WAILUKU - A 2nd Circuit Court jury last week awarded a Wailuku couple $42,500 for property damage incurred five years ago when a water tanker truck hit their home after three teenagers stole the vehicle from a nearby construction site.
Eustaquio Uy and his wife, Carmelita Uy, had filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the damages to their home on Maunaleo Street in the Kehalani subdivision, as well as for emotional distress from the crash.
No damages for emotional distress were awarded in the verdict reached Wednesday. But, in addition to the award for property damage, the jury assessed a total of $17,500 in punitive damages against truck owner Spencer Homes Inc. and Wailuku resident Rae Inokuma, at whose home the teenage boys testified they had been drinking alcohol.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were Inokuma's daughter Kailani Inokuma; Mitchell Kaupe III, who was driving the stolen truck, and his guardian, Luana Kaupe; passenger Maluhia Riley and his parents, Jade and Michael Riley; and passenger Kaulana Reinhardt and his guardian, Marilyn Reinhardt-Ortiz. Because the four were minors at the time, their parents and guardians also were sued.
The suit arises from a crash at 4:45 a.m. Dec. 16, 2007, that awakened the Uys and their tenant, Alfred Huang. A Spencer Homes 1991 Peterbilt water tanker had crashed through a fence, hitting the Uy home before the back axle was stopped by the concrete base of the fence.
The Uys and Huang did not see anyone in the truck. But in the cab of the truck, police later found a cellphone belonging to then-13-year-old Kailani Inokuma, who lives several houses away from the Uy residence.
According to court testimony, Mitchell Kaupe III, then 17, was driving the water tanker with then-15-year-olds Maluhia Riley and Kaulana Reinhardt as passengers.
When they saw a security guard in the area, the boys testified they jumped out of the moving truck.
The truck then crashed into a white fence separating the Uys' property from Komo Ohia Street; then it hit the home.
The boys then ran to the Inokuma home, where they said they had previously been hanging out.
Kaupe and Riley testified that on he night of Dec. 15, 2007, they had been cruising and drinking alcohol in a friend's vehicle before going to the Inokuma home, where they got more liquor.
Kaupe said he did not get permission from Rae Inokuma to drink the alcohol at her home that night.
Rae Inokuma also testified that she did not give the youths permission to drink alcohol and had told the teens to leave when they were in her garage area. Eric Yoshida, who was living at the home at the time and is now Inokuma's husband, denied other witnesses' accounts that the underage boys were given alcohol at the home.
But Kaupe testified that he and other teens, including Riley, had been in the home drinking.
Riley testified that from the fall of 2007 to December 2007, he had gone to the Inokuma home every weekend and consumed alcohol there. He said he drank champagne, wine, beer and hard liquor including tequila and rum at the home, at times with Rae Inokuma, who provided the liquor. "She poured shots for me," Riley said.
"My parents never knew I was going there," he said. "I would drink and there were girls there. A 15-year-old boy, you know you don't even think about it. I would get very intoxicated. I would black out sometimes."
Riley said he would tell his parents he was sleeping over at a friend's house to go surfing early the next morning. He said he believed Kaupe, who was Kailani Inokuma's boyfriend at the time, was living at the Inokuma house "because he was always there and I seen his stuff there."
The night of the crash, several teenagers had fallen asleep, Kaupe testified, before he, Riley and Reinhardt took a friend's vehicle and drove to the Waiko Road area. Kaupe said he drove recklessly until the vehicle got stuck on a berm.
Kaupe and Riley, both admitting they were drunk, began walking back to the Inokuma home along with Reinhardt.
Kaupe said they didn't want to walk all the way back, so they went onto a construction site where they found the Spencer Homes water truck.
Kaupe said the doors to the water truck were unlocked and when he went into the cab, the key to the truck was in the ignition. So he drove the truck with Riley and Reinhardt as passengers.
The teens were approaching the Maunaleo neighborhood when they thought they saw a security guard so they jumped out of the truck, then ran to the Inokuma home.
In assigning responsibility for the property damage, the jury found Luana Kaupe, as Mitchell Kaupe's guardian, 60 percent at fault and Spencer Homes 30 percent at fault. Riley's parents and Reinhardt's guardian were each found 2.5 percent at fault.
The jury assessed $5,000 in punitive damages against Rae Inokuma and $12,500 in punitive damages against Spencer Homes.
Judge Rhonda Loo presided over the five-week trial that began July 9.