Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
Franco v. Reinhardt
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) reinstating the jury's verdict and judgment for Tiare Franco's family (the Francos) after granting Sabio Reinhardt's motion to set aside the jury verdict and judgment, holding that the ICA erred.The Francos brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Reinhardt for negligently crashing a truck and killing Tiare. National Interstate Insurance Company (NIIC), the truck's insurer, filed a declaratory judgment action claiming it had no duty to defend and indemnify Reinhardt under the policy. The circuit court granted summary judgment for NIIC, and the Francos successfully appealed. Before the ICA resolved the declaratory action appeal, the circuit court held a jury trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Francos. Counsel for Reinhardt moved to set aside the jury's verdict. The trial court granted the Francos' ensuing motion to disqualify counsel and Reinhardt's motion to set aside the jury verdict and judgment. The ICA reinstated the jury's verdict and judgment, holding that Reinhardt's counsel lacked authority to act as his lawyer. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and affirmed the circuit court's orders, holding that the circuit court correctly denied the Francos' motion to disqualify counsel and did not abuse its discretion by granting Reinhardt's motion to set aside. View "Franco v. Reinhardt" on Justia Law
City & County of Honolulu v. Sunoco LP
The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court denying Defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim in this action brought by the City and County of Honolulu and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (collectively, Plaintiffs) against a number of oil and gas producers (collectively, Defendants), holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs sued Defendants alleging public nuisance, private nuisance, strict liability failure to warn, negligent failure to warn, and trespass. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants engaged in a deceptive promotion campaign and misled the public about the dangers and environmental impact of using their fossil fuel products. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that Plaintiffs' claims were preempted by the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Supreme Court denied the motions, holding (1) Defendants were subject to specific jurisdiction in Hawai'i; (2) the CAA displaced federal common law governing interstate pollution damages suit, and following displacement, federal common law did and does not preempt state law; and (3) the CAA did not preempt Plaintiffs' claims. View "City & County of Honolulu v. Sunoco LP" on Justia Law
Dickinson v. Kim
The Supreme Court adopted conspiracy jurisdiction in this case in which three law firms petitioned the Court to order a judge to dismiss them from the underlying lawsuit, holding that the law firms demonstrated a "clear and indisputable right to the relief requested and a lack of other means to redress adequately the alleged wrong or to obtain he requested action."Plaintiffs sued certain cigarette manufacturers and retailers, bringing product liability, fraud, and conspiracy claims. Plaintiff also sued three law firms that counseled the tobacco companies, alleging two counts of conspiracy. The law firms each filed motions to dismiss under Haw. R. Civ. P. (HRCP) Rule 12(b)(2), claiming that Hawai'i courts lacked general and specific jurisdiction over them. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss without making minimum contacts findings or undertaking any due process analysis. The law firms subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition and, alternatively, for a writ of mandamus ordering dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The Court adopted conspiracy jurisdiction and granted the law firms' writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court clearly exercised jurisdiction beyond its authority, and there were no other means for the law firms to adequately address the alleged wrong or to obtain dismissal. View "Dickinson v. Kim" on Justia Law
Suzuki v. American Healthways, Inc.
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissing Appellant's appeal in this workers' compensation case for lack of a final, appealable order, holding that the ICA erred when it dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.These consolidated cases consisted of the decision of the Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DCD) determining that Appellant sustained compensable work-related injuries but denying her claim for compensation relating to her alleged neck injury and sleep disorder. Following years of proceedings before the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) and DCD, the LIRAB issued several orders, including an order granting Employer/Insurer's two motions to compel and denying Appellant's motion for partial summary judgment. The ICA dismissed Appellant's appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ICA had jurisdiction to review the LIRAB's order granting the motions to compel and denying partial summary judgment as to the order compelling Appellant to undergo an independent medical examination. View "Suzuki v. American Healthways, Inc." on Justia Law
Meyer v. Basco
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the district court ruling on a Haw. Rev. Stat. 604-10.5 petition to enjoin harassment (injunction petition) after ninety days elapsed from issuance of an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO), holding that the ICA correctly held the district court had subject matter jurisdiction in this case.Further at issue before the Supreme Court, other than the jurisdictional matter, was whether a section 604-10.5 TRO expires after ninety days despite orders by the district court continuing the TRO beyond ninety days pending completion of a hearing and decision on the injunction petition. The Supreme Court held that if a district court has commenced hearing the merits of a section 604-10.5 injunction petition but, despite reasonable efforts, is unable to conclude the hearing within ninety days of the issuance of the ex parte TRO, the court has jurisdiction to continue the TRO pending its final decision on the injunction petition. View "Meyer v. Basco" on Justia Law
Moranz v. Harbor Mall, LLC
In this case, the Supreme Court clarified the proper timing of Alvarado calculations, which determines the reimbursement due the insurer from a third-party settlement, and the reimbursement process for an insurer when the amount of workers' compensation (WC) benefits the insurer has already dispensed to the employee is less than the amount it owes the employee for its share of attorney's costs and fees for the third-party action.Petitioner received WC benefits from Respondent. Petitioner brought suit against the owner of the building in which she was injured and reached a settlement. Respondent then sought reimbursement of the WC benefits it had paid to Petitioner under Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-8 and Alvarado v. Kiewit Pacific Co., 993 P.2d 549 (Haw. 2000). At issue was whether certain WC benefits that Respondent owed Petitioner were properly classified as "paid compensation" and whether the process of Respondent's reimbursement of WC benefits exceeded the amount it had previously contributed to Petitioner as "paid compensation." The Supreme Court held (1) Alvarado calculations shall be performed based on the date on which the employee receives the third-party recovery; and (2) an insurer's "share" of the attorney's fees and costs the employee incurs while pursuing third-party recovery is based on the insurer's total WC liability. View "Moranz v. Harbor Mall, LLC" on Justia Law
State v. Marroquin
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's motions in limine to offer hearsay evidence, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the motions without entering findings of fact on the record.On certiorari, Appellant argued that the ICA erred by concluding that the circuit court may deny a motion in limine without providing findings of fact on the record in violation of Haw. R. Pen. P. 12(e). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Rule 12(e) does not govern motions in limine; and (2) Haw. R. Evid. 103(b), the specific standard governing the admissibility of evidence and motions in limine, provides discretion to trial courts resolving evidentiary issues regarding whether to make findings of fact. View "State v. Marroquin" on Justia Law
Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's order affirming the final decision of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) Board and dismissing Appellant's appeal, holding that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions to the ERS Board and to have the Board consider the merits of his exceptions.The ERS denied Appellant's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits after suffering a back injury. ERS subsequently received a document filed by Appellant entitled "Petitioner's Proposed Decision." The ERS Board later issued a final decision concluding that Appellant's filing did not constitute exceptions and confirmed its denial of his application. On appeal, Appellant argued that the ERS Board's proposed decision did not automatically become a final decision because he had timely filed exceptions. The circuit court and ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the ERS Board for further proceedings, holding that Appellant's "Petitioner's Proposed Decision" filing satisfied the standard for exceptions and that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions. View "Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law
Skahan v. Stutts Construction Co.
In these consolidated appeals arising from Kenneth Skahan's claims for workers' compensation benefits against his former employer and its insurance carrier (collectively, Employer), the Supreme Court vacated in part the judgments of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board's (LIRAB) decisions, holding that the ICA erred in part.Skahan injured his back while working for Employer, and Employer accepted workers' compensation liability. After Skahan's employment with Employer ended, he experienced mid and low back pain and was diagnosed with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) and filed multiple claims for additional workers' compensation benefits. LIRAB determined that Skahan's DISH injury was compensable because it was causally related to his work injury but that his low back injury was not compensable. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding (1) the ICA erred in holding that Employer rebutted the Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-85 presumption that Skahan's low back claim was for a covered work injury; (2) LIRAB's finding that Skahan's injury was permanent and stationary and at maximum medical improvement by April 19, 2013 was clearly erroneous; and (3) LIRAB's conclusion of law ending Skahan's temporary total disability benefits on April 19, 2013 was clearly erroneous. View "Skahan v. Stutts Construction Co." on Justia Law
Cadiz v. QSI, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law because the employer failed to overcome the presumption in favor of compensability.Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for injury-by-disease. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) rejected the claim, concluding that the employer's Independent Medical Examinations (IME) reports provided sufficient substantial evidence to overcome the statutory presumption in favor of compensability. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the LIRAB's decision, holding that the employer's IME reports failed to provide substantial evidence to meet its burden to produce evidence that, if true, would overcome the statutory presumption that the injury was work-related. The Court remanded the case to the LIRAB with the instruction that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law. View "Cadiz v. QSI, Inc." on Justia Law