Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
Porter v. Queen’s Medical Center
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeal Board's (LIRAB) denial of Petitioner's request to reopen her workers compensation claims pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-89, holding that the LIRAB's finding that Petitioner failed to provide substantial evidence of a mistake was clearly erroneous.After her employment was terminated Petitioner was diagnosed with a disease known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Petitioner filed multiple claims for workers' compensation benefits. At issue was the LIRAB's denial of Petitioner's request to reopen her claims and the ICA's affirmance of the denial. The LIRAB determined that Petitioner failed to produce substantial evidence to support her allegations of a mistake in fact related the the LIRAB director's determination that Petitioner had not suffered a compensable illness because MCS is not an "injury per se." The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's affirmance of the LIRAB's finding that Petitioner failed to provide substantial evidence of a mistake, holding that there was substantial evidence supporting Petitioner's contention that it was a mistake to dispose of her claims on the basis that MCS is not a legitimate diagnosis. View "Porter v. Queen’s Medical Center" 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
Botelho v. Atlas Recycling Center, LLC.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeal (ICA) and the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board's (LIRAB) award of attorney's fees to Stanford Masui for his representation of Reginald Botelho in a workers' compensation case, holding that the ICA erred to the extent it held that Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-94 authorizes LIRAB to predetermine an attorney's hourly rate and erred in holding that LIRAB provided an adequate explanation for its reduction of Masui's requested attorney's fee.Masui submitted a request for attorney's fees requesting an hourly rate of $325. LIRAB approved the request but reduced Masui's hourly rate to $165. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding (1) under section 386-94 LIRAB is not authorized to predetermine a workers' compensation attorney's authorized houry rate to be applied to that attorney's future cases; (2) the ICA did not err in interpreting section 386-94 as granting LIRAB discretion to vary the requesting attorney's hourly billing rate to arrive at an award of reasonable attorney's fees; and (3) the ICA erred in concluding that LIRAB provided an adequate explanation for its reduction of the requested attorney's fees, as required by McLaren v. Paradise Inn Hawai'i LLC, 321 P.3d 671 (2014). View "Botelho v. Atlas Recycling Center, LLC." on Justia Law
Eckard Brandes, Inc. v. Department of Labor & Industrial Relations
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissing this appeal on the grounds that appellate jurisdiction was lacking, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in finding the existence of "excusable neglect" under Haw. R. App. P. (HRAP) 4(a)(4)(B) to allow an extension of time to file a notice of appeal.Petitioner appealed from the circuit court's judgment in this labor dispute, asserting appellate jurisdiction pursuant to HRAP Rule 4. The ICA dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction, determining that the appeal was untimely under Rule 4(a)(1) because Petitioner did not establish excusable neglect to extend the time to file the notice of appeal. After clarifying the terms "good cause" and "excusable neglect" for purposes of the current HRAP Rule 4(a)(4)(A) and (B), the Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and remanded this case to the ICA to address the merits of the appeal, holding that "excusable neglect" existed in this case, and therefore, the ICA erred in dismissing Petitioner's appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Eckard Brandes, Inc. v. Department of Labor & Industrial Relations" on Justia Law
Quel v. Board of Trustees, Employees’ Retirement System of Hawai’i
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) and the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Board of Trustees of the Employees' Retirement System of Hawai'i (ERS Board) denying Plaintiff's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits, holding that the ERS Board clearly erred in finding that Plaintiff's permanent capacity resulted from an "occupational hazard."Specifically, the ERS Board found that Plaintiff's permanent incapacity did not result from "a danger or risk which is inherent in, and concomitant to," her "particular occupation or particular job," which was "not a risk common to employment in general." The circuit court and ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts' decisions and remanded the case to the ERS Board for further proceedings, holding that the ERS Board added a requirement to the definition of "occupational hazard" that does not exist in the law. View "Quel v. Board of Trustees, Employees’ Retirement System of Hawai'i" on Justia Law
BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles, Inc. v. Murakami
In this work injury discrimination case the Supreme Court held that in order for business necessity to constitute a valid defense to a claim of work injury discrimination, an employer must demonstrate that the employee's absence caused a business impairment that could not be reasonably alleviated by means that would not result in discrimination.The Supreme Court vacated the judgment the intermediate court of appeals' judgment on appeal and the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Director of the Hawai'i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that the work injury discrimination in this case was contravened by Hawaii law, holding that the decision of the hearing officer that the employer in this case discriminated against the employee solely because of her work injury should have been affirmed. View "BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles, Inc. v. Murakami" on Justia Law
In re Kuamoo
At issue was whether an unwritten policy of the Department of Public Safety precluding from promotion to supervisory positions all employees who have been suspended for violation of the Department’s standards of conduct in the prior two years violates aspects of the merit principle on which the Hawaii civil service system is founded. See Haw. Const. art. XVI, 1 and Haw. Rev. Stat. 76-1.Five employees of the Department applied for promotion to open supervisory positions. Each employee passed the relevant examination and was otherwise qualified for the supervisory position prior to being deemed “unsuitable” under the unwritten policy. The Supreme Court held that the Department’s unwritten policy violated the merit principle of openness and remanded this case to the circuit court with instructions to remand to the Merit Appeals Board for further proceedings. View "In re Kuamoo" on Justia Law
Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. v. Fujikawa Associates, Inc.
Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-8, which governs a third party’s liability for workers’ compensation, provides the exclusive remedy for an employer to recover workers’ compensation benefits from a third-party tortfeasor.An employee of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc. (HDCC) was injured in a workplace accident, allegedly due to the actions of HDCC’s subcontractor, Fujikawa Associates, Inc. (Fujikawa). HDCC sought reimbursement from Fujikawa, claiming that workers’ compensation benefits were within the scope of the subcontract’s indemnity clause. When Fujikawa refused to indemnify HDCC, HDCC filed a complaint alleging breach of the subcontract. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Fujikawa. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was appropriate because HDCC did not avail itself of the exclusive remedy provided in section 386-8. View "Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. v. Fujikawa Associates, Inc." on Justia Law