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State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Hanohano

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

January 25, 2016





This case, brought under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, seeks a determination as to whether Plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Company has a duty to defend its insured, Defendant Nolan Hanohano, with respect to claims brought against him in an underlying suit.

Before the court are countermotions for summary judgment. Because the claims asserted against Hanohano are at least potentially covered by the homeowner’s policy that State Farm issued to Hanohano, the court concludes that State Farm currently has a duty to defend Hanohano. Hanohano’s motion is, therefore, granted on this issue. Hanohano’s attorney’s fees request is denied without prejudice to his filing of a motion that complies with Local Rule 54.3.

The court does, however, grant State Farm summary judgment on the issue of whether it must indemnify Hanohano for any punitive damages awarded in the underlying action. Hanohano’s policy clearly does not provide coverage for punitive damages. State Farm’s motion is therefore granted in part and denied in part.


A. The Underlying Lawsuit.

On June 20, 2014, a suit was filed in this court, Daphne S. Dinnan, et al. v. City and County of Honolulu, Nolan Hanohano, et al., Civil No. 14-00286 DKW/RLP, alleging the wrongful death of Stephen J. Dinnan. See ECF No. 30-2. The suit was instituted by Daphne Dinnan, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Stephen Dinnan and Sean F. Dinnan; Elisha Kalani, individually and as parent and next friend of her minor child, Steisha-Lovie Kalani, Ian C. Dinnan, Christina K.S. Dinnan, and Katelyn S.L. Dinnan; and Shardeah K.K.K. Serhant, individually and as parent and next friend of her minor child, Shaydence K. Serhant and Saydee K.P.H.K. Serhant. See id.

According to the Complaint, on June 3, 2013, Hanohano was told by his son that Hanohano’s truck had been stolen from Makapu’u Beach Park. See id., PageID # 201. Using GPS to track the cellphone that his son had left in the truck, Hanohano and his son located the truck in Waimanalo, Hawaii. See id., PageID # 201; ECF No. 1, PageID # 3.

Hanohano and his son called 9-1-1 to report the theft and the location of the truck. See ECF No. 30-2, PageID #s 201-02. Officer Matsumoto responded to the call and met Hanohano and his son near the property where the truck was located. See Id. Hanohano then led Officer Matsumoto to the property. See id. At the time, Dinnan and two other men were at the property smoking marijuana. See id.

When one of the men saw Officer Matsumoto and Hanohano come onto the property, he immediately tried to get on his motorcycle, but was pulled off the bike by Officer Matsumoto and told to stay put. See id., PageID #s 202-03. Dinnan, allegedly fearful that he would be arrested for smoking marijuana, also tried to leave. See id. Officer Matsumoto called out to Dinnan and told him to remain so that he could ask Dinnan some questions. See id.

Ignoring Officer Matsumoto’s command, Dinnan ran toward some stairs leading up to the house. Officer Matsumoto caught up with Dinnan, who locked his arms around the stair railing, which Officer Matsumoto tried to pry Dinnan off of. See id., PageID #s 203-04. When this did not work, Officer Matsumoto hit Dinnan’s hands, arms, and body to separate him from the railing. See id., PageID # 205.

According to the Complaint, Hanohano, seeing this and allegedly “now filled with rage and hatred, walked up to Dinnan, grabbed him by the neck and started choking and squeezing his neck with his bare hands.” See id., PageID # 206. While choking Dinnan, Hanohano allegedly shouted, “You like steal my fucking truck? You steal from me, you like steal my truck? This is what you get for stealing from Hawaiians.” See id. Hanohano eventually let go of Dinnan when Officer Matsumoto told him, “Enough already.” See id., PageID # 207. The Complaint alleges that, in choking Dinnan, Hanohano ruptured his windpipe. See id.

Once Hanohano let go of Dinnan, Dinnan tried to flee again, but was chased by Officer Matsumoto, who pulled him to the ground. See id., PageID # 208. As Dinnan was struggling, Hanohano came over and allegedly held Dinnan’s legs while Officer Matsumoto worked at handcuffing him. See id. Officer Matsumoto asked Dinnan, “Why you running for? I only want to ask you questions. So I don’t know why you running for.” See id.

Hanohano was holding Dinnan’s legs while Officer Matsumoto, who is over six foot tall and weighs over 230 pounds, allegedly had his knee on Dinnan’s back, between his shoulder blades and near the base of his neck, and was simultaneously pushing Dinnan’s face into the ground. See id., PageID #s 208-09. Dinnan allegedly called out, “Help, help” three times. See id., PageID # 208. Although Dinnan’s face allegedly turned cyatonic (or purple), Officer Matsumoto allegedly continued to apply his body weight to Dinnan’s neck, face, and back. See Id. The Complaint’s only allegation about Hanohano at this point is that he held Dinnan’s legs down. See id., PageID #s 208-09.

Sometime later, Dinnan’s girlfriend, who was the mother of two of his children, was allegedly walking to the driveway with two other police officers and one of her children. She saw Dinnan lying face-down but not moving and allegedly screamed, “What the hell is going on?” See id., PageID # 210. Officer Matsumoto then allegedly got off of Dinnan and said, “Okay, I’m done.” See id. One of the two police officers turned Dinnan over, and Dinnan allegedly appeared to be lifeless. See id. The two officers tried to resuscitate Dinnan at the scene unsuccessfully. See id., PageID #s 210-11.

The Complaint asserts various claims against the City and County of Honolulu, Officer Matsumoto, and Hanohano. See ECF No. 30-2. The claims asserted against Hanohano include wrongful death, assault and battery, false imprisonment, negligence, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. See id., PageID #s 215-18, 219-21.

Hanohano tendered the defense of this underlying suit to State Farm. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 13. State Farm is participating in the defense of the underlying suit subject to a reservation of rights, while seeking declaratory relief in the present action.

B. The Homeowner’s Policy.

During the periods alleged in the underlying Complaint, Hanohano was insured under a homeowner’s policy issued by State Farm on his residence in Kailua, on Oahu. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 13.

The policy includes the following liability provisions:

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, caused by an occurrence, we will:
1. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable; and 2. provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice. We may make any investigation and settle any claim or suit that we decide is appropriate. Our obligation to defend any claim or suit ends when the amount we pay for damages, to effect settlement or satisfy a judgment resulting from the occurrence, equals our limit of liability.

ECF No. 30-4, PageID # 267.

The policy defines “bodily injury” and “occurrence”:
1. “bodily injury” means physical injury, sickness, or disease to a person. This includes required care, loss of services and death resulting therefrom . . . .
. . . .
7. “occurrence”, when used in Section II of this policy, means an accident, including exposure to conditions, which results in:
a. bodily injury . . . .

Id., PageID #s 253-54.

The policy includes an exclusion for intentional acts:
1. Coverage L and Coverage M do not ...

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