fka Magoon Brothers, Ltd., (Malulani) filed this declaratory action alleging that it owns property in Kaupo, Hana, Maui (Malulani Parcel) and seeking to establish implied access and utility easements across adjacent property (Kaupo Parcel) in which Defendant-Appellee Kaupo Ranch, Ltd. (Kaupo Ranch) has an interest. Malulani's First Amended Complaint asserts three claims: (1) an access easement implied by necessity; (2) an access easement implied by prior use; and (3) a utilities easement as part of an access easement.

The Circuit Court of the Second Circuit (circuit court)[1] granted summary judgment for Kaupo Ranch on all of Malulani's claims and granted costs to Kaupo Ranch. On April 16, 2010, the circuit court entered a Final Judgment and Decree (Final Judgment) against Malulani, from which Malulani appeals.

For the reasons discussed below, we vacate the Final Judgment entered by the circuit court and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background

The Malulani Parcel consists of approximately 20.2 acres that Malulani asserts is wholly surrounded and landlocked by the Kaupo Parcel, which in turn consists of approximately 118 acres. Malulani further contends

Page 332

[133 Hawai'i 427] that records in the Bureau of Conveyances contain no access or utilities easements between the Malulani Parcel and the closest government road, Pi'ilani Highway. However, Malulani asserts that the Malulani Parcel and the Kaupo Parcel were initially owned by the Kingdom of Hawai'i, that each parcel was conveyed by respective land grants in the 1850s, and that a continuous and apparent easement for access between the Malulani Parcel and Pi'ilani Highway exists over the Kaupo Parcel. Malulani thus claims an implied easement over the Kaupo Parcel in favor of the Malulani Parcel for access to Pi'ilani Highway. Malulani further claims that such an easement creates a general right-of-way for all reasonable purposes, including utility easements.

The circuit court resolved all of Malulani's claims by granting summary judgment for Kaupo Ranch. The primary basis for the circuit court's ruling was that the Kingdom of Hawaii's original ownership of both the Malulani Parcel and the Kaupo Parcel could not, as a matter of law, satisfy the " unity of ownership" requirement for implying an easement. Additionally, the circuit court concluded that Malulani's claims were barred by the statute of limitations set forth in Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 657-31 (1993).

In its points of error raised on appeal, Malulani contends that the circuit court erred by: 1) granting summary judgment to Kaupo Ranch based on the court's conclusion that the Kingdom of Hawaii's common initial ownership of the properties could not, as a matter of law, satisfy the unity of ownership requirement for the implied easement claims; 2) concluding that the utility easement claim fails as a matter of law because it derives from Malulani's implied easement claims; 3) concluding that Kaupo Ranch was entitled to summary judgment on the additional basis that the statute of limitations in HRS § 657-31 barred Malulani's claims; 4) finding that Kaupo Ranch is the current owner of an undivided interest in the Kaupo Parcel; 5) entering the April 16, 2010 Final Judgment; and 6) awarding costs to Kaupo Ranch.

We hold that, under the circumstances of this case, the Kingdom of Hawaii's prior ownership of both the Malulani Parcel and the Kaupo Parcel satisfies the unity of ownership requirement for an implied easement claim. Further, we hold that the statute of limitations set forth in HRS § 657-31 does not apply to an implied easement claim and thus does not bar the claims in this case. Summary judgment and the costs awarded in favor of Kaupo Ranch were not warranted, and the case is remanded.

II. Standards of Review

A. Summary Judgment

" On appeal, the grant or denial of summary judgment is reviewed de novo." First Ins. Co. of Hawai'i v. A & B Props., Inc., 126 Hawai'i 406, 413, 271 P.3d 1165, 1172 (2012) (citing Nuuanu Valley Ass'n v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 119 Hawai'i 90, 96, 194 P.3d 531, 537 (2008)). Furthermore,
[S]ummary 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. A fact is material if proof of that fact would have the effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of a cause of action or defense asserted by the parties. The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In other words, we must view all of the evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.

Id. at 413-14, 271 P.3d at 1172-73 (citation omitted). Ralston v. Yim, 129 Hawai'i 46, 55-56, 292 P.3d 1276, 1285-86 (2013).

B. Award of Costs

We review an award of costs under the abuse of discretion standard. Pulawa v. GTE Hawaiian Tel., 112 Hawai'i 3, 10-11, 143 P.3d 1205, 1212-13 (2006).

Page 333

[133 Hawai'i 428] III. Discussion

A. Implied Easements

1. Requirements Under Hawai'i Law

Hawai'i courts have long recognized the principle that easements can be implied, depending on the circumstances of the case. See AOAO of Wailea Elua v. Wailea Resort Co., 100 Hawai'i 97, 100, 105-07, 58 P.3d 608, 611, 616-18 (2002) (holding that an implied easement existed for a drainage system); Neary v. Martin, 57 Haw. 577, 582-83, 561 P.2d 1281, 1284-85 (1977) (holding there was no implied easement for access where the trial court found that the parties to the conveyance severing the subject properties intended the conveyance to be free and clear of the alleged easement); Tanaka v. Mitsunaga, 43 Haw. 119, 124-25 (Haw. Terr. 1959) (holding there was no implied easement for a right of way where the trial court findings supported the conclusion that the prior owner of both parcels did not intend to convey an easement); Stibbard v. Rego, 38 Haw. 84, 94 (Haw. Terr. 1948) (holding there was an implied easement for use of a driveway where the previous owner of the subject properties had conveyed parcels to her children containing the driveway and had continued using the driveway thereafter to access a retained parcel); Kalaukoa v. Keawe, 9 Haw. 191, 194 (Haw. Prov. Gov. 1893) (recognizing a " way of necessity" created by implied grant and holding that the width of the way was the same as was used for many years prior to the conveyance that impliedly granted the way); Henmi Apartments, Inc. v. Sawyer, 3 Haw.App. 555, 559-61, 655 P.2d 881, 885-86 (1982) (recognizing implied easements for pedestrian and utility purposes).

A key requirement to imply an easement is that there must have been a prior " unity of ownership" of the dominant and servient properties. The Hawai'i Supreme Court has consistently relied on the following quote from 3 Powell on Real Property ยง ...


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