Law School Case Brief
State v. Hoshijo - 102 Haw. 307, 76 P.3d 550 (2003)
An agency relationship may be created through actual or apparent authority. Actual authority exists only if there has been a manifestation by the principal to the agent that the agent may act, and may be created by express agreement or implied from the conduct of the parties or surrounding circumstances. Express actual authority requires an oral or written agreement between the parties that the principal has delegated authority that the agent has accepted and that authorizes the agent to do certain acts. Implied actual authority may arise either independent of any express grant of authority or it may arise as a necessary or reasonable implication required to effectuate some other authority expressly conferred by the principal.
Coach Riley Wallace ("Coach") was the head coach of the basketball team of defendant University of Hawai'i ("UH"). The UH Special Events Arena ("Arena") was owned by UH. Defendant Rob Wallace, the Coach's son, was a student manager of the basketball team. Wallace's conduct was regulated by a handbook, which prohibited the use of obscene language. During a basketball game, Wallace made racial slurs toward a fan, plaintiff William D. Hoshijo. Thereafter, Hoshijo filed a complaint with the Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission ("HRCR"). The HRCR partially adopted the recommendation of a hearing officer, which determined that both UH and Wallace were liable to Hoshijo for discrimination in a place of public accommodation. Specifically, the HRHC found that Wallace was an employee of UH. UH and Wallace sought judicial review of the HRCR's decision, and the state circuit court affirmed in part. The circuit court reversed the HRCR's finding that Wallace was an employee of UH, but the circuit court affirmed the finding that Wallace was an agent of UH. Moreover, the circuit court found that Wallace was acting within the scope of his agency relationship when dealing with spectators and Wallace did not enjoy First Amendment rights protective of the words which were the subject matter of the alleged discrimination. UH appealed; Hoshijo and HRCR cross-appealed the ruling that Wallace was only acting as an agent and not as an employee.
Was UH liable for the acts of Wallace?
The state supreme court affirmed the circuit court's decision. The court first ruled that the proper standard of review of a decision of the HRCR in a circuit court was de novo under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 368-16(a). The court reviewed the circuit court's findings of fact under a clearly erroneous standard and its conclusions of law de novo. The court concluded that UH was properly held liable as an owner of the Arena, which was a place of public accommodation, for the violating of Haw. Rev. Stat. § 489-8 (1993). Further, UH was liable for the acts of Wallace because he was an agent by virtue of the handbook. Wallace was acting within the scope of his agency when the remarks were made. Finally, Wallace's comments were not protected by the First Amendment because they constituted fighting words. The court did not address the issues raised by the cross-appeal by Hoshijo and HRCR.
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