United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ADON CONSTRUCTION INC., a Hawai‘i Corporation; GREEN VISION LLC, a Hawai‘i Limited Liability Company, Plaintiffs,
RENESOLA AMERICA INC.; KIVALU RAMANLAL; JOHN DOES 1-10; JANE DOES 1-10; DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-10; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10; DOE ENTITIES 1-10 and DOE GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. OTAKE, JUDGE
action arises out of Defendant Renesola America's
(“Defendant”) sale of allegedly defective solar
panels to Plaintiffs Adon Construction, Inc. and Green Vision
LLC. Plaintiffs assert Hawai‘i state law claims against
Defendant.Defendant moves for judgment on the
pleadings as to Counts I, III, V, VI, and X and moves for
summary judgment on all claims.
reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN
PART Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and
GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to all
are contractors who install photovoltaic (“PV”)
solar panels on residential and commercial properties in
Hawai‘i. Pl.'s Concise Statement of Facts
(“CSF”), Chen Declaration (“Decl.”)
¶¶ 1-2. Between 2013 and 2014, Plaintiffs purchased
PV panels from Defendant, a solar panel supplier, for $2,
588, 217.40. Compl. ¶ 17. A Framework Sales Contract was
drafted between the parties in 2014 and 2015, but it was
never signed. Id. ¶ 19. Purchase invoices-dated
April 17, 2013, and April 25, 2013-provide a warranty for
“10 years for product, 10 years for 90% power output
and 25 years for 80% power output.” Pl.'s CSF, Ex.
installed the solar panels on residential and commercial
properties. Compl. ¶ 3. In 2015, five of Plaintiffs'
customers initiated a civil suit (the “Commercial
Litigation”) against Plaintiffs for reasons that are in
dispute. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiffs entered into a
Settlement Agreement with the five commercial customers,
providing them a $501, 064.75 discount. Def.'s CSF ¶
11; Pl.'s CSF ¶ 10. Another customer, Ramanlal, also
filed suit against Plaintiffs resulting in a judgment against
Plaintiffs for damages and attorney's fees. Pl.'s
CSF, Ex. 6 at 5.
allege that in 2012, Defendant solicited Plaintiffs'
business and represented their products as “Tier
1” and free from defects, snail trails,  and micro-cracks.
Pl.'s CSF ¶ 2. Michael Chen, President of Adon
Construction Inc., stated that based on these “Tier 1
representations, ” Plaintiffs offered to purchase new
panels in 2012 and 2014. Pl.'s CSF, Chen Decl. ¶ 18.
allege that in January 2015, Plaintiffs' customers began
complaining about Defendant's solar panels because of
snail trails. Compl. ¶ 21. Plaintiffs also allege that
Ramanlal and the five commercial litigants brought suit
against Plaintiffs, in part, because of the snail trails
defect. Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiffs claim that they
continue to experience customer complaints and will continue
to accrue economic damages for the snail trails defect.
Id. ¶¶ 54-54.
and Defendant submitted expert reports regarding snail trails
and power degradation. Plaintiffs' expert Phil Atoigue
opined that micro-cracking, snail trails, and burnouts
“occur with manufacturer fault.” Pl.'s CSF
¶ 25. Defendant submitted evidence that micro-cracks can
be created during the installation process. Def.'s CSF
¶¶ 6-8. After inspecting the panels in July 2018,
Plaintiffs' expert Kevin Medeiros found a 20 to 60
percent decrease in performance “directly attributable
to the defects in the panels, microcracking, [sic] burnouts
and snail trails in about 90% of these Renesola
panels.” Pl.'s CSF, Medeiros Decl. ¶¶
6-7. Defendant, on the other hand, submitted evidence that
Plaintiffs were “not yet experiencing production
deficiencies” in 2015, one to two years after purchase
of the panels. Def.'s CSF, Ex. 20 at 1.
brought this lawsuit on September 15, 2016, in the Circuit
Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawai‘i. ECF No.
1. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant sold Plaintiffs PV
modules with snail trails that began to appear on the panels
within one year of receiving the modules. Compl. ¶¶
allege ten causes of action:
• Count I: fraudulent, intentional, reckless, or
• Count II: tortious fraud in the inducement;
• Count III: Unfair or Deceptive Acts and Practices, HRS
• Count IV: Deceptive Trade Practices, HRS § 481A;
• Count V: business defamation and disparagement;
• Count VI: unjust enrichment;
• Count VII: detrimental reliance;
• Count VIII: breach of contract;
• Count IX: breach of express warranty; and
• Count X: breach of duty to mitigate damages.
Id. ¶¶ 57-184. Plaintiffs also assert a
breach of duty to mitigate the claim against Ramanlal.
Id. ¶¶ 176-184. Plaintiffs allege they
have suffered $808, 677.55 in damages arising from the
customer lawsuits. Id. ¶ 70.
removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District
of Hawaii on October 20, 2016, on the grounds that Ramanlal
was fraudulently joined to prevent diversity jurisdiction.
ECF No. 1. The Court later denied Plaintiffs' motion to
remand, ECF No. 31, and granted Ramanlal's motion to
dismiss, ECF No. 40. On November 20, 2018, Defendant moved
for judgment on the pleadings as to Counts I, III, V, VI, and
X and moved for summary judgment on all counts. ECF No. 117;
ECF No. 121.
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
(“FRCP”) states, “After the pleadings are
closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move
for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The
standard governing the Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings is the same as that governing a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss. Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine,
Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989); see also
McGlinchy v. Shell Chemical Co., 845 F.2d 802, 810 (9th
Cir. 1988). Accordingly, “[a] judgment on the pleadings
is properly granted when, taking all allegations in the
pleading as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Enron Oil Trading & Transp.
Co. v. Walbrook Ins. Co., 132 F.3d 526, 528 (9th Cir.
1997) (citing McGann v. Ernst & Young, 102 F.3d
390, 392 (9th Cir. 1996)).
a motion to dismiss, a claim may survive a motion for
judgment on the pleadings if the complaint “contain[s]
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). Facial plausibility exists “when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although a court must
accept as true all allegations contained in the complaint,
this obligation does not extend to legal conclusions.
Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.'” Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the
pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at
679 (citing Fed. Sprewell, 266 F.3dR. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)) (some
alterations in original).
Rule 12(b)(6), review is ordinarily limited to the contents
of the complaint. Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448
(9th Cir. 2006); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors,
266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Campanelli v.
Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th Cir. 1996). The Court
treats a 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment if
it considers matters outside the pleadings. Anderson v.
Angelone, 86 F.3d 932, 934 (9th Cir. 1996).
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and of
identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery
responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless,
Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986));
T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors
Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 ...