HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state judge has ordered developer Haseko to pay homeowners $20 million, in one of the largest consumer protection awards in Hawaii.
In 2013, buyers at the Ocean Pointe and Hoakalei projects sued Haseko, alleging the company reneged on promises to build a marina at the Ewa Beach project.
"I think this ruling sends a clear message not to play bait and switch with homeowners and to treat them fairly, openly and justly," said state Rep. Matt LoPresti, one of the 1,800 owners who sued Haseko.
Haseko plans to appeal. It argued that a recreational lagoon could be built faster than a marina and provides more benefit to homeowners.
"We still believe it was the right decision to change development plans from a marina to a recreational lagoon," said Tom Sagawa, Haseko's president.
But in her ruling, Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone found that Haseko saved $20 million by building the lagoon instead of the promised marina and concluded that homeowners were entitled to that money, which is equivalent to about $11,000 per homeowner.
"That has to do with unfair and deceptive. Haseko is deceptive, they're unfair. They got what they deserved," said Michael Green, one of the attorneys for the homeowners.
Lawyer Terry Revere, who also represented home buyers, said the judge found damning emails sent by Haseko's consultants like Paul Brewbaker, who called buyers "dumb-ass(es)" and referred to City Councilmember Kymberly Pine's Leeward Oahu constituents as "overweight" and "diabetic."
"They would talk about what they would say to public officials. They would say well the marina is still a possibility," said Revere.
"(But) they and their consultants were laughing about it saying (in emails) that there ... 'ain't going to be no marina' ... 'You be dreaming,' things like that."
Nakasone's ruling came after a jury ruled in September 2015 that homeowners were entitled to about $22 million in damages because Haseko committed unfair and deceptive trade practices.
But Circuit Judge Gary Chang later set aside that verdict on technical grounds. The case was then reassigned to Nakasone.