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Association of Apartment Owners of Discovery Bay v. Mitchell

Supreme Court of Hawai'i

November 13, 2014

ASSOCIATION OF APARTMENT OWNERS OF DISCOVERY BAY, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RALPH MITCHELL, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant

CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS. (CAAP-11-0000151; CIV. NO. 10-1-1871-08).

Lila Barbara Kanae, for petitioner.

Terrance M. Revere and Malia R. Nickison-Beazley, for respondent.

RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.

OPINION

McKENNA, J.

I. Introduction

We have accepted certiorari in this case to vacate the ICA's judgment on appeal and to remand an award of attorneys' fees and costs to the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (" circuit court" ). We hold that, on remand, the circuit court shall determine whether Hawai'i Revised Statutes (" HRS" ) § 514B-161(a) (Supp. 2009) applies in this case. Further, if the statute applies, the circuit court should make a finding, on the record, as to whether the Association of Apartment Owners of Discovery Bay (" AOAO" ) refused to mediate this dispute, and if so, the circuit court should take into consideration such refusal in determining whether to award attorneys' fees and costs. We also hold that, on remand, the circuit court shall determine whether four time entries were correctly billed to the instant matter.

II. Background

Page 1053

On August 30, 2010, the AOAO filed a complaint against Ralph Mitchell, a condominium owner in the AOAO, for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Complaint alleged that on August 11, 2010, Mitchell submitted a petition to the AOAO to conduct a special meeting of the AOAO to remove one or more of the AOAO Board members. The AOAO alleged that the petition did not contain at least 25% of the owners' signatures, contrary to the requirements of HRS § 514B-121(b) (Supp. 2008). According to the AOAO, Mitchell insisted that he intended to hold a special meeting anyway. Therefore, the AOAO prayed for declaratory relief in the form of an order finding that because Mitchell did not have the requisite percentage of owner signatures on his petition, there was no basis [134 Hawai'i 252] for conducting a special meeting. The AOAO also alleged that Mitchell was obtaining signatures via misrepresentation, so the AOAO also sought to enjoin this conduct. After Mitchell failed to answer the Complaint, the circuit court[1] entered a default against him.

The AOAO then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (" MSJ" ). Attached to the motion was a spreadsheet prepared by the AOAO's property manager showing that, when the names of non-owners were removed from Mitchell's petition, he had only 24.1029% of the owners' signatures on the petition. The AOAO also attached an updated spreadsheet showing that even fewer owners (23.7619%) were interested in holding a special meeting, as many owners had withdrawn their names from Mitchell's petition. Therefore, the AOAO argued that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Mitchell had the requisite 25% of owners' signatures on his petition, and the AOAO was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The AOAO also reserved its right to file a motion seeking attorney's fees and costs for having to file the MSJ. The circuit court granted the AOAO's MSJ.

Mitchell then submitted his Motion for Reconsideration of the circuit court's order granting the AOAO's MSJ. Mitchell asserted that he obtained 34.2969% of owners' signatures on his petition, attaching his list of owners and their ownership percentages. Mitchell also stated he sought to mediate the dispute in September 2010, but the AOAO did not respond to his request and, instead, " plowed ahead with this litigation." Mitchell requested that the circuit court set aside its order granting the AOAO's MSJ and stay the case to allow the parties to mediate the dispute. The circuit court denied the motion.

The AOAO then filed a motion seeking $14,332.42 in fees and costs under HRS § 514B-157(a) and (b) (2006), which provide, in relevant part, the following (with emphases added):

Attorneys' fees, delinquent assessments, and expenses of enforcement.

(a) All costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys' fees, incurred by or on ...


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