Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court
No. SCWC-13-0004947, Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 10 a.m.
PATRICIA NAKAMOTO, Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. JAMAE KAWAUCHI, in her individual and official capacity as County Clerk, DOMINIC YAGONG, in his individual and official capacity as Chairman, Hawai`i County Council, County of Hawaiʻi, CORPORATE SPECIALIZED INTELLIGENCE AND INVESTIGATIONS, LLC, Respondents-Defendants-Appellees (CIVIL NO. 12-1-0466). SHYLA A. AYAU, Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. JAMAE KAWAUCHI, in her individual and official capacity as County Clerk, DOMINIC YAGONG, in his individual and official capacity as Chairman, Hawai`i County Council, County of Hawaiʻi, CORPORATE SPECIALIZED INTELLIGENCE AND INVESTIGATIONS, LLC, Respondents/Defendants-Appellees (CIVIL NO. 12-1-0467).
The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:
Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali`iōlani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Attorney for Petitioners:
Ted H.S. Hong
Attorneys for Respondents Jamae Kawauchi and Dominic Yagong, in their individual capacities:
Thomas L.H. Yeh, Michael W. Moore, and Jill D. Raznov
Attorneys for Respondents County of Hawaiʻi, Jamae Kawauchi and Dominic Yagong, in their official capacities only:
Laureen L. Martin, Assistant Corporation Counsel, and Michael J. Udovic, Deputy Corporation Counsel
Attorneys for Respondents Corporate Specialized Intelligence and Investigations, LLC:
April Luria and Jodie D. Roeca
NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 08/09/17.
COURT: MER, C.J., PAN, SSM, RWP, and MDW, JJ.
Petitioners/Plaintiffs-Appellants Patricia Nakamoto and Shyla M. Ayau (Petitioners) applied for writ of certiorari from the Intermediate Court of Appeals’ (ICA) May 9, 2017 Judgment, entered pursuant to its March 14, 2017 Memorandum Opinion, which affirmed the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit’s (circuit court) judgment against Petitioners.
This case arises out of an incident in which Petitioners and other employees of the County of Hawaiʻi were terminated from their employment following an investigation. An article was published in a local newspaper regarding the terminations, which quoted County officials Jamae Kawauchi and Dominic Yagong as stating that the firings were due to violation of County policy.
Petitioners brought suit against the County, Kawauchi and Yagong in both their official and individual capacities, and Corporate Specialized Intelligence and Investigations, LLC (CSII), which the County hired to conduct the investigation. Petitioners alleged that the defendants had caused defamatory statements about them to be published in the local newspaper and elsewhere, and that the investigation had been conducted negligently.
The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’s claims holding that defamation claims are barred by the Workers’ Compensation Law (WCL), HRS Chapter 386, and that CSII as a third-party investigator owed no duty to Petitioners. Petitioners appealed to the ICA, arguing that the WCL does not bar claims based on injuries to a person’s reputation, and that CSII owed them a duty of care. The ICA affirmed the circuit court’s judgment.
Petitioners’ application for writ of certiorari raises three questions:
A. Did the ICA commit grave error by extending workers’ compensation exclusivity to injuries involving a person’s reputation?
B. Did the ICA commit grave error by determining the “truth” of disputed facts which was a question for the jury?
C. Did the ICA commit grave error by holding that no duty exists to conduct an objective investigation in support of employee discipline for public sector employees?