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$10.7 million verdict in Kaua‘i construction dispute

LIHU‘E — A legal dispute over the construction of a Puhi Industrial Park warehouse ended with a nearly $11 million verdict last week.

A jury at the Fifth Circuit Court in Lihu‘e determined on April 26 that the Jared and Donna Murayama 1997 Trust committed a breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation in business dealings with Kalani Construction.

The issue began in 2013, when Jared Murayama hired Kalani Construction, headed by Randal Miyashiro, to build a 24,000-square-foot warehouse at 1556 Haleukana St. in Puhi. According to Lanson Kupau, an attorney representing Kalani Construction, the two firms had agreed to be partners in the arrangement, sharing profits on its completion.

“Kalani Construction, on behalf of the trust, built this massive warehouse under the pretense that they were going to go in and partner on the rents,” said Kupau.

The building was completed in 2017 and has been rented to Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. But as it was nearing its completion, Murayama removed Kalani Construction from the project and refused to share rental profits, Kupau said.

In 2019, Murayama initiated a lawsuit against Kalani Construction, alleging that they had sold some of the equipment that had been purchased by Murayama for the project. Kalani Construction responded with a counterclaim accusing Murayama of breaching their contract.

While Murayama’s initial claim was dismissed late last year, the counterclaim continued to make its way through the courts — with a jury trial beginning April 4, 2023.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe presided over the three-week trial, in which the defendants were represented by a team of attorneys from De Costa Hempey LLC, and the plaintiffs were represented by attorneys at the Harrison &Matsuoka law office.

Though the partnership agreement between Murayama and Kalani was not written into a formal contract, Kupau cited messages and emails sent by Murayama as evidence that there was in fact an informal contract.

The jury ordered that the trust pay $2.3 million for the partnership, $1.4 million for the breach of contract, and $7 million for unjust enrichment, a total of nearly $11 million.

“Eleven million dollars is a pretty big verdict,” said Kupau. “This has been an ordeal for (Miyashiro) and his family and they’re very grateful to the jury for their decision.”

Civil jury trials such as this one are extremely rare, with studies showing that as many as 97 percent of civil trials are decided in a settlement.


Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or
Source: The Garden Island

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