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Iolani Islander, LLC v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

February 28, 2018

IOLANI ISLANDER, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES

          RICHARD L. PUGLISI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES[1]

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion For Award of Attorneys' Fees, filed on December 22, 2017 (“Motion”). ECF No. 60. Defendant requests an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 607-14. Plaintiff filed its Opposition on January 19, 2018. ECF No. 63. Defendant filed its Reply on February 2, 2018. ECF No. 64. The Court found this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d). ECF No. 61. After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties and the relevant legal authority, the Court FINDS AND RECOMMENDS that Defendant's Motion be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendant. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant wrongfully withheld in escrow $200, 000 that was deposited in connection with a real estate auction run by Concierge Auctions LLC (“Concierge”). Id.

         Defendant acted as the escrow agent for the auction of property in Idaho. ECF No. 45-11. To participate in the auction, a prospective bidder had to submit a Bidder Registration form and wire to Defendant a $500, 000 deposit prior to September 15, 2015. ECF No. 41 ¶ 8. On August 21, 2015, Brian Anderson wired from Plaintiff's bank account a partial deposit of $200, 000 to Defendant. Id. ¶ 1. Mr. Anderson generally had authority to wire money from Plaintiff's accounts. ECF No. 45 ¶ 3. Neither Plaintiff nor Mr. Anderson executed a Bidder Registration form or Escrow Agreement. ECF No. 41 ¶¶ 10, 15.

         On August 19, 2015, Rodger May signed a Bidder Registration form and Escrow Agreement. ECF No. 45-10; ECF No. 45-11. On August 24, 2015, Mr. May deposited $300, 000 to Defendant. ECF No. 41 ¶ 11; ECF No. 45 ¶ 15. Defendant categorized Plaintiff's $200, 000 deposit as satisfying the balance of Mr. May's $500, 000 deposit obligation for the auction. ECF No. 41 ¶ 24. Though Mr. May is not Plaintiff's agent, he had previously jointly bid with Mr. Anderson on other properties sold by Concierge. ECF No. 45 ¶ 1; ECF No. 41 ¶ 25. Concierge identified the winning bid of the property auction as “Rodger May/Brian Anderson/Iolani Islander.” ECF No. 54 ¶ 40. The Escrow Agreement Mr. May signed provided that if a successful bidder did not fulfill its obligations under the Agreement, the deposit would be released to Concierge. Id. ¶ 41. Mr. May did not execute a purchase agreement, and on October 1, 2015, Defendant informed Mr. May that it would be remitting the $500, 000 deposit to Concierge. Id. ¶¶ 42-43.

         In it Complaint Plaintiff asked for an order and judgment:

1. Declaring that Iolani Islander was never a bidder at the Auction as it never fulfilled the registration requirements to bid;
2. Declaring Iolani Islander has the immediate right to possess the $200, 000 Stewart Title now holds in escrow as no other party was authorized to use and/or keep Iolani islander's initial deposit;
3. Ordering that Stewart Title return the $200, 000 it received on August 21, 2015 from Iolani Islander.
4. Awarding Iolani Islander its attorneys' fees and costs as allowed by law; and
5. Granting such other and further relief as the Court may deem ...

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