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Rest in Peace, Justice Moon


    The Hawaii legal community lost a legendary member of the judiciary with the passing of retired Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon on July 4, 2022. While serving as Chief Justice, the Supreme Court decided landmark cases including same sex marriage to protecting native Hawaiian rights and the environment. Justice Moon served as Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court for 17 years before retiring in 2010.

    Justice Moon was also instrumental in developing Hawaii jurisprudence in insurance law. Some of the significant insurance-related cases he authored are as follows:

AIG Hawaii Ins. Co. v. Smith, 78 Haw. 174, 891 P.2d 261 (1995) – insurer is estopped from denying coverage after failing to reserve rights and retaining control of the defense.

Christiansen v. First Ins. Co., 88 Haw. 136, 963 P.2d 345 (1998) – application of equitable tolling in coverage action. 

Enoka v. AIG Hawaii Ins. Co., 109 Haw. 537, 128 P.3d 850 (2006) – insurer may be in bad faith even if there is no coverage under the policy.

Hough v. Pacific Ins. Co., 83 Haw. 457, 927 P.2d 858 (1996) – workers’ compensation insurer owes contractual duties to the worker, as an intended beneficiary of the employer’s policy; employee may enforce those duties, including the duty to handle and pay claims in good faith. 

Sentinel Ins. Co., Ltd. v. First Ins. Co. of Hawaii, Ltd., 76 Haw. 277, 875 P.2d 894 (1994) – adopted the Legal Ambiguity rule for duty to defend, whereby, if there is no Hawaii decision on a coverage issue and competing decision exist across the country, the interpretation most favorable to the insured is used. Justice Moon also found the injury-in-fact trigger was applicable in CGL policies where progressive bodily injury or property damage continued across many policy periods. Finally, the decision addressed the consequences when an insurer breaches the duty to defend.

    A special session of the Hawaii Supreme Court will convene on August 8, 2022, at 3:30 p.m. to honor Justice Moon. Due to social distancing, the ceremony is by invitation-only, but the session will be live-streamed for public viewing on the Judiciary’s YouTube Channel. 

    Rest in Peace, Justice Moon


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