WAILUKU - A Maui jury's decision last year to award damages of nearly $4 million to a Molokai couple embroiled in a dispute with their condo association has been set aside by 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo, and a new trial date has been set for October.
Jim and Nancy Bevill had sued the condo association, resident manager, a handyman and members of the board of directors for the Ke Nani Kai Condominium in Maunaloa, claiming that they were subjected to years of threats, harassment and intimidation.
Following an eight-week trial before Loo last year, a Maui jury in March had supported all 11 of the Bevills' claims, including negligence, conspiracy, infliction of emotional distress and violations of Hawaii's condominium laws.
The verdict included $500,000 in general damages and more than $3 million in punitive damages to be paid by the board of directors and condo association.
The Bevills' Honolulu attorney, Terry Revere, said at the time that it appeared to be the largest monetary judgment of its kind in the nation.
In November, Loo granted motions by attorneys for the defendants to set aside the verdict. On Tuesday, the judge set a new trial date for Oct. 7.
Honolulu attorney Mark Bennett, representing the condo association and board of directors, argued in the motions that the jury verdict was defective for four main reasons:
* No judgment can be entered because no verdict was returned as to individual plaintiffs. (The lawsuit listed the Bevills and the Bevill Family Trust as plaintiffs.)
"There is, quite simply, no judgment that can be entered because the jury never made any findings as to particular individual plaintiffs, and never found that any individual plaintiff prevailed on any individual count," Bennett wrote in the motion.
* The court should strike all findings and damages awarded against the board of directors for the Association of Apartment Owners at Ke Nani Kai because the board was never named as a defendant.
And, the board is not a legally identifiable entity that can be sued.
"Regardless of whether the board could have been sued, it was not," the motion said.
* The court should award no damages and enter no judgment for the "nonexistent tort of 'civil conspiracy.'"
* The court's failure to instruct the jury correctly on comparative negligence was contrary to law.
"Hawaii Revised Statutes 663-31 absolutely requires the court to instruct the jury on comparative negligence and reduce the verdict by the percentage of fault attributable to each plaintiff," the motion said.
That portion of the law says, in part, that "any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage or death recovery is made."
The motion also noted that there is a "tremendous risk" that the verdict resulted in multiple awards for the same damages.
It's possible the parties could reach a settlement agreement before the case goes to trial again.
Revere, attorney for the Bevills, did not return calls seeking comment.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.