Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court
Kobashigawa v. Silva
Plaintiffs brought a negligence action against the City for damages arising from an accident in which William Kobashigawa was truck and killed while crossing a mid-block crosswalk. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the City, finding the City was not negligent. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the jury verdict and remanded for a new trial, concluding that the circuit court plainly erred in giving a cautionary instruction that permitted the jury to consider evidence of Plaintiffs' motive in filing suit and in allowing the City to comment on that motive in its closing argument. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the ICA correctly found that the circuit court's cautionary instruction regarding motive was a prejudicially erroneous statement of the law; but (2) the ICA incorrectly found that Plaintiffs failed to preserve their objections to the admission of irrelevant evidence concerning their motive in filing suit and that such failure required it to resort to plain error review. View "Kobashigawa v. Silva" on Justia Law
Jou v. Schmidt
Appellant, a medical doctor, challenged the partial denial of personal injury protection benefits after treating a patient insured by Appellee. While Appellant's request for an administrative hearing was pending in the Insurance Division of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the patient's available benefits under her policy were exhausted on account of payments to Appellant and other medical providers. Because of the exhaustion, the Insurance Division dismissed Appellant's claim. The circuit court and intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The circuit court also denied Appellant's request for attorney's fees and costs under Haw. Rev. Stat. 431:10C-211(a), which allows fees and costs to be awarded even when a party does not prevail on its claim for benefits, finding Appellant's pursuit of the benefits to be unreasonable. The ICA affirmed. Appellant appealed the denial of attorney's fees. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the circuit court's final judgment, holding that the circuit court and ICA erred in concluding that Appellant's claim was unreasonable due to exhaustion of benefits where Plaintiff had made his claim prior to that exhaustion. Remanded. View "Jou v. Schmidt" on Justia Law
Ralston v. Yim
Plaintiff sued Dentist, claiming that Dentist had negligently provided him with orthodontic care. Dentist moved for summary judgment. On the day before the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel submitted a faxed copy of an expert affidavit stating that Dentist did not meet the standard of care. The circuit court struck Plaintiff's affidavit because it was a faxed copy and not an original and granted summary judgment in favor of Dentist. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court's final judgment and remanded, determining that Dentist failed to satisfy his initial burden as the summary judgment movant and that Plaintiff did not have adequate time to conduct discovery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment since Doctor did not satisfy his initial burden of production. The Court also clarified that Haw. R. Civ. P. 56(f) is the proper procedure to request and obtain additional time to respond to a motion for summary judgment that is filed prior to the discovery deadline. View "Ralston v. Yim" on Justia Law
Cabral v. State
This case arose from a fatal car accident that occurred on a county highway, which resulted in the death of Shawn Kaikala. Petitioners, several individuals related to Kaikala, filed a civil complaint against the State, asserting claims for negligence and wrongful death. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the State. Petitioners filed a notice of appeal after the circuit court extended the deadline. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) concluded (1) absent a finding of "good cause," it was improper for the circuit court to grant the deadline extension, and (2) therefore, the ICA did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal because Petitioners' notice of appeal was untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's dismissal of Petitioners' appeal, holding that based upon the specific, unique factual circumstances in this case, the ICA erred by concluding that it did not have jurisdiction to hear Petitioners' appeal. Remanded for consideration on the merits.
First Ins. Co. of Haw., Ltd. v. A&B Props., Inc.
Employee was allegedly involved in a work-related accident on property owned by Corporation. Insurer was Employer's insurance carrier. While paying Employee's workers' compensation benefits, Insurer filed suit against Corporation, asserting its right of subrogation. After the statute of limitations period had elapsed, Employee sought to intervene in Insurer's suit, and the circuit court granted Employee's request. Corporation subsequently moved for summary judgment on the ground that Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-8, which governs the right of an employee to intervene in an employer's third party liability lawsuit under workers' compensation law, did not allow an employee to intervene after the statute of limitations had expired. The circuit court granted Corporation's motion and entered judgment against Employee. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment and remanded, holding that Employee could intervene in Insurer's action against Corporation because section 386-8 did not limit Employee's right to intervene in Insurer's timely filed lawsuit.
Posted in: Hawaii Supreme Court, Injury Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
Miller v. Hartford Life Ins. Co.
This lawsuit arose from an insurance contract between Plaintiff, who had cancer, and Defendants, two insurance companies. In May 2007, Plaintiff applied for long-term care benefits under her policy. Defendants found her eligible for benefits and paid her caregiver for services beginning in October 2007. Defendants provided coverage for Plaintiff for almost a year, then terminated her benefits on August 25, 2008. Nearly five months later, on January 23, 2009, Defendants reinstated her benefits retroactively. After Defendants terminated Plaintiff's benefits, she attempted suicide. On July 9, 2009, Plaintiff sued Defendants, alleging, inter alia, insurer bad faith and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Supreme Court subsequently accepted a question certified to it by the district court and answered it by holding that if a first-party insurer commits bad faith, an insured need not prove the insured suffered economic or physical loss caused by the bad faith in order to recover emotional distress damages caused by the bad faith.
Posted in: Hawaii Supreme Court, Health Law, Injury Law, Insurance Law
Steigman v. Outrigger Enterprises, Inc.
Michele Steigman brought a tort action to recover damages after suffering a slip-and-fall accident while she was a guest of Outrigger Enterprises' hotel. The case went to trial, and a jury found Outrigger was not negligent. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed. At issue on certiorari was whether Hawaii's comparative negligence statute nullifies the common law tort defense barring recovery for plaintiffs injured by known or obvious dangers. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the ICA and circuit court, holding that where the comparative negligence statute eliminates contributory negligence, the known or obvious danger defense is no longer viable as a complete bar to an injured plaintiff's claim in the context of premises liability.
Kanahele v. Han
In this personal injury case, Petitioners filed a complaint against Respondent, alleging negligence and seeking damages. A jury returned with a verdict awarding special damages with no general damages. The trial court gave the jury a supplemental jury instruction, and the jury returned from its deliberations with a general damages award of one dollar. Petitioners filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the damages award, holding (1) when a jury awards special damages but returns a zero general damages award for pain and suffering in a personal injury case, it is not an abuse of discretion for the court to instruct the jury that the verdict is inconsistent and to direct the jury to continue deliberations on the amount of general damages to be awarded; (2) when, after resubmittal to the jury, the jury returns a general damages award that is the symbolic equivalent of no award, the verdict is inconsistent; (3) in the instant case, the jury's general damages award was the symbolic equivalent of no award; and (4) under the circumstances of this case, a new trial on damages must be granted. Remanded.
Ahn v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co.
In two consolidated cases, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company denied personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to Chung Ahn and Kee Kim (collectively, Insureds) for treatments after motor vehicle accidents. Insureds each sought administrative reviews with the Insurance Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). The DCCA granted summary judgment to Liberty Mutual based on the holding in Wilson v. AIG Hawaii Insurance Company, which stated that unless an insurer's non-payment of PIP benefits jeopardizes an insured's ability to reach the minimum amount of medical expenses required to file a tort lawsuit, insureds are not real parties in interest allowed to pursue lawsuits seeking payment of PIP benefits to providers. The circuit court reversed, concluding that Act 198 of 2006 had legislatively overruled Wilson. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) upheld the circuit court. On appeal, the Supreme Court (1) overruled Wilson, holding that insureds are real parties in interest in actions against insurers regarding PIP benefits; and (2) vacated the ICA and circuit court judgments because at the time of judgment, Act 198 of 2006 was not retrospective, and the real party in interest holding of Wilson was still in effect. Remanded.
Ray v. Kapiolani Med. Specialists
Alyssa Ray received treatment from Dr. Kara Yamamoto, an employee of Kapiolani Medical Specialists (KMS). Alyssa's parents brought an action in circuit court against KMS for negligent treatment and failure to obtain informed consent. The jury found that (1) Dr. Yamamoto's treatment of Alyssa was negligent but it was not a legal cause of Alyssa's injuries; and (2) Dr. Yamamoto failed to properly inform the Rays, and her failure was a legal cause of Alyssa's injuries. The circuit court granted judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Rays on their negligent treatment claim and entered judgment in favor of the Rays. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court, holding (1) the circuit court erred by granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Rays on their negligent treatment claim, and a new trial was required because the negligent treatment and informed consent verdicts were irreconcilable; (2) the circuit court did not err by denying KMS' motion for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of informed consent; and (3) the circuit court erred by admitting certain testimony and failing adequately to cure the error. Remanded for a new trial.
Posted in: Hawaii Supreme Court, Health Law, Injury Law, Medical Malpractice