Jury awards plaintiffs $54M
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
A Maui Circuit Court jury yesterday awarded more than $54 million in damages to plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against a Chicago banker accused of fraudulently transferring assets to avoid paying an earlier judgment against him.
Yesterday's jury award is believed to be one of the largest in a civil case in Hawai'i. The trial lasted about a month and the jury returned its verdict yesterday after less than five hours of deliberation.
The lawsuit was filed in May 2008 against Clyde and Mary Engle, a Chicago couple who live part time on Maui with their two children. Clyde Engle was the head of a Chicago bank that was connected with a failed retirement community development in Tennessee.
The people who purchased lots in the project sued the developer and Engle in Tennessee and he was ordered to pay more than $4 million in damages. He was also found to be liable for an earlier $2.5 million judgment, according to the lawsuit.
But the plaintiffs were unable to collect any money from Engle, said Craig Nakamura, an attorney on Maui who represented the plaintiffs in the latest complaint. The lawsuit alleged that Engle fraudulently transferred a large part of the stock in his bank to his wife in an attempt to hide his assets.
Meanwhile, the Engles, whom Nakamura characterized as a "high society couple," lived in a mansion in Chicago and also had a home on a 25-acre estate in Ha'ikū, Maui. He said the Engles sent their children to an exclusive private school on Maui.
"If you have a judgment against you, you can't take all of your money and give it to your wife and live off your wife's income," Nakamura said. "What he did was he transfered a lot of the bank stock to his wife and the bank stock, of course, was worth a lot of money."
The Engles, who represented themselves at trial, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Although no one in Hawai'i was a party to the previous lawsuits, Nakamura was able to file the complaint against the Engles because they live here part time.
Two of the plaintiffs, Thomas and Judith Krukow of Arizona, sat through the long trial. Nakamura said they were "ecstatic" when they heard the jury's verdict.
The jury awarded $10.7 million in damages and $43.7 million in punitive damages, he said. The judgment is subject to appeal by the Engles and it was not known when the plaintiffs can expect to see any money.
"We're hoping that now that we have a judgment against him and his wife, because he tried to shelter a lot of his assets by giving them to his wife, we're hoping that we're going to be able to collect now," Nakamura said.