Jou v. Adalian et al
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S "RENEWED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT/PARTIAL SUMMARY ADJUDICATION AND/OR AN FRCP 56(g) ORDER," ECF NO. 127 . Signed by CHIEF JUDGE J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT on 7/13/2017. (afc)CERTIFIC ATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic notifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Participants not registered to receive electronic notifications were served by first class mail on the date of this docket entry
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
EMERSON M.F. JOU, M.D.,
Civ. No. 15-00155 JMS-KJM
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S
“RENEWED MOTION FOR
AND/OR AN FRCP 56(g) ORDER,”
ECF NO. 127
GREGORY M. ADALIAN,
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S “RENEWED MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT/PARTIAL SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
AND/OR AN FRCP 56(g) ORDER,” ECF NO. 127
Plaintiff Emerson M.F. Jou (“Plaintiff” or “Jou”) moves for summary
judgment on his claim for Intentional Spoliation of Evidence (“Spoliation”) against
Defendant Gregory M. Adalian (“Defendant” or “Adalian”) as set forth in the
Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). He also seeks summary judgment as to
certain affirmative defenses raised in Defendant’s Answer.
Based on the following, because genuine issues of material fact exist,
Plaintiff’s Motion is DENIED.
The court need not reiterate the background of this long-running and
complex dispute; the background is set forth in detail in two of this court’s prior
Orders: (1) a February 5, 2015 Order in a related case, Jou v. Adalian, Civ. No.
09-00226 JMS-BMK (D. Haw.), that denied Plaintiff’s motion seeking an order to
arrest Defendant for repeated failures to pay an outstanding judgment, see Jou v.
Adalian, 2015 WL 477268 (D. Haw. Feb. 5, 2015) (“Jou I”); and (2) a September
1, 2016 “Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, with
Leave to Amend Count Three” (the “September 1, 2016 Order”) in this suit, see
Jou v. Adalian, 2016 WL 4582042 (D. Haw. Sept. 1, 2016) (“Jou II”).
Generally, two types of claims were at issue in Jou I and Jou II:
(1) those “with regard to the Notes” between Jou and Adalian, and (2) those
“arising out of the SCV Limited Partnership or its affairs.” Jou II, 2016 WL
4582042, at *2 n.3. The September 1, 2016 Order dismissed with prejudice, on res
judicata grounds, Plaintiff’s three claims in the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”)
that were “with regard to the Notes” -- those three claims sounding in settlement
fraud arising out of a July 6, 2010 settlement agreement were or could have been
litigated in the previous suit (Civ. No. 09-00226 JMS-BMK). See id. at *17. But
the September 1, 2016 Order also granted Plaintiff leave to amend his vague and
potentially time-barred claim for Spoliation -- a claim that could plausibly have
“arisen out of the SCV Limited Partnership or its affairs” (and thus not be barred
by res judicata). Id. at *20. That is, although the FAC alleged Spoliation in
general terms, the claim was unclear and time-barred as it was pled in the FAC. 1
Accordingly, on September 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed the SAC, which
asserts a single count for Spoliation, which contends (among other assertions) that
Plaintiff did not know Defendant had “spoliated SCV Records” until August 9,
2011 and September 7, 2011 (within a six-year limitations period and when
Defendant allegedly knew of a potential lawsuit regarding the SCV Limited
Partnership). SAC ¶ 9C, ECF No. 68. Specifically, the SAC alleges that
Defendant “intentionally destroyed, concealed, or otherwise spoliated evidence
designed to disrupt or defeat Plaintiff’s potential lawsuit,” id. ¶ 10, and that
Plaintiff only discovered such spoliation in August and September of 2011 during
Defendant’s bankruptcy proceedings in the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle
District of Pennsylvania. Id. ¶¶ 10B, 10C. Plaintiff also alleges in some detail that
“[t]here was a causal relationship between the acts of spoliation and the inability to
This suit was initially filed on April 29, 2015. See Compl., ECF No. 1.
prove the . . . claims in a lawsuit[,]” id. ¶ 17, and that he suffered damages as a
result of the alleged spoliation, id. ¶ 18.
On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed his “Renewed Motion for Summary
Judgment/Partial Summary Adjudication,” seeking:
“[S]ummary judgment in Plaintiff’s favor on the dispute of liability, and
partial summary judgment on a disputed item of damages, with the
remaining damages in dispute to be for the trier of fact”;
“FRCP 56(a) partial summary judgment in Plaintiff’s favor on some of
Defendant Gregory Adalian’s affirmative defense[s], including Fourth
(res judicata/collateral estoppel); Eighth (standing); Sixteenth (statutes
of limitations)”; and
• “[A]n FRCP 56(g) Order ‘stating any material fact -- including an item
of damages or other relief -- that is not genuinely in dispute and treating
the fact as established in the case.’”
Pl.’s Mot. at 2, ECF No. 127. Defendant filed his Opposition on June 2, 2017,
ECF No. 134, and Plaintiff filed his Reply on June 16, 2017, ECF No. 147.2 The
court decides the Motion under Local Rule 7.2(d) without an oral hearing.
In response to Plaintiff’s objections, Defendant and his counsel filed supplemental
Declarations to correct possible or perceived defects under 28 U.S.C. § 1746, making clear that
(continued . . .)
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is proper where there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(a). Rule 56(a) mandates summary judgment “against a party who
fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to the party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); see also Broussard v. Univ. of
Cal. at Berkeley, 192 F.3d 1252, 1258 (9th Cir. 1999).
“A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of
the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.” Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th
Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323); see also Jespersen v. Harrah’s
Operating Co., 392 F.3d 1076, 1079 (9th Cir. 2004). “When the moving party has
(. . . continued)
their assertions were true and correct under penalty of perjury. See ECF Nos. 146, 160. Given
these supplemental Declarations, the corresponding Declarations at ECF Nos. 132-1, 134-1, and
134-3 are sufficient to comply with § 1746. See, e.g., Commodity Futures Trading Comm’n v.
Topworth Int’l, Ltd., 205 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir. 1999) (“§ 1746 requires only that the
declaration ‘substantially’ comply with the statute’s suggested language[.]”); Schroeder v.
McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 n.10 (9th Cir. 1995) (allowing, under § 1746, a verification under
penalty of perjury that stated “the facts stated in the . . . complaint [are] true and correct as
known to me”); Cobell v. Norton, 391 F.3d 251, 260 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (“A declaration or
certification that includes the disclaimer ‘to the best of the declarant’s knowledge, information or
belief’ is sufficient under [§ 1746].”) (square brackets omitted).
carried its burden under Rule 56[(a)] its opponent must do more than simply show
that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts [and] come forward
with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted).
“An issue is ‘genuine’ only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on
which a reasonable fact finder could find for the nonmoving party, and a dispute is
‘material’ only if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
In re Barboza, 545 F.3d 702, 707 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). When considering the evidence on a
motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Friedman v. Live Nation Merch.,
Inc., 833 F.3d 1180, 1184 (9th Cir. 2016).
Intentional Spoliation of Evidence
As explained in the September 1, 2016 Order, it is unclear whether a
cause of action for Spoliation exists under Hawaii law. No Hawaii case has
adopted the tort, and Matsuura v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 102 Haw. 149,
73 P.3d 687 (2003), explicitly found it unnecessary to decide whether such a tort
exists in Hawaii common law. Id. at 168, 73 P.3d at 706. Matsuura, however,
recognized the following elements of such a tort in other jurisdictions, and
explained why those elements would not be met under the facts of that case:
The few jurisdictions that recognize a cause of action for
intentional spoliation (as opposed to negligent spoliation) of
evidence require a showing of the following elements: (1) the
existence of a potential lawsuit; (2) the defendant’s knowledge
of the potential lawsuit; (3) the intentional destruction of
evidence designed to disrupt or defeat the potential lawsuit;
(4) disruption of the potential lawsuit; (5) a causal relationship
between the act of spoliation and the inability to prove the
lawsuit; and (6) damages.
Id. at 166, 73 P.3d at 704 (citations omitted). Essentially, Matsuura assumed
Spoliation’s basic elements from “the few jurisdictions that recognize” the tort, but
found no reason to adopt the cause of action because the plaintiffs would
necessarily have failed to prove such a claim.
Likewise, at least at this stage, this court can address Plaintiff’s
Motion and analyze whether questions of fact exist by assuming the basic elements
of the tort as recognized in other jurisdictions (but without explicitly predicting
whether the Hawaii Supreme Court would recognize the tort). Further, for
purposes of this Motion only, the court can assume -- as Plaintiff argues -- that
evidence need not actually be physically destroyed to constitute “spoliation.” See,
e.g., Elliott-Thomas v. Smith, ___ N.E.3d ___, 2017 WL 758481, at *5 (Ohio Ct.
App. Feb. 27, 2017) (“[T]he [element]‘willful destruction of evidence by defendant
designed to disrupt the plaintiff’s case’ includes one’s willful act of rendering
evidence useless, such as hiding evidence.”).
With those assumptions, the court easily concludes that Plaintiff is not
entitled to summary judgment in his favor on his Spoliation claim. Notably,
Defendant is not moving for summary judgment on a claim against him; rather,
Plaintiff is moving for summary judgment on his affirmative claim -- a claim on
which he would have the burden of proof at trial.
“When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the
burden of proof at trial, ‘it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it
to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.’” C.A.R. Transp.
Brokerage Co., Inc. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000)
(quoting Houghton v. South, 965 F.2d 1532, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992)). In this
instance, then, Plaintiff “must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential
elements of the claim . . . to warrant judgment in his favor.” Fontenot v. Upjohn
Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). Put another way, “his showing must be
sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than
for the moving party.” Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir.
1986) (quoting W. Schwarzer, Summary Judgment Under the Federal Rules:
Defining Genuine Issues of Material Fact, 99 F.R.D. 465, 488 (1984)).
Plaintiff has not met this burden -- questions of material fact exist on
almost every element of a Spoliation claim, as those elements are discussed in
• What was Defendant’s “knowledge of a potential lawsuit” regarding the
SCV Limited Partnership when potential evidence was “spoliated”?
• Did Defendant actually intentionally destroy or conceal evidence?
• Was such destruction or concealment “designed to disrupt or defeat” such
a potential lawsuit?
• Was there actual “disruption” of the potential lawsuit?
• Was there a “causal relationship” between the act of spoliation and
Plaintiff’s inability to prove the lawsuit?
In particular, in Defendant’s Declarations of June 1, 2017, ECF No.
134-1, and (to a lesser extent) of May 23, 2017, ECF No. 132-1, Defendant
specifically and repeatedly denies the essential elements of Spoliation, and
explains in detail the context of each of his statements. For example, Defendant
declares that “at all times, all accounting records and other financial records for
SCV were prepared and maintained by Joel Criz and were not in my possession.”
Adalian Decl. (June 1, 2017) ¶ 18. He explains:
Regarding those documents requested in Mr. Shaw’s March 19,
2009 letter . . . they either did not exist, or they were public
records that Dr. Jou could have otherwise obtained readily, or
they were documents that Dr. Jou already had or documents he
could have gotten from elsewhere. Anything deemed
responsive to that letter produced in February 2017, I did not
intentionally withhold or hide from Dr. Jou or anyone else
because I honestly had no idea I had them.
Id. ¶ 20.
At no point in time did I refuse to give Dr. Jou any records
relating to SCV that I knew I had. . . . I never had any such
documents “under my control,” and if they were, I had no
understanding of this and I never intentionally took any steps to
prevent Dr. Jou from subpoenaing them or just simply asking
for copies of any documents from any third parties.
Id. ¶ 21.
To be clear, at no point in time did I ever intentionally destroy
or hide or alter or mutilate any records of SCV. As far as I
know, I still have all of the SCV records I ever had. For
Plaintiff’s past requests, I turned over all responsive documents
that I found, albeit few. I believe my attorneys at that time before that relationship was severed in Jou I and I went forward
trying to defend that case pro se - also turned over responsive
documents to Dr. Jou’s counsel. I do not have those
documents, and I do not know where they are, but if Dr. Jou has
them, his complaints regarding them are empty.
Id. ¶ 26.
Other than my own copy of the partnership agreement which
Dr. Jou also has, my own K-1 forms that I received as an
investor just like Dr. Jou did, and the engineering and
architectural documents stated in the prior paragraph and above,
as well as those few other documents located and produced in
February 2017, I do not have and never had the other
documents or types of documents that Dr. Jou is now claiming I
purposefully destroyed or hid.
Id. ¶ 28.
. . . . I stated under oath in a bankruptcy case that, consistent
with my statements under oath stated herein, I did not have
many or most of the SCV records. This is correct. I said that
because it was true. . . . [A]nd once more, I never intentionally
destroyed, altered, hid, or otherwise intentionally “spoliated”
any documents to thwart an action by Dr. Jou or anyone else
regarding bringing claims related to SCV.
Id. ¶ 41.
I have taken no intentional actions that have ever deprived Dr.
Jou of any documents that he previously asked for or which
would in any way have affected his ability to inquire into or try
to obtain from SCV the funds he invested in it.
Id. ¶ 45.
[T]his past winter, upon my search in this action in response to
Dr. Jou’s document demands here, I was told by counsel to look
once more. All my old files had been transferred to storage in
California, so I searched the storage area for all SCV files, and
nothing new was discovered. However, once finished, I
decided to simply clean out the storage area completely and
dispose of old unnecessary items. During that exercise, I
located a discrete cache of 88 pages of limited, responsive,
SCV-related documents that had been filed in a cabinet that did
not indicate in any way that they pertained to SCV, but, rather,
which held old, personal utilities bills. Most of these SCV
documents are copies of things that were sent to me from Mr.
Criz. All of these documents were given to Plaintiff in
February. Of importance and telling, had I found some of these
documents earlier, I could have used them and they would have
helped me significantly in my defense of the adversary
proceeding brought against me by Dr. Jou in my Pennsylvania
bankruptcy case, so I would not have had any motivation to
hide them from Dr. Jou.
Id. ¶ 48.
Plaintiffs complaint alleges that I “intentionally” spoliated
evidence. To be clear, at no time did I have any inten[t] to
conceal or hide these recently-located (or any other) documents
from Dr. Jou or anyone else, nor did I discover them
conveniently when I did for any strategic purpose vis-a-vis
Id. ¶ 49.
Most of these documents I received from Mr. Criz, unless they
indicate that they were sent directly to me. Never did I
intentionally hide or alter these documents. Rather, at the time
Dr. Jou and his attorneys and the Court in my bankruptcy cases
requested and ordered that I produce and disclose documents, I
attempted to do so in good faith, looked every place that I
reasonably believed such documents could exist, and I provided
everything that I located at the time but did not find these 88
pages because they had somehow ended up loose in the
extraneous, cabinet I mentioned.
Id. ¶ 54.
In conclusion, I never intentionally spoliated any documents or
evidence to thwart or obstruct a lawsuit against me by Dr. Jou
regarding SCV, nor did I ever embezzle or steal any funds from
SCV, and I did not participate in any scheme with anyone else
to do so.
Id. ¶ 55. See also, e.g., Adalian Decl. (May 23, 2017) ¶ 15 (“[A]t no time did I
have any intent to conceal or hide these recently-located (or any other) documents
from Dr. Jou or anyone else, and I never destroyed any documents in this case or in
any other or an any other time. Nor did I remove any documents or portions of
documents or create any ‘gaps’ in them[.]”). 3
In response to Defendant’s lengthy Declarations, Plaintiff repeatedly
contends that Defendant’s statements are false. See, e.g., Jou Decl. (June 16, 2017)
¶¶ 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17; ECF No. 148-1. But this is a summary judgment
motion, and such credibility determinations are for a fact-finder, not for summary
judgment. See, e.g., McGinest v. GTE Serv. Corp., 360 F.3d 1103, 1113 n.5 (9th
Cir. 2004) (“[I]t is axiomatic that disputes about material facts and credibility
determinations must be resolved at trial, not on summary judgment.”); T.W. Elec.
Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987)
(“Nor does the judge make credibility determinations with respect to statements
made in affidavits, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or depositions.”); Nigro
v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 784 F.3d 495, 497 (9th Cir. 2015) (stating that a court
cannot disregard a declaration at summary judgment “solely based on its selfserving nature”). At this summary judgment stage, the court must construe
Assuming their truth, Defendant’s Declarations are sufficient to create genuine issues
of fact. This Order thus need not reiterate the ample other evidence in the record that also
creates disputes of material fact. See, e.g., Def.’s Ex. 6, Criz Dep. at 34-38 (testifying about
other causes of the failure of the SCV project -- relevant to the “causal relationship” element of
Spoliation -- and also indicating that Defendant did not intentionally destroy or discard SCVrelated documents). The court also need not address Defendant’s alternative request for a Rule
evidence in the light most favorable to Defendant -- and doing so means the court
DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion regarding Spoliation. 4
Defendant’s Affirmative Defenses
Plaintiff also moves for summary judgment as to Defendant’s
sixteenth affirmative defense, which states that Plaintiff’s claims “are barred, in
whole or in part, due to expiration of the applicable statutes of limitations.” Def.’s
Answer ¶ 50, ECF No. 72. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (“A party may move for
Plaintiff makes a confusing argument, based on a “sham affidavit” theory, that the
court should strike and disregard Defendant’s entire Declarations because they contradict his
prior April 5, 2017 deposition testimony. Pl.’s Reply at 25, ECF No. 147. See Yeager v. Bowlin,
693 F.3d 1076, 1080 (9th Cir. 2012) (“The general rule in the Ninth Circuit is that a party cannot
create an issue of fact by an affidavit contradicting his prior deposition testimony.”) (quotation
marks and citations omitted). But Plaintiff’s argument appears to be limited to contending that
Defendant only contradicted himself as to “matters in [Plaintiff’s Concise Statement of Facts
¶ 32]” regarding whether “spoliated” documents were “in [Defendant’s] exclusive possession
and/or were not reasonably available elsewhere.” Pl.’s Reply at 22. And even then, Plaintiff
fails to point to any specific deposition testimony that is clearly inconsistent with his subsequent
Declarations. See Yeager, 693 F.3d at 1080 (“[T]he inconsistency between a party’s deposition
testimony and subsequent affidavit must be clear and unambiguous to justify striking the
affidavit.”) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Indeed, Defendant’s deposition appears to be
entirely consistent with his subsequent Declarations in explaining the circumstances of the
February 2017 production of documents that Plaintiff finds so troubling. See, e.g., Adalian Dep.
at 52, ECF No. 132-9 (“I found [the document] in a file cabinet that -- after my attorney asked
me to look in every place possible for documents, I found it in a cabinet that I . . . was going
through cleaning, along with my DIRECTTV and some other utility bills.”).
In short, Plaintiff has not met his burden to demonstrate that this court should ignore
Defendant’s Declarations. See Yeager, 693 F.3d at 1080 (“[T]he sham affidavit rule should be
applied with caution because it is in tension with the principle that the court is not to make
credibility determinations when granting or denying summary judgment.”) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). “[T]he non-moving party is not precluded from elaborating upon, explaining
or clarifying prior testimony elicited by opposing counsel on deposition and minor
inconsistencies that result from an honest discrepancy, a mistake, or newly discovered evidence
afford no basis for excluding an opposition affidavit.” Id. at 1081 (quotation marks and citations
summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense -- or the part of each claim
or defense -- on which summary judgment is sought.”) (emphasis added).
Jou II dismissed Plaintiff’s initial Spoliation claim primarily because,
as it was vaguely pled in the FAC, it was barred by a six-year limitations period.
2016 WL 4582042, at *19-20. In particular, the FAC alleged that (1) Plaintiff
discovered on February 23, 2009, certain problems with “the development project
subject to the [SCV] Limited Partnership Agreement,” id. at *19 (quoting
FAC ¶ 19); and (2) Plaintiff had then “on March 19, 2009,” sent a demand to
Defendant “for documents relating to the partnership interest,” having “determined
that property belonging to SCV Development Investors may have been sold,
transferred or encumbered to pay various costs[.]” Id. (quoting FAC ¶ 20). It thus
appeared that Plaintiff discovered at least some “spoliation” in early 2009 -outside a six-year limitations period. Id. at *20.
Plaintiff, however, amended his Spoliation claim such that the SAC
now clearly alleges that he did not discover that documents or potential evidence
had actually been destroyed or concealed until August or September of 2011. SAC
¶¶ 10B, 10C. In this regard, it is important to distinguish between Plaintiff’s
alleged discovery of certain problems with the SCV Limited Partnership (outside a
six-year limitations period), and his alleged discovery of purported spoliation of
documents related to those problems. That is, there is a difference between
Plaintiff’s request for information from Defendant in March 2009, and Plaintiff’s
alleged discovery in 2011 that at least some of what he had been requesting in
March 2009 had been destroyed or concealed. It is entirely plausible that Plaintiff
knew about problems with the SCV Limited Partnership outside the limitations
period, but did not know about spoliation of documents until a time inside the
limitations period. With that distinction in mind, the court addresses Plaintiff’s
Motion as to Defendant’s limitations defense.
In support, Plaintiff proffers evidence supporting the SAC’s
allegations, which, taken as true, would preclude Defendant’s statute of limitations
defense. See, e.g., Jou Decl. (May 4, 2017), ECF No. 128-1 (detailing Plaintiff’s
quest for certain SCV records in 2009 and 2010, and his discovery in 2011 that
certain information may have been destroyed). This evidence itself would have
been sufficient to create a genuine issue of fact if Defendant had moved for
summary judgment on a statute of limitations basis. Nevertheless, it is premature
to determine that Plaintiff’s Spoliation claim is not entirely time-barred as a matter
of law. That is, summary judgment is inappropriate at this stage as to Defendant’s
sixteenth affirmative defense.
Again, Defendant’s defense alleges that Plaintiff’s claims “are barred,
in whole or in part” by the applicable statutes of limitations. Answer ¶ 50
(emphasis added). It is unclear, however, whether Plaintiff’s Spoliation claim
would be analyzed on a document-by-document basis. And if analyzed documentby-document, Plaintiff may have had sufficient knowledge outside the limitations
period that certain documents were being spoliated (and thus be time-barred as to
those documents), but as to other documents only discovered their spoliation in
2011 (and thus not be time-barred). As it is, Defendant points out that (similar to
how this court interpreted the FAC) the SAC’s allegations themselves could
indicate that Plaintiff knew of certain “spoliation” before April 29, 2009. SAC
¶ 8C; see also FAC ¶ 45 (“Defendant intentionally destroyed or lost evidence
designed to disrupt or defeat this lawsuit. Just some of the documents needed were
demanded on March 19, 2009.”). The SAC necessarily admits that Plaintiff
suspected enough in early 2009 to have counsel seek SCV documents from
Defendant -- and it is thus plausible that he suspected that at least some documents
may have been “spoliated” at that time.
Further, and just as important, it remains unclear whether the
limitations period is actually six years (as opposed to two years for a tort claim).
As discussed in the September 1, 2016 Order, the court only assumed that a six-
year period applies for purposes of addressing Defendant’s prior motion for
judgment on the pleadings. See Jou II, 2016 WL 4582042, at *19 (applying a sixyear period for claims sounding in fraud, but recognizing that “[i]If Hawaii
recognizes a cause of action for intentional spoliation of evidence, it is unclear
which limitation[s] period (two years for torts or six years for a claim sounding in
fraud) would apply”). And if a two-year limitations period applies, then Plaintiff’s
Spoliation claim would unquestionably be time-barred. Indeed, in addressing
Plaintiff’s Motion, the court might assume that a two-year period applies -- in
which case, the limitations defense would certainly be proper. In any event,
however, it is premature for the court to determine as a matter of law that a sixyear limitations period applies -- the parties have not briefed or analyzed which
period would be proper under Hawaii law, especially where it is not even clear
whether Hawaii recognizes a Spoliation claim in the first place.
The court thus denies Plaintiff’s Motion as to Defendant’s statute of
limitations defense. Granting such a motion is inappropriate at this stage, both
factually and legally.
Plaintiff’s Motion also refers -- without much argument -- to
Defendant’s fourth affirmative defense (res judicata/collateral estoppel). Pl.’s Mot.
at 2. But this court’s September 1, 2016 Order has already analyzed this defense,
having determined that three claims in the FAC are barred by res judicata, and that
a Spoliation claim is not barred by the defense. See Jou II, 2016 WL 4582042, at
*18. To be clear, the SAC sufficiently alleges that Plaintiff’s Spoliation claim
“arises out of the SCV Limited Partnership,” and is not “with regard to the Notes.”
Accordingly, the Motion as to the res judicata defense is DENIED as MOOT.
Likewise, Plaintiff’s Motion mentions Defendant’s eighth affirmative
defense, which asserts that “Plaintiff’s claims are barred, in whole or in part,
because Plaintiff lacks standing.” Answer ¶ 42. Neither party, however, addresses
this defense of “standing” (which, in any event, appears to be mere “boilerplate”).
Plaintiff would certainly appear to have standing to assert a Spoliation claim as a
member of the SCV Limited Partnership, see, e.g., SAC ¶ 3; it is unclear, however,
whether others, or the partnership itself, might be more proper parties to assert
such a claim. But because this defense was not clearly briefed, the court DENIES
the Motion as to the eighth affirmative defense without prejudice.
Because genuine issues of material fact exist on the current record,
Plaintiff’s Renewed Motion for Partial Summary Judgment/Summary
Adjudication, ECF No. 127, is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: Honolulu, Hawaii, July 13, 2017.
/s/ J. Michael Seabright
J. Michael Seabright
Chief United States District Judge
Jou v. Adalian, Civ. No. 15-00155 JMS-KJM, Order Denying Plaintiff’s “Renewed Motion For
Summary Judgment/Partial Summary Adjudication, and/or an FRCP 56(g) Order,” ECF No. 127
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