Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) did not err in ruling that an injury suffered by Plaintiff that arose while she worked as a Public Health Educator IV for the State Department of Health (DOH) resulted from an “accident occurring while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place” and was therefore a covered injury under Haw. Rev. Stat. 88-336. Section 88-336 provides service-connected disability retirement benefits under the Employees’ Retirement System’s (ERS) Hybrid Plan to Class H public officers and employees, such as Petitioner. Petitioner submitted an application for service-connected disability retirement in connection with permanent incapacitating injuries she suffered to her elbow, arm, and hand. A hearing officer concluded that Petitioner’s excessive keyboarding over a period of time did not constitute an “accident” because it did not occur at a “specific time and place.” The ERS denied Petitioner’s application. The circuit court affirmed. The ICA vacated the circuit court’s decision and remanded to the circuit court with directions to vacate the ERS Board’s denial of disability retirement to Petitioner. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s injury occurred “while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place.” View "Pasco v. Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Employees may bring defamation and false light claims against their employer because the Workers’ Compensation Law’s (WCL) bar on claims for injuries incurred in the course of employment does not extend to injuries to a person’s reputation. Petitioners, employees of the County of Hawaii, brought this action against the County, certain County officials, and a private investigation company hired by the County (collectively, Defendants), alleging defamation. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendants, determining (1) Petitioners’ claims against the County were barred by the WCL because the alleged injury to their reputations arose through the course and scope of their employment; (2) Petitioners failed to adduce evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact that the County officials had made false statements about them; and (3) the third-party investigator had no duty towards Petitioners. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the summary judgment for Defendants, holding (1) whether one County official’s alleged defamatory statements were true involved a disputed question of material fact; (2) Petitioners’ defamation and false light claims against the County and the second County official in his official capacity were not barred by the WCL; and (3) licensed private investigators owe a duty of care to the subjects of their investigations. View "Nakamoto v. Kawauchi" on Justia Law

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Employees may bring defamation and false light claims against their employer because the Workers’ Compensation Law’s (WCL) bar on claims for injuries incurred in the course of employment does not extend to injuries to a person’s reputation. Petitioners, employees of the County of Hawaii, brought this action against the County, certain County officials, and a private investigation company hired by the County (collectively, Defendants), alleging defamation. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendants, determining (1) Petitioners’ claims against the County were barred by the WCL because the alleged injury to their reputations arose through the course and scope of their employment; (2) Petitioners failed to adduce evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact that the County officials had made false statements about them; and (3) the third-party investigator had no duty towards Petitioners. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the summary judgment for Defendants, holding (1) whether one County official’s alleged defamatory statements were true involved a disputed question of material fact; (2) Petitioners’ defamation and false light claims against the County and the second County official in his official capacity were not barred by the WCL; and (3) licensed private investigators owe a duty of care to the subjects of their investigations. View "Nakamoto v. Kawauchi" on Justia Law

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In January 2007, Choy rear-ended Jiminez's vehicle, pushing that vehicle forward, so that it hit the rear of a vehicle driven by Aggasid. Medeiros testified that she was helping Aggasid transport a patient to a doctor’s appointment at the time of the accident and that she began to experience pain in her back after the impact, leading to physical therapy and two surgeries. Medeiros was unable to work for more than three years. Through worker’s compensation, Medeiros received $153,949.75 in medical bill reimbursements and $105,356.62 in temporary and permanent disability benefits. Medeiros sued Choy. Medeiros unsuccessfully sought to preclude witnesses from testifying regarding the presence of an unrestrained child in Aggasid’s vehicle. Choy disputed whether Medeiros was in the course of her employment at the time of the accident and argued that she had lied to secure an unwarranted payout. The jury found that Choy was not the legal cause of her injuries. The Intermediate Court of Appeals vacated, holding that a requested jury instruction, barring consideration of Medeiros’s motive, should have been given. The Supreme Court of Hawaii affirmed and remanded for a new trial. The plaintiff’s motives for bringing suit were irrelevant to the merits of her claim and her credibility as a witness. Given the evidence adduced at trial, the jury should have been instructed as Medeiros requested. View "Medeiros v. Choy." on Justia Law

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The estate of a viable fetus can recover for loss of enjoyment of life - also known as “hedonic” - damages. Plaintiff, an inmate, alleged that the actions of correctional officers and the subsequent failure of medical personnel to provide her with treatment caused the stillbirth of her eight-month-old fetus, Briandalynne. Plaintiff sued Petitioners for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiff, awarding, in part, Briandalynne’s estate $250,000 for loss of enjoyment of life. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Briandalynne’s estate could maintain a survival action against Petitioners for hedonic damages; and (2) the record supported the damages award in this case. View "Castro v. Melchor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this negligence case, the circuit court abused its discretion in entering default against Defendant and in refusing to set aside the entry of default. In addition, the circuit court erred in sua sponte dismissing Petitioners’ claims with prejudice and entering final judgment against them. After the circuit court entered the default against Defendant and denied Defendant’s motion to set aside the entry of default, it denied Petitioners’ motion for entry of default judgment. In its order denying Petitioners’ motion, the circuit court also sua sponte dismissed Petitioners’ claims against Defendant with prejudice. The court then entered final judgment against Petitioners. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court’s decision denying entry of default judgment based on the merits of Petitioners’ negligence case. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in entering the default and erred in refusing to set aside the entry of default; and (2) erred in dismissing Petitioners’ claims with prejudice and in entering judgment against them. View "Dela Cruz v. Quemado" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this case raising two questions concerning Hawaii law of workers’ compensation as it relates to permanent partial disability (PPD) awards, the Supreme Court held (1) a PPD award for an unscheduled injury that is not comparable to a scheduled injury must be supported by some factual finding of a determinate percentage of impairment of a physical or mental function of the whole person; and (2) a PPD determination may be based on a claimant’s post-injury inability to perform the usual and customary work activities in the position the claimant occupied prior to the injury. In the instant case, the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) awarded Employee $250 in PPD benefits. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated LIRAB’s ruling and remanded for a determination of whether Employee had suffered a permanent impairment and, if so, the percentage of the impairment and the award of PPD benefits based on that percentage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated the Board’s $250 lump sum award and remanded to LIRAB for it to determine the relevant percentage of Employee’s impairment, as well as an award of PPD benefits based on that percentage. View "Ihara v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the State and the State Department of Transportation (collectively, the State) after a rockfall occurred on the state highway on which Plaintiffs were driving and a boulder struck Plaintiffs’ vehicle, resulting in their injuries. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the State, concluding that the State breached a duty of care owed to Plaintiffs but that the State was not liable because Plaintiffs failed to prove legal causation. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the circuit court misapprehended the relevant standard for evaluating legal causation; and (2) the State failed to establish that it was relieved from liability under the discretionary function exception with regard to the duty recognized by the circuit court. View "O’Grady v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Health insurers do not have a broad, unrestricted right of subrogation against third-party tortfeasors who cause injury to their insureds but, rather, are limited to reimbursement rights established by statute. In this personal injury case, the circuit court ruled that Haw. Rev. Stat. 663-10 and/or Haw. Rev. Stat. 431:13-103(a)(1) abrogated Hawai’i Medical Service Association’s (HMSA) contractual and common law rights in subrogation against a third-party tortfeasors responsible for injury to its insured. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a health insurer does not have equitable subrogation rights against a third-party tortfeasor in the context of personal injures; (2) a health insurer’s subrogation and reimbursement rights are limited by section 663-10 and section 431-13:103(a)(1); (3) any contractual provision that conflicts with section 663-10 is invalid; and (4) section 663-10 takes precedence over HMSA’s subrogation rights. View "Yukumoto v. Tawarahara" on Justia Law

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John Hasircoglu was an employee of a subcontractor to FOPCO, Inc., the general contractor on a tunnel construction project on Molokai. In response to a request by the State, FOPCO identified Donald Clark and Michael Estes, neither of whom were FOPCO employees, as “project superintendent and key personnel.” The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of FOPCO on all claims. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed on the grounds that Estes and Clark were not agents of FOPCO, and therefore, FOPCO could not be held vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. The Supreme Court vacated in part and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was an agency relationship between FOPCO and Estes and/or Clark based on actual express or implied authority; and (2) summary judgment was proper as to Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Hasircoglu v. FOPCO, Inc." on Justia Law