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Jury rules in favor of Maui family in land ownership dispute

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WAILUKU » A jury returned a verdict in favor of a Native Hawaiian family in a case involving a Hawaii land management and real estate brokerage firm’s attempt to claim ownership of a 3.4-acre parcel of land in Kauaula Valley in Lahaina.

The jury found Friday Ke’eaumoku Kapu and his family own the kuleana parcel, which has been used for family burials and contains cultural sites.

Makila Land Co. — which is managed by West Maui Land Co. — has a large water pipe that runs over the parcel, Wailuku attorney Lance Collins said.

“We believed the evidence could only support one conclusion and that was that Ke’eaumoku Kapu and his family are the true owners of the kuleana, and that was what the jury found,” said Collins, who represented Kapu along with attorney Bianca Isaki.

Collins said Kapu could trace the family claim back to the original 1848 awardee of the parcel.

Makila Land Co. sought to claim ownership of the parcel in 2002. The court initially granted summary judgment on the company’s claim, which Kapu appealed. In 2007, the Intermediate Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back for trial, The Maui News reports.

Collins said Kapu obtained his interest by descent through five generations from the original Land Commission awardee. Makila Land Co. argued it obtained its claim through another person — unknown to the family — who claimed to be related to the original awardee and sold the interest to Pioneer Mill in 1892.

The jury decided in favor of Kapu’s claim and against Makila Land’s claim.

While cases involving kuleana lands are not uncommon, it is unusual for them to be tried by a jury, Collins said.

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