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Iolani Islander, LLC v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 6, 2018

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

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

          Alan C. Kay, Sr. United States District Judge

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the Findings and Recommendation to Deny Defendant's Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees, ECF No. 65, issued by Magistrate Richard L. Puglisi on February 28, 2018.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff Iolani Islander, LLC (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendant Stewart Title Guaranty Co. (“Defendant”). Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant wrongfully withheld in escrow $200, 000 that was deposited in connection with a real estate auction that Concierge Auctions LLC (“Concierge”) ran. Id.

         Defendant acted as the escrow agent for the auction of the Big Wood River Estate, a property in Idaho. ECF No. 45-11. In order to participate in the auction, prospective bidders were required to submit a Bidder Registration form and wire Defendant a $500, 000 deposit before September 15, 2015. ECF No. 41 ¶ 8.

         On August 21, 2015, Brian Anderson wired a partial deposit of $200, 000 from Plaintiff's bank account. 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 in their own name. ECF No. 41 ¶¶ 10, 15.

         Two days earlier, on August 19, 2015, Rodger May signed a Bidder Registration form and Escrow Agreement. ECF No. 45-10; ECF No. 45-11. He then deposited $300, 000 with Defendant on August 24, 2015. ECF No 41 ¶ 11; ECF No. 45 ¶ 15. Defendant characterized the $200, 000 Mr. Anderson deposited from Plaintiff's account as a deposit satisfying the remaining balance needed for Mr. May's $500, 000 deposit. ECF No. 41 ¶ 24. Mr. May is not Plaintiff's agent, however, he and Mr. Anderson had jointly bid on other properties Concierge sold in the past. ECF No. 45 ¶ 1; ECF No 41 ¶ 25.

         When the auction ended, Concierge identified the winning bidder of the Big Wood River Estate auction as “Rodger May/Brian Anderson/Iolani Islander.” ECF No 50 ¶ 40. Significantly, the Escrow Agreement Mr. May signed stated that a successful bidder's deposit would be released to Concierge if that bidder failed to fulfill its obligations under the agreement. Id. ¶ 41. Mr. May failed to execute a purchase agreement, and on October 1, 2015, Defendant informed Mr. May it would be remitting the $500, 000 deposit to Concierge. Id. ¶¶ 42-43 & Ex. R.

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed its Complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. ECF No. 1. Specifically, the Complaint 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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