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Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii commercial litigation’

Philip R. Brown Named One of Hawaii’s Best Lawyers in Honolulu Magazine

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Philip R. Brown of the Law Offices of Philip R. Brown has once again been named to Honolulu Magazine’s Annual Best Lawyers in Hawaii.  This is the Fourth consecutive year that Mr. Brown has been listed among Hawaii’s best lawyers in Honolulu Magazine.

Phil (web sized)

Philip Brown is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America, and has the highest ethical/legal rating (AV) from Martindale Hubbell. Mr. Brown is also listed by the National Trial Lawyers Association in the Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Mr. Brown is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers under Civil Trial Practice, Commercial Litigation, and Personal Injury.  Mr. Brown  is also a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America (LCA).  Membership is limited to 3,500 lawyers nationally, and Mr. Brown was one of only 14 fellows from Hawaii.  The composition of the LCA is aggressively diverse, with recognition of excellence among American litigation and trial counsel across all segments of the bar. The LCA is an invitation-only trial lawyer honorary society composed of less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers.  Fellowship in the LCA is highly selective and fellows are selected after being evaluated on effectiveness and accomplishment in litigation and trial work, both at the trial and appellate levels, and superior ethical reputation.

Read more about the Litigation Counsel of America at http://www.litcounsel.org/litcounsel/about_overview.htm

Effie (web sized)

This was another banner year for the Law Offices of Philip R. Brown.  In addition to Mr. Brown’s personal accolades, the law firm itself was listed among Hawaii’s Best Law Firms in the US News & World Report.  Moreover, Senior Associate Effie Steiger continued her rise in the Hawaii legal community.  Ms. Steiger was recognized by SuperLawyers as one of the Rising Stars in Hawaii bar and was once again ranked by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 40 under 40 attorneys in Hawaii.

The Law Offices of Philip R. Brown is a boutique litigation law firm that has represented Plaintiffs and Defendants in Commercial Litigation, Real Estate Litigation and Personal Injury cases since 1997.

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Hawaii Attorney Effie Steiger Selected As A Rising Star by Super Lawyers

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Effie Steiger, of the Law Offices of Philip R. Brown, has been selected for the 2014 Hawaii Super Lawyers Rising Stars list.  Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in each state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.  This is the second prestigious honor received by Ms. Steiger.  The National Trial Lawyers Association also selected Ms. Steiger for its “Top 40 under 40” trial lawyers in Hawaii.

Steiger Photo

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.  The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area.  The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country.  Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law.  For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Effie Steiger is a litigation attorney who focuses on commercial litigation and personal injury cases.

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Honolulu Magazine Lists Philip R. Brown Among the Best Lawyers in Hawaii

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Philip R. Brown was once again listed in Honolulu Magazine’s annual issue of The Best Lawyers in Hawaii.

Philip Brown is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America.  Mr. Brown also has the highest ethical/legal rating (AV) from Martindale Hubbell.  Mr. Brown is also listed by the National Trial Lawyers Association in the Top 100 Trial Lawyers.  Mr. Brown is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers under Civil Trial Practice, Commercial Litigation, and Personal Injury.  This is the third consecutive year that Mr. Brown has been recognized in Honolulu Magazine as one of the Best Lawyers in Hawaii.

This was also a banner year for firm attorney Effie Steiger.  In 2012, the National Trial Lawyers recognized Effie Steiger as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” trial lawyers in Hawaii.

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Hawaii Attorney Effie Steiger Named “Top 40 Under 40″

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The National Trial Lawyers Association has selected Hawaii attorney, Effie Steiger, of the Law Offices of Philip R. Brown, for inclusion in “Top 40 under 40” trial lawyers in Hawaii.

The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 is a professional organization comprised of America’s top young trial lawyers.  According to the National Trial Lawyers Association, “Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.  The result is a credible, comprehensive and impressive list of young attorneys chosen to represent their state.  Those lawyers selected have excelled in the court room, possess superior qualifications, and have displayed leadership as young trial lawyers.”

Ms. Steiger, a graduate of UNLV Law School, focuses on commercial litigation and personal injury matters.  Since her admission as a Hawaii attorney in 2007, Ms. Steiger has been involved in several trials, arbitrations and mediations.  Ms. Steiger was also recently sworn in as an arbitrator in the Hawaii Court Annexed Arbitration Program.

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Recovery of Hawaii Attorneys Fees (Part 2)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As we wrote in our previous post regarding HRS § 607-14, “[t]he Hawaii Supreme court has defined an “assumpsit” case as a claim “for the recovery of damages for the non performance of a contract . . . as well as quasi contractual obligations.”  Schulz v. Honsador, Inc., 67 Haw. 433 (1984).

Since then, the Hawaii Supreme Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals have elaborated on the types of “quasi contractual obligations” that constitute a claim in the nature of assumpsit that will result in an award of attorneys fees.  Specifically, the Courts have also clarified that a claim for “unjust enrichment” may also be an “action in the nature of assumpsit.”  In Hawaii, “[a] claim for unjust enrichment requires only that a plaintiff prove that he or she ‘confer[red] a benefit upon’ the opposing party and that the ‘retention [of that benefit] would be unjust.” Wagner v. World Botanical Gardens, Inc., 2011 WL 6811263, *11 (Hawai‘i App. 2011) (citations omitted).

In Porter v. Hu, 116 Hawai’i 42 (Hawai‘i App. 2007), a number if insurance agents sued their employer for unjust enrichment.  The agents were fired by the insurance company, but the employer kept the agents’ insurance commissions.  The Agents successfully sued to recover their commissions based on unjust enrichment and were awarded attorneys’ fees based on HRS § 607-14.  The Intermediate Court of Appeals determined that the Plaintiffs’ claim for unjust enrichment was in the nature of assumpsit because the agents and their employer had a “promise implied by law, which arises to prevent one man from being inequitably enriched at another’s expense.”  It thus affirmed the circuit court’s award of attorneys fees under HRS § 607-14.

In contrast, in First Hawaiian Bank v. Lau, 116 Hawai’i 71, 169 (Hawai‘i 2007), the Hawaii Supreme Court determined that the plaintiff’s successful claim for unjust enrichment was not in the nature of assumpsit and denied attorneys fees.  In Lau, the defendant requested a transfer from her elderly mother’s account into a bank account that she jointly held with her mother.  First Hawaiian Bank mistakenly transferred money from the wrong account into the defendant’s bank account.  The defendant was unaware that the money transferred into her account was from the wrong account and used the money.  Plaintiff First Hawaiian Bank successfully sued to recover the money transferred under an unjust enrichment theory.  Nevertheless, First Hawaiian Bank was denied attorneys fees.  In affirming the denial, the Hawaii Supreme Court stated that even though the defendant was unjustly enriched, this did not “give rise to a contract claim and FHB did not prove that any type of contract or agreement existed between the parties to create an obligation between them.”

In their recent rulings the Hawaii Supreme Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals have clarified that while unjust enrichment can be a “quasi contractual obligation,” there must still exist some agreement “between the parties to create an obligation between them” in order for the claim to be “in the nature of assumpsit.”

Recently, the collection of attorneys fees in arbitrations has been clarified by the Intermediate Court of Appeals in Kona Village Realty, Inc. v. Sunstone Realty Partners, XIV, LLC, 121 Hawai’i 110, 214 P.3d 1100 (Hawai‘i App. 2009).  This will be the subject of our next blog.

 

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Recovery of Hawaii Attorneys Fees (Part 1)

Friday, February 24th, 2012

This is an updated version of a blog first published on September 19, 2006

Under Hawaii law, in certain commercial cases, the prevailing party may recover some or all of its attorneys fees from the losing party. HRS § 607-14, states as follows:

§ 607-14 Attorneys’ fees in actions in the nature of assumpsit, etc. In all the courts, in all actions in the nature of assumpsit . . . there shall be taxed as attorneys’ fees, to be paid by the losing party and to be included in the sum for which execution may issue, a fee that the court determines to be reasonable . . . . The court shall then tax attorneys’ fees, which the court determines to be reasonable, to be paid by the losing party; provided that this amount shall not exceed twenty-five per cent of the judgment.

* * * *

The above fees provided for by this section shall be assessed on the amount of the judgment exclusive of costs and all attorneys’ fees obtained by the plaintiff, and upon the amount sued for if the defendant obtains judgment.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 607-14 (emphasis added).

There are certain key points regarding this statute about which each client should be made aware, including the following:

1. Plaintiff’s recovery of attorneys fees is capped at twenty five percent (25%) of the judgment awarded. Thus, for example, if the plaintiff is awarded a judgment of $100,000, the plaintiff’s recovery is capped at 25% of $100,000 or $25,000.

2. The defendant’s recovery is capped at 25% of the damages unsuccessfully sought by plaintiff. Thus, for example, if the plaintiff seeks $100,000, the defendant’s potential award is capped at $25,000.

3. If the plaintiff doesn’t specify the amount that he is seeking and it is impossible for the Court to determine the damages sought by the plaintiff, the prevailing defendant may be awarded all of its reasonable attorneys fees. Thus, the plaintiff is highly encouraged to specify early in the case the damages that plaintiff is seeking to ensure that if the plaintiff is unsuccessful, the attorneys fees award is capped.

4. The Hawaii Supreme Court has held that the attorneys fees award under HRS § 607-14 is not discretionary. The Court must award attorneys fees to the prevailing party.

5. The statute only applies to cases concerning “assumpsit” damages. The Hawaii Supreme court has defined an “assumpsit” case as a claim “for the recovery of damages for the non performance of a contract . . . as well as quasi contractual obligations.” Schulz v. Honsador, Inc. 67 Haw. 433 (1984). Although this law only applies to matters of “assumpsit,” it has been applied to various types of litigation including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and legal malpractice so long as they concern (i) an attempt to recover damages and (ii) a contractual arrangement.

Unfortunately, Hawaii does not have a similar attorneys fee provision in personal injury cases. Moreover, although HRS § 607-14 is not the only Hawaii law that allows for the recovery of attorneys fees. Therefore, when analyzing a case, a Hawaii attorney should also explore other theories that may allow the recovery of attorneys fees. Those theories will be discussed in subsequent entries of this blog.

In part two of this blog, we will discuss recent decisions by the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals and the Hawaii Supreme Court which have clarified when HRS § 607-14 applies to quasi contractual obligations.

Part three of this blog will address the case of Kona Village Realty, Inc. v. Sunstone Realty Partners, XIV, LLC, 121 Hawai’i 110, 214 P.3d 1100 (Hawai‘i App. 2009), in which the Intermediate Court of Appeals clarified the collections of attorneys fees in arbitrations, which was affirmed by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

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Hawaii’s Best Law Firms

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers have released their 2011 – 2012 “Best Law Firms” rankings.  The Law Offices of Philip R. Brown was ranked among the best law firms in the state of Hawaii in the following practice areas:

Commercial Litigation

Litigation – Eminent Domain and Condemnation

Litigation – Real Estate

Tier Two

For a discussion of the methodology of the U.S. News – Best Lawyers Law Firm Rankings click here .

Although attorney Philip R. Brown has received a number of individual honors [Click here], it is particularly gratifying for his law firm to be recognized among the best law firms in Hawaii.  Founded in 1997 as a boutique litigation firm, the Law Offices of Philip R. Brown represents plaintiffs and defendants in commercial litigation, real estate litigation, and select personal injury matters.

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Philip R. Brown Named Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Philip R. Brown of the Law Offices of Philip R. Brown has been named a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America (LCA).  Membership is limited to 3,500 lawyers nationally, and Mr. Brown is one of only 14 LCA Fellows from Hawaii.  The composition of the LCA is aggressively diverse, with recognition of excellence among American litigation and trial counsel across all segments of the bar.


The LCA is an invitation-only trial lawyer honorary society composed of less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers.  Fellowship in the LCA is highly selective and fellows are selected after being evaluated on effectiveness and accomplishment in litigation and trial work, both at the trial and appellate levels, and superior ethical reputation.

Read more about the Litigation Counsel of America at http://www.litcounsel.org/litcounsel/about_overview.htm

Philip Brown is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America under Commercial Litigation and Real Estate Litigation. Mr. Brown also has the highest ethical/legal rating (AV) from Martindale Hubbell. Mr. Brown is also listed by the National Trial Lawyers Association in the Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Mr. Brown is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers under Civil Trial Practice, Commercial Litigation, and Personal Injury. Mr. Brown has also been recognized in Honolulu Magazine as one of the Best Lawyers in Hawaii.

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Consumer Rights in Hawaii

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Consumers injured by deceptive marketing materials have recourse in the State of Hawaii.  We have previously written concerning the Hawaii Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  H.R.S. § 480-2      

H.R.S. § 480-2 is a powerful tool to protect consumers and investors from advertisers whose marketing materials have a “tendency to mislead.”  Under H.R.S. § 480-2, an injured “investor or consumer” may be awarded treble damages, costs, and attorney’s fees under H.R.S. § 480-13.  The Hawaii Supreme Court has upheld this statute in multiple opinions. 

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has also written an important opinion applying H.R.S. § 480-2 in the federal courts.  Yokoyama v. Midland Nat’l Life Insurance Co., 594 F.3d 1087 (9th Cir. 2010).  In Yokoyama, the Court affirmed that a person alleging a H.R.S. § 480-2 claim need not show that they were actually deceived.  Rather, the § 480-2 claimant need only establish that the advertising material in question had “the capacity to deceive.”  Yokoyama at 1093. 

The facts of Yokoyama illustrate the power of the Act.  In Yokoyama, the plaintiffs were a group of senior citizens living in Hawaii.  Yokoyama v. Midland Nat’l Life Insurance Co., 243 F.R.D. 400, 401 (D. Hawaii 2007).   Each purchased annuities sold by Midland National Life Insurance.  Id.  The plaintiffs did not purchase the annuities directly from Midland, but rather each plaintiff bought their annuities from an independent broker.  Id. at 403 The independent brokers were required to give a prospective purchaser a brochure created by Midland prior to selling the annuity.  Id.  Additionally, the independent brokers were allowed to “discuss, promote, or disparage” the annuities, as long as they were truthful.  Id.  The buyers claimed that the brochures provided by Midland, but given to them by the independent brokers, were deceptive.  Id.

The plaintiffs then brought a § 480-2 claim against Midland and asked the Court to certify their action as a class action.  Yokoyama, 243 F.R.D. at 405.  The District Court denied certification.  Id.  It reasoned that because each plaintiff was counseled by independent brokers, the individual plaintiffs would each have a different understanding of Midland’s brochure – some plaintiffs might not have even been deceived.  Id.  Thus, it determined that class certification would not properly serve the plaintiffs.  Id.

The Ninth Circuit disagreed.  On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined that the District Court erred when it, in essence, required the plaintiffs to show that Midland’s brochure actually deceived them in order to state an H.R.S. § 480-2 claim.  Yokoyama v. Midland Nat’l Life Insurance Co., 594 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir. 2010).  Relying on Hawaii authority, the Ninth Circuit determined that a H.R.S. § 480-2 claim does not require that the plaintiff to actually be deceived.  Id.  The question is whether the brochure had “the capacity to deceive.”  Id.  The Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision and remanded for further proceedings.  Id. at 1093.

The Yokoyama case is a strong affirmation of Hawaii law and the Hawaii courts’ interpretation of H.R.S. § 480-2.  Both the Federal and State courts are clear.  A plaintiff does not need to demonstrate that they were actually deceived in order to sustain an H.R.S. § 480-2 claim – only that the marketing materials in question have the “capacity to deceive.”

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