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MV Luta owners, Hocog say investor should pay them costs, attorney’s fees

THE registered owners of MV Luta and Lt Gov. Victor Hocog have asked the federal court to order investor Takahisa Yamamoto to pay them costs and attorney’s fees as a condition for dismissing the lawsuit he filed against them.

In Oct. 2016, Yamamoto sued Luta Mermaid LLC, Abelina T. Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola, Fidel S. Mendiola III, Fidel Mendiola Jr. for fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Yamamoto also named Hocog as a defendant.

In response to Yamamoto’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit, the MV Luta owners, through attorney William M. Fitzgerald, stated that the previous ruling of the District Court for the NMI found that the arrest of MV Luta was improper.

Victor Hocog

On Feb. 22, 2017, federal Judge David O. Carter released MV Luta from maritime arrest and stated that Yamamoto did not have probable cause to arrest the vessel. The arrest could not stand, Judge Carter stated.

Fitzgerald said the MV Luta owners spent considerable sums in payment of costs and attorneys’ fees to gain release of the vessel and the dismissal of the lawsuit.

“The dismissal of the action should be conditioned upon an order requiring the plaintiff (Yamamoto) to pay the costs and fees,” Fitzgerald said.

Hocog, through his attorney F. Randall Cunliffe, filed a joinder to the MV Luta registered owners’ response to Yamamoto’s dropping of the lawsuit.

Yamamoto, who invested more than $3 million in the cargo vessel, said he will no longer pursue litigation against its registered owners.

In Dec. 2017, the federal court ruled that Yamamoto was in a joint venture with the Mendiolas.

Yamamoto, through his counsel George Lloyd Hasselback, has asked the court to dismiss the claims against the defendants without prejudice.

The Mendiolas, however, filed counter-claims against Yamamoto, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and violation of good faith and fair dealing.

They are asking for an award for damages “for the fraudulent, malicious and intentional conduct” of Yamamoto.