FLORENCIO E. DELA CRUZ, ANASTACIA A. DELA CRUZ, and JENNIFER M. RESPECIO, Petitioners/Plaintiffs-Appellants,
IRENE B. QUEMADO, MARVIN QUEMADO, JR., and BRYAN T. HIGA, Respondents/Defendants-Appellees.
TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-14-0000916; CIV.
P.H. Ahuna, Jr., and David K. Ahuna for petitioners
Johnaaron Murphy Jones for respondent Irene B. Quemado
RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON,
this case concerns civil claims arising from an armed
robbery, our decision focuses on the circuit court's
entry of default and subsequent decisions regarding the
afternoon of June 1, 2006, jewelry business owners Florencio
Dela Cruz and Anastacia Dela Cruz ("the Dela
Cruzes") were robbed at gunpoint by Marvin Quemado, Jr.
("Marvin"), and Bryan Higa ("Higa").
Marvin and Higa were indicted in federal court and pled
guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, and using
and carrying a firearm during and in relation to the robbery.
2008, the Dela Cruzes and their daughter, Jennifer Respecio
(together, "Petitioners"), filed a civil suit
against Irene Quemado ("Irene"), Marvin's
mother, alleging that Irene was negligent because she invited
the Dela Cruzes to her home and exposed her son Marvin to the
Dela Cruzes' valuable jewelry. Petitioners contended
that Irene's actions unreasonably increased the risk that
Marvin would rob the Dela Cruzes. Petitioners argued that,
based on Marvin's history of drug abuse and felony
convictions for possession and promotion of drugs,
Marvin's actions were foreseeable, and
thus, Irene had a duty to control
Marvin's conduct to prevent "foreseeable harm."
answered, and the case proceeded in litigation for a number
of years. However, after Irene and her attorney failed to
appear at a scheduled settlement conference in February 2013,
the Circuit Court of the First Circuit entered default
against Irene. Irene moved for reconsideration of the
entry of default and to set aside the entry of default, and
the circuit court denied both motions.
moved for entry of default judgment against Irene. Although
the circuit court had entered the default against Irene, and
denied her motion to set aside the entry of default, it
denied Petitioners' motion for entry of default judgment.
In the order denying Petitioners' motion to enter default
judgment against Irene, the circuit court also sua
sponte dismissed Petitioners' claims against Irene
with prejudice. Subsequently, the circuit court entered final
judgment against Petitioners as to their claims against
Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit
court's decision denying entry of default judgment, based
on the merits of Petitioners' negligence case. Dela
Cruz v. Quemado, 137 Hawai'i 36, 42, 364 P.3d 934,
940 (App. 2015).
their application for writ of certiorari, Petitioners
presented questions related to foreseeability and the
standard of evidence used by the ICA. We accepted certiorari
and requested supplemental briefing on whether the circuit
court: (1) abused its discretion in entering default against
Irene, (2) abused its discretion in not setting aside the
entry of default against Irene, and (3) erred in sua
sponte dismissing Petitioners' claims and then
entering judgment against Petitioners.
that the circuit court abused its discretion in entering
default against Irene and in failing to set aside the entry
of default. We further hold that the circuit court erred in
sua sponte dismissing Petitioners' claims with
prejudice and entering final judgment against them. As set
forth below, we therefore vacate and remand the case for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
30, 2008, Petitioners filed a complaint in circuit court
against Irene Quemado, Marvin Quemado, and Bryan
Higa. The following allegations are set
forth in the complaint:
Florencio and Anastacia Dela Cruz were the owners of Flor and
Annie Jewelry. On June 1, 2006, the Dela Cruzes went to Irene
Quemado's house at Irene's invitation, to exchange
jewelry. Irene invited her son Marvin to examine and try on
some of the jewelry. The complaint alleged that Marvin
"had a criminal history of using and promoting illegal
drugs, including felony convictions for possessing and
promoting drugs, and was on parole/probation for his felony
examined the jewelry and asked if he could try on a gold
necklace. Marvin took the necklace upstairs and was gone for
about twenty minutes before Irene went upstairs to check on
him. According to the complaint, while he was upstairs,
Marvin "conspired and devised a plan" with Higa to
rob the Dela Cruzes of their jewelry.
Dela Cruzes left Irene's house and arrived at their next
appointment at a nearby restaurant, where Higa robbed
Florencio at gunpoint. Marvin and Higa were later arrested
and indicted in federal court, where they pled guilty to
multiple charges related to the robbery.
contended that Irene was negligent in exposing Marvin to the
jewelry because it unreasonably increased their risk of harm.
They asserted that Irene knew "or should have
known" about Marvin's drug use, and that Marvin
"had a gun and associated with violent criminals, such
as [Bryan] Higa." Thus, they contended that Irene should
be held liable because Marvin's actions were
"foreseeable" given his prior history of drug use
and felony convictions for possession and promotion of drugs.
filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state
a claim. She argued that the complaint failed to allege that
she engaged in any of the criminal actions of the other
defendants. She asserted that she did not know of or engage
in any misconduct, and that her son, Marvin, was over
eighteen years of age at the time of the robbery.
circuit court denied Irene's motion to dismiss in
December 2009. Throughout 2010 and 2011, the parties
corresponded regarding the applicability of Irene's
insurance policy to the case. Petitioners moved for and were
granted six continuances to file their pretrial statement.
Petitioners filed a pretrial statement in December of 2011,
and Irene filed her pretrial statement on January 18, 2012.
Irene argued, inter alia, that she had no duty to
Petitioners, that she did not breach any duty, that she did
not cause Petitioners' injury, and that she was "not
liable for the unforeseeable acts of third parties."
Entry of Default
February 17, 2012, Petitioners filed a request and notice for
a trial setting status conference. The trial setting status
conference was scheduled for March 15, 2012. A March 14,
2012, minute order provides that "off-by agreement,
trial setting status conference continued to: 4/10/11,
8:30 am. Mr. Jones informed to file an amended
notice." The record reflects that Johnaaron M.
Jones, Irene's attorney, did not file the amended notice.
Jones did not attend the trial setting status conference on
April 10, 2012. The court set the dates for a settlement
conference, a trial readiness conference, trial, and motion
in limine deadlines. The scheduled dates were included in the
court minutes, and the court issued a trial setting status
conference order setting forth the following dates: the
settlement conference on February 13, 2013, the trial
readiness conference on March 13, 2013, and trial the week of
April 8, 2013.
and Jones failed to appear at the scheduled settlement
conference on February 13, 2013. As a sanction for her
failure to appear, the circuit court entered an order of
entry of default against Irene, citing Rules of the Circuit
Courts of the State of Hawai'i (RCCH) Rule
12.1(a)(6). The February 13, 2013 court minutes
The court took judicial notice of the records and files and
history of this case and noted the nonappearance of Mr. Jones
on the Trial Setting Status Conference of 4/12/12 where a
copy of the TSSC order was mailed to him.
. . .
The court also noted the last appearance by Mr. Jones was the
1/18/12 filing of Defendant's pretrial statement.
Court held colloquy with [Petitioners' counsel] re:
contacts with Mr. Jones.
The court further noted no withdrawal was filed by Mr. Jones.
Court finds sanctions under 12.1(6) is appropriate and will
hold defendant in default . . .
circuit court also based its order on its finding that Irene
and her attorney had "failed to discuss or attempt to
negotiate a settlement prior to the conference, failed to
have a person authorized to settle the case present at the
conference, and failed to deliver a confidential settlement
letter to the Judge" prior to the conference. In its
order of entry of default, filed March 6, 2013, the circuit
court stated that it found no good cause for Jones's
"series of failures and neglect." In addition to