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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court

No. SCAP-15-0000084, Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 10 a.m.

JAMES DANNENBERG, BILLY SOUTHWOOD, VALERIE YAMADA SOUTHWOOD, DUANE PREBLE, and SARAH PREBLE, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees, vs. STATE OF HAWAI`I, HAWAII EMPLOYER-UNION HEALTH BENEFITS TRUST FUND, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE HAWAII EMPLOYER-UNION HEALTH BENEFITS TRUST FUND, Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, and COUNTY OF KAUAI`I, CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, COUNTY OF MAUI, COUNTY OF HAWAI`I, Defendants-Appellees.
 
The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali`iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorneys for Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees Dannenberg, et al.:
    Paul Alston, Maren L. Calvert, John Rhee, and Charles K.Y. Khim

Attorneys for Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants State of Hawai`i, et al.:
    Deirdre Marie-Iha and Donna H. Kalama, Deputy Attorneys General

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, filed 04/30/15.

NOTE: Order assigning Circuit Court Judge Steven S. Alm, in place of Recktenwald, C.J., recused, filed 05/05/15.

NOTE: Order granting Application for Transfer, filed 05/20/15.

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna, filed 12/22/15.

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson, filed 12/22/15.

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack, filed 12/22/15.

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Substitute Justice Steven S. Alm, filed 12/22/15.

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Paula N. Nakayama, filed 12/22/15.

NOTE: Order assigning Associate Judge of the Intermediate Court of Appeals Katherine G. Leonard, and Circuit Court Judges Glenn S. Hara, Peter T. Cahill, Jeffrey P. Crabtree and Christine E. Kuriyama, in place of Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ., and substitute justice Alm, previously assigned in place of Recktenwald, C.J., recused, respectively, filed 01/13/16.

NOTE:  Order granting in part motion to continue oral argument from 4/27/16, 10:00 a.m., to 5/25/16, 10:00 a.m., filed 03/09/16.

COURT: Leonard, Acting C.J.; and Circuit Court Judges Hara, Cahill, Crabtree, and Kuriyama, in place of Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, Wilson, JJ., and substitute justice Alm, previously assigned in place of Recktenwald, recused, respectively.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

        Individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees James Dannenberg, Billy Southwood, Valerie Yamada Southwood, Duane Preble, and Sarah Preble (Plaintiffs) appeal, and Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants State of Hawai`i, the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF), and the Board of Trustees of the EUTF (together, the State) cross-appeal, from the January 20, 2015 Final Judgment, filed in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (Circuit Court), and challenge various orders, including the order denying Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment and the order granting the State’s motion for partial summary judgment.

        This appeal from a class action suit concerns the health benefits provided by the State of Hawai`i and the Counties of Kaua`i, Honolulu, Maui, and Hawai`i to retired employees (and their dependent-beneficiaries), as well as the retirement health benefits of certain current state and county employees (and their dependent-beneficiaries).
 
        On appeal, Plaintiffs contend that the Circuit Court erred in:  (1) rejecting their argument that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel preclude the State from re-litigating certain issues that purportedly were determined in a related agency action, which concluded with the Hawai`i Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. State, 122 Hawai`i 402, 228 P.3d 282 (2010); (2) concluding that Plaintiffs’ retirement health benefits have not been diminished or impaired, as proscribed by the Constitution of the State of Hawai`i, article XVI, § 2; and (3) concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the EUTF health benefits that retirees receive are the same or substantially the same as the health benefits retirees received under EUTF’s predecessor, the Public Employees’ Health Fund.  On cross-appeal, the State contends, if this court rules in favor of Plaintiffs, that the court should also conclude that the Circuit Court erred in:  (1) interpreting Hawaii Revised Statutes § 87-22(b) (repealed 2003) as requiring that the same health benefits must be equally available to both active employees and retirees; and (2) concluding that, as compared to active employee plans, some retiree plans provide different services and inferior levels of coverage, co-pays, maximums, and deductibles.