First Hawaiian Bank v. Weeks, 12256

Decision Date19 April 1989
Docket NumberNo. 12256,12256
Citation772 P.2d 1187,70 Haw. 392
PartiesFIRST HAWAIIAN BANK, William J. Paris, Jr., and Margaret Anne Schattauer, Trustees of the William J. Paris, Sr. Trust, and First Hawaiian Bank, Trustee of the Agnes Paris Smith, et al. Trust, Plaintiffs, Counter-Defendants-Appellees, v. Helen WEEKS, one of the Heirs of Charles Davis, and the Heirs of Charles Davis (Charles Davis being the father of Tamar Kamala Akana who left issue), et al., Defendants, Counter-Claimants, Cross-Claimants-Appellants, v. Margaret Anne SCHATTAUER, Cross-Defendant, Third-Party Defendant-Appellee, and Jane Roberta Pratt Bray, et al., Defendants, Cross-Defendants.
CourtHawaii Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. A motion for summary judgment challenges the very existence or legal sufficiency of the claim or defense to which it is addressed. In effect, the moving party takes the position that he is entitled to prevail because his opponent has no valid claim for relief or defense to the action, as the case may be. He thus has the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact relative to the claim or defense and he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

2. One moving for summary judgment may discharge his burden by demonstrating that if the case went to trial there would be no competent evidence to support a judgment for his opponent. For if no evidence could be mustered to sustain the nonmoving party's position, a trial would be useless.

3. A "collateral attack" is an attempt to impeach a judgment or decree in a proceeding not instituted for the express purpose of annulling, correcting, or modifying such judgment or decree. As a general rule, a collateral attack may not be made upon a judgment or decree rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction. If the question is one of error or irregularity and not of jurisdiction, it cannot be raised on collateral attack.

Michael J. Matsukawa (Case & Lynch, of counsel), Kailua-Kona, for appellants Weeks and designated Heirs of Davis.

Shelby Anne Floyd (Paul Alston with her on the brief, Paul, Johnson, Alston & Hunt, of counsel), Honolulu, for appellee Schattauer.

Donald E. Scearce (Cades, Schutte, Fleming & Wright, of counsel), Honolulu, for plaintiffs, counterclaim defendants-appellees.

Before LUM, C.J., and NAKAMURA, PADGETT, HAYASHI and WAKATSUKI, JJ.

NAKAMURA, Justice.

The First Hawaiian Bank, William J. Paris, Jr., and Margaret Anne Schattauer, who are the trustees of the William J. Paris, Sr. Trust, and First Hawaiian Bank, who is also the trustee of the Agnes Paris Smith, et al. Trust, brought an action in the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit to establish and confirm their title in fee simple to portions of the lands described in and covered by Royal Patent Grant Numbers (Grant Nos.) 1574 and 1598. The plaintiffs named as defendants Charles Davis, or his heirs, Jane Roberta Pratt Bray, and the owners and occupants of adjoining lands. Helen Weeks and twenty-eight others, who claim to be descendants and heirs of Charles Davis, appeal from the order awarding the plaintiffs summary judgment on the counterclaim filed by said heirs of Charles Davis and from the order awarding Margaret Anne Schattauer summary judgment on their cross-claim seeking to establish title to adjoining lands described in and covered by Grant No. 1652. A review of the record revealing no error, we affirm the summary judgments.

I.
A.

The lands covered by Grant Nos. 1574, 1598, and 1652 are contiguous parcels situated in North Kona, Hawaii, which were once owned by William Johnson. Grant No. 1574 lies in the ahupuaa of Maihi, while Grant Nos. 1598 and 1652 lie in the ahupuaas of Kuamoo and Kawainui. Johnson's will, which was drawn in 1862 and admitted to probate in 1863, devised his real property to his widow, his children, and Charles Davis, his brother-in-law. The devises were confirmed by deeds of distribution issued by the executors of the will in 1876. The devise to Davis was described as "a certain piece of land ... viz--the makai half of that portion of land called Maihi and Kuamoo, which lies below the main road and mauka wall of the pasture[,]" and the executors' deed repeated the description.

Davis died in 1880; there is no record of a probate of his estate, nor is there a record of any conveyance during his lifetime of the property distributed to him by Johnson's executors. But in 1898, Tamar Akana, Davis' daughter and sole heir, conveyed to Caroline Robinson

all of [her] right, title and interest in that certain piece of land, situated in North Kona, Island of Hawaii, being a part of the ahupuaa of Mahi [sic] and conveyed to [her] father Charles Davis by deed from Rev. J.D. Paris and Mrs. Eliza Roy, Executors under the will of William Johnson.

The plaintiffs traced their title in and to the makai half of Grant No. 1574 to Caroline Robinson; the defendants claiming to be the heirs of Charles Davis traced their title thereto to Tamar Akana. The plaintiffs traced their title in and to Grant No. 1598 to Johnson's widow and children, to whom the whole of Grant No. 1598 had been distributed. In their counterclaim, however, the defendants alleged that Johnson devised to Davis the makai half of Grant No. 1574, which lies in Maihi, and the makai half of Grant No. 1598, which lies in Kuamoo and Kawainui. They challenged the distribution of the makai half of Grant No. 1598 to the widow and children on the ground that it was contrary to the devise. They further asserted Tamar Akana's deed to Caroline Robinson actually was a mortgage, not a conveyance. Thus, they prayed for a judgment establishing their title to the makai halves of Grant Nos. 1574 and 1598.

The Davis descendants also laid claim to other lands in their cross-claim against Margaret Schattauer and others. The cross-claim, subsequently denominated a third-party complaint by stipulation, averred the devise to Davis was not limited to Grant Nos. 1574 and 1598; it claimed the devise included all or a portion of Grant No. 1652 as well. 1 This claim, too, was premised on the devise to Davis of "the makai half of that portion of land called Maihi and Kuamoo," since Grant No. 1652 lies partly in Kuamoo.

Schattauer, who has an interest in Grant No. 1652, responded to the cross-claim. She traced her title to Mary Johnson, to whom the whole of Grant No. 1652 had been distributed by the executors. She further claimed that she and her predecessors in interest had been in actual, open, hostile, notorious, continuous, and exclusive possession of the lands for more than the time needed to acquire title through adverse possession.

B.

When the issues were joined, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment against the Davis heirs, arguing they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Tamar Akana's 1898 deed conveyed to Caroline Robinson "all of the land" devised by William Johnson to Charles Davis. A conveyance of all of the land in Grant No. 1574 to Robinson, they maintained, was "in harmony with the construction placed upon that deed by the parties to it and their successors." And they argued the claim of the deed being a mortgage should be laid to rest because "an action to redeem [a] mortgage [was] barred by the statute of limitations and by laches."

Schattauer moved for summary judgment on the part of the cross-claim asserting that cross-claimants are the rightful owners of the portion of Grant No. 1652 lying in the ahupuaa of Kawainui. She argued the Davis heirs had no interest therein since the devise to Davis was of lands in Maihi and Kuamoo. "[W]hatever land it is that the Heirs of Charles Davis may be entitled to, if any," she stated, "lies solely within the ahupuaas of Maihi and Kuamoo."

The Davis heirs countered with the proposition that summary judgments are inappropriate where there are issues to be resolved. "The Executors' deeds which purport[ed] to distribute William Johnson's estate," they said, were "invalid and void." "Johnson's reference to 'Maihi' and 'Kuamoo,' " in their view, was "not uncertain. It [was] a clear reference to the contiguous tract of land [owned by him] below the main road consisting of Grants 1182, 1574, 1598, and 1652." And they asserted the 1898 deed, though cast in the form of a deed, "was a security device or mortgage."

The circuit court, however, found the argument unconvincing and awarded the plaintiffs judgment on the counterclaim and Margaret Schattauer judgment on that part of the cross-claim seeking to establish title to Grant No. 1652. The summary judgments were certified thereafter as appealable judgments pursuant to Hawaii Rules of Civil Procedure (HRCP) 54(b).

II.

We begin our review of the judgments by examining the pertinent procedural rule, HRCP 56. Thereunder, "[a] party against whom a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim is asserted ... may, at any time, move with or without supporting affidavits for a summary judgment in his favor as to all or any part thereof." HRCP 56(b). "The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith [by the court hearing the motion] if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits [submitted by the opposing parties], if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." HRCP 56(c). And "the standard to be [applied] by [the] appellate court in reviewing [the award of] summary judgment is identical to that applicable to the trial court's consideration of the motion. Silver v. George, 64 Haw. 503, 644 P.2d 955 (1982)." Munoz v. Yuen, 66 Haw. 603, 605, 670 P.2d 825, 827 (1983).

A summary judgment motion "challenges the very existence or legal sufficiency of the claim or defense to which it is addressed. In effect the moving party takes the position that he is entitled to prevail ... because his opponent has no valid claim for relief or defense to the...

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