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Minton v. Quintal

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

March 10, 2016

ERIC J. MINTON and RICHARD M. STANLEY, Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
v.
SIDNEY A. QUINTAL, JOHN C. FUHRMANN, and CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, Defendants/Appellants/Cross-Appellees, and JOHN DOES 1-10 and DOE ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 07-1-2354)

Matthew S. K. Pyun, Jr. John P. Morgan Nicolette Winter (with them on the reply brief) Deputies Corporation Counsel City and County of Honolulu for Defendants/Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

Charles S. Lotsof for Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

FOLEY, PRESIDING J., FUJISE AND REIFURTH, JJ.

OPINION

FOLEY, J.

Defendants/Appellants/Cross-Appellees Sidney A. Quintal, John C. Fuhrmann, and the City and County of Honolulu (collectively, CSC) appeal and Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants Eric J. Minton (Minton) and Richard M. Stanley (Stanley) cross-appeal from the "Final Judgment and Order Determining. Damages" entered on December 23, 2014 in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit[1] (circuit court).

On appeal, C&C contends the circuit court erred in calculating the amount of damages it awarded, and challenges the circuit court's (1) use of the "Worst Case" scenario to measure Minton and Stanley's damages; (2) reliance on Minton and Stanley's supplementary declarations; and (3) the denial of C&C's March 12, 2014 "Motion to Conduct Trial, Conduct Further Discovery, and Receive Further Evidence on Issue of Damages" (Motion to Conduct Further Discovery and Trial).

On cross-appeal, Minton and Stanley contend, the circuit court erred in (1) "determining the scope of the remand from the [Hawai'i] Supreme Court"; (2) "denying foreseeable non-pecuniary damages"; and (3) striking parts of the declarations by Stanley and Minton.

I. BACKGROUND

This case comes before us after remand from the Hawai'i Supreme Court to the circuit court "for a determination of the amount of damages to be awarded against [C&C]." Minton v. Quintal, 131 Hawai'i 167, 192, 317 P.3d 1, 26 (2013).[2] The supreme court concluded that Minton and Stanley "established the elements of their claim of tortious interference with prospective business advantage, including the existence of damages." Id.

On March 12, 2014, following the supreme court's decision, C&C filed a Motion to Conduct Further Discovery and Trial. The circuit court held a hearing on this motion on April 4, 2014. On April 24, 2013, the circuit court issued its "Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part [C&C's Motion to Conduct Further Discovery and Trial] Filed March 12, 2014."

On May 2, 2014, C&C filed a memorandum summarizing the testimony presented to the trial court during the initial trial in 2010. On May 5, 2014, C&C filed supplemental exhibits, which included reports from economist Thomas A. Loudat, PhD (Dr. Loudat) on the updated estimates of the projected earnings of Minton and Stanley.[3] On May 6, 2014, Minton and Stanley submitted their own memorandum summarizing the testimony from the 2010 trial.

On June 23, 2014, Minton and Stanley each submitted "supplementary declarations" to the circuit court (Supplemental Declarations) . On June 30 2014, C&G submitted objections to the Supplemental Declarations. The circuit court held a hearing on the admission of the Supplemental Declarations on July 3, 2014, at which it struck portions of both Minton and Stanley's Supplemental Declarations.

On July 7 and 8, 2014, the circuit court conducted an evidentiary hearing receiving testimony from Stanley, Minton, and Dr. Loudat.

On October 15, 2014, the circuit court entered its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Determining Damages (2014 FOFs/COLs). The circuit court awarded $556, 156 to Minton and $194, 483 to Stanley. The circuit court denied non-economic damages to Minton and Stanley, citing the limited scope of the supreme court's, remand.

C&C submitted their notice of appeal on January 16, 2015. Minton and Stanley submitted their notice of cross-appeal on January 29, 2015.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Findings of Fact (FOFs) and Conclusions of Law (COLs)

[An appellate] court reviews the trial court's FOFs under the clearly erroneous standard. Ueoka v. Szymanski, 107 Hawai'i 386, _ 393, 114 P.3d 892, 899 (2005) (citations omitted}.
An FOF is clearly erroneous when, despite evidence to support the finding, the appellate court is left with the definite and firm conviction in reviewing the entire evidence that a mistake has been committed. An FOF is also clearly erroneous when the record lacks substantial evidence to support the finding. We have defined substantial evidence as credible evidence which is of sufficient quality and probative value to enable a person of reasonable caution to support a conclusion.
Bremer v. Weeks, 104 Hawai'i 43, 51, 85 P.3d 150, 158 (2004) (quoting Beneficial Hawai'i, Inc. v. Kida, 96 Hawai'i 289, 305, 30 P.3d 895, 911 (2001)).

Bhakta v. Cty, of Maui, 109 Hawai'i 198, 208, 124 P.3d 943, 953 (2005) (brackets in original omitted).

We review the trial court's conclusions of law de novo under the right/wrong standard. Under this standard, we examine the facts and answer the question without being required to give any weight to the trial court's answer to it. Thus, a conclusion of law is not binding upon the appellate court and is freely reviewable for its correctness.

Minton, 131 Hawai'i at 184, 317 P.3d at 18 (quoting Brown v. Thompson, 91 Hawai'i 1, 8, 979 P.2d 586, 593 (1999)). "[A] COL that presents mixed questions of fact and law is reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard because the court's conclusions are dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case." Chun v. Bd. of Trs. of Emps.' Ret. Sys. of State of Hawai'i, 106 Hawai'i 416, 430, 106 P.3d 339, 353 (2005) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Allstate Ins. Co. v. Ponce, 105 Hawai'i 445, 453, 99 P.3d 96, 104 (2004)).

B. Admissibility of Evidence

"As a general rule, [an appellate] court reviews evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion." Sierra Club v. Dep't of Transp. of State of Hawai'i, 120 Hawai'i 181, 197, 202 P.3d 1226, 1242 (2009) (citing Kealoha v. Cty. of Hawai'i, 74 Haw. 308, 319, 844 P.2d 670, 676 (1993)). "However, when there can only be one correct answer to the admissibility question, or when reviewing questions of relevance under [Hawaii Rules of Evidence (HRE) Rules 401 (1993) and 402 (1993)], [an appellate] court applies the right/wrong standard of review." Sierra Club, 120 Hawai'i at 197, 202 P.3d at 1242 (citing Kamaka v. Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, 117 Hawai'i 92, 104, 176 P.3d 91, 103 (2008)).

C. Motion to Conduct Further Discovery and Trial

"We review a trial court's ruling limiting the scope of discovery under the abuse of discretion standard." Fisher v. Grove Farm Co., 123 Hawai'i 82, 94, 230 P.3d 382, 394 (App. 2009) (reviewing a motion to compel discovery) (citing State v. Fukusaku, 85 Hawai'i 462, 477-78, 946 P.2d 32, 47-48 (1997)). An abuse of discretion occurs if the trial court has "clearly exceeded the bounds of reason or disregarded rules or principles of law or practice to the ...


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