Default judgment vs IPI OK’d

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The CNMI Superior Court granted in part but denied in part the request for default judgment filed by neighboring establishments of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s casino in Garapan.

According to an order issued by Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio, the court granted default judgment on the plaintiffs’ claim of private nuisance per accidens, but denied default judgment on the claim of tortious interference with an existing contract.

The plaintiffs in this case include American Herbal Essence Group, American Create Beauty Corp., and American Dongsheng Corp. These are the businesses operating besides the IPI casino. Their lawsuit stemmed from their claim that the IPI construction prevented them from getting any customers, hence their “nuisance” claim. They also claimed that the IPI construction interfered with their businesses and their ability to make their lease payments, hence the “tortious interference” claim.

Kim-Tenorio said the plaintiffs satisfied the requirements of default judgment for their private nuisance per accidens claim, but not for their tortious interference claim.

A private nuisance per accidens is a non-trespassory interference with the private use and enjoyment of land, which becomes a nuisance through the circumstances and manner in which the defendant acts.

“Plaintiffs’ factual allegations…sufficiently support the first element of nuisance per accidens. Defendant used its property, under its permit, to dig a [two-foot] deep trench, which ran approximately 16 meters across the south-facing entrance of plaintiffs’ subleased premises and six meters across a portion of the east-facing area of the subleased premise. The south-facing entrance of plaintiffs’ property was the only available and accessible entrance into plaintiffs’ business establishment. Defendant also posted detour signs redirecting foot and vehicular traffic away from the south-facing entrance of plaintiffs’ subleased premises. Defendant’s construction activities clearly interfered with plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of its property, and this interference became unreasonable, when defendant’s own conduct delayed construction,” Kim-Tenorio stated.

In addition, Kim-Tenorio said that, because of the heavy roadwork construction, American Create Beauty was unable to open its business on its expected date, and was unable to ever open up its restaurant and retail business.

“Due to defendant’s unreasonable interference, plaintiffs also suffered substantial injury, in the form of loss of present and future economic profit,” she said.

As for the tortious interference claim, the court found that the plaintiffs did not provide enough evidence to satisfy this claim.

“Tortious interference with contract occurs when the defendant intentionally and improperly interferes with the performance of a contract, between the plaintiff and a third person, by causing the third person not to perform the contract. The court found that plaintiffs failed to show that [IPI] had intended to improperly interfere with plaintiffs’ lease agreements with their landlord because plaintiffs had not provided enough evidence of defendant’s improper motive, among other factors,” the judge stated.

The plaintiffs filed their suit against IPI back in May due to the construction activities of the defendant and its contractors, which allegedly caused economic loss to the businesses of American Herbal Essence Group, American Create Beauty Corp., and Dongsheng Corp.

IPI had repeatedly failed to appear in court through its corporate counsel, despite the court’s prior order and warnings so the plaintiffs finally asked for a default judgment.

In their original suit, the plaintiffs sought relief of $424,674.38 in damages. The court has yet to determine how much IPI will be ordered to pay pursuant to the default judgment order.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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