Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame had purchased a 700-acre tract of beachfront land on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 2014 for over $100 million with the intention of creating a private getaway for his family.
Small plots of the 700 acres of land in question are occupied by hundreds of local Hawaiian families handed down over generations as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Fourteen plots of over 8 acres of land are the disputed areas as they, allegedly, infringe on the tech billionaire’s private property. Last month Zuckerberg’s legal team started filing lawsuits against these plot owners, including some who are not alive anymore.
According to the Honolulu Star Advertizer, “Three Zuckerberg companies — Pilaa International LLC, Northshore Kalo LLC, and High Flyer LLC — filed eight quiet title lawsuits Dec. 30 in state Circuit Court on Kauai.”
A quiet title lawsuit basically means that a case is filed in a relevant court over ownership of disputed property.
In the Mark Zuckerberg case, the strategy adopted by his legal team is called the “quiet title and partition” lawsuit which requires the owners to sell their plots of disputed land to the highest bidder in a public auction.
Zuckerberg ordered a genealogical research in a bid to identify the owners of the 14 plots that traverse his property, who are supposed to be the descendants of the Kuleana farmers that were granted plots of land between 1850 and 1855. These owners also include descendants of those who purchased the disputed plots from the original farmers.
To clear up the controversies surrounding the lawsuits and the legal ownership, Mark Zuckerberg gave the following clarification in his Facebook post:
“The land is made up of a few properties. In each case, we worked with the majority owners of each property and reached a deal they thought was fair and wanted to make on their own.
“As with most transactions, the majority owners have the right to sell their land if they want, but we need to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too.”
He goes on to explain in his post that the purpose of his lawsuits was not to deprive anybody of their rightful share and it was a fair deal because many owners who had a quarter to one percent entitlement on the land didn’t even know about their rights to ownership.
The lawsuits, he explains, were intended to identify the descendants of these part owners so that they could get their fair share of the sale amount.
“To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a ‘quiet title’ action. For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land.” He guaranteed in the post.
Seventy-two- year- old Carlos Andrade, a retired University of Hawaii professor in Hawaiian studies and one of the 300 descendants of Manuel Rapozo who had purchased four plots of land totaling about 2 acres, is helping Zuckerberg in identifying these descendants as a co-plaintiff.
According to Andrade, he is supporting Mark Zuckerberg in the case to ensure that his family property is not lost to the county. However, the expenditure involved in documenting Manuel Rapozo’s family tree and identifying what percentage of ownership was entitled to whom is one of the major issues he faces among others.