When Will Trials Resume in Hawaiʻi Courts?

Honolulu Injury Lawyer Explains When Courts Might Reopen

Video Transcript:

Wayne Parsons:

The statute of limitation says when you get injured, when a person gets injured, they have a certain period of time to file a lawsuit, and I mean file a lawsuit. Not write a letter to the insurance company, not write a letter to the defendant, but file a lawsuit, and if you don't file a lawsuit in that time period, your case is forever barred.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you're waiting for a trial in Hawaii, how long can you expect to wait and what are the COVID restrictions in the court? We're gonna find out the answers to those questions and more right now. As we Ask the Lawyer. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com. My guest is Hawaii attorney, Wayne Parsons. Right off the top, before we get to Wayne, I wanna remind you, if you wanna ask Wayne questions on your own, just go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button at the top that says, Ask a Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the process, or you can always call the phone number that's on the screen when we talk to Wayne. Wayne it's always a pleasure to see you. Thank you for helping us out.

Wayne Parsons:

Glad to do that, and I'm glad to be here.

Rob Rosenthal:

So last time we talked, it was about six months ago, and we were talking about the situation and the courts in Hawaii as far as it pertains to the pandemic, you were telling me how slow things were then. Give us an update. Has anything changed? What's the latest?

Wayne Parsons:

We're about to shift into trying to get back to normal. It's been 20 months of restrictions. The courts have continued to issue notices that jury trials are not gonna be conducted, and they give us a month of time, say it won't be conducted for another month, but now they're starting to tell us they're gonna start conducting jury trials again. The courts are gonna start getting back to normal, but as we sit here today, almost nothing has happened. They've tried a couple of trial cases, meaning they wanna see how it works. So I do believe it's gonna be opening back up, lawyers wanted to open up, the public wants to have access to the judiciary, but we're just at the very beginning.

Rob Rosenthal:

And then once it does open up, tell me, there will be priorities, I guess, civil versus criminal versus, I don't know, divorces, landlord-tenant, whatever. Tell me how that's gonna work out.

Wayne Parsons:

That's right. First of all, on the lower end are traffic cases untrained divorce cases and child custody cases, on small Landlord-tenant cases that happen in district court, the smaller courts. They've been conducting business more as usual because they don't generally involve juries, and juries are difficult 'cause you've gotta get six to 12 people into a court room, and then there's a lot of people involved, so they've been holding court for traffic and Family Court matters have been going forward on a limited basis, some virtual, meaning zoom conferences, some in-person, but that has been a more normal part of the judiciary. The part of the judiciary that's been difficult have been jury trials, those are civil cases, commercial civil cases and injury civil cases, and they've been criminal cases where people are in custody sometimes, and they have a constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Rob Rosenthal:

Right.

Wayne Parsons:

So there's a big backlog of criminal cases that they've gotta process quickly, and those are gonna take the first priority. These cases go forward in both state and federal court. The state court rooms are very small. Federal courtrooms are very big, so the federal court, they have an easier time getting back to a jury trial where you have people, many people in the courtroom, many jurors, both of those things are getting started. I expect that federal court will be able to move more quickly because of their courtroom size, and we still don't know how it's gonna work out in state court. Whether we're gonna get back to in-person jury trials in multi-party cases where we have a lot of cases, because those court rooms are very small. Also one other thing to keep in mind. In-state court, we have different islands, and we have different circuit court judges on each island who handle trials in their courtrooms on Maui, Hawaii island, Kauai, Oahu. Those judges have a certain amount of range of prerogative as to what they can do and what rules they're gonna apply in their courtroom to their cases, so for people who have a case on Maui, their case might not be handled quite the same way, the case on Oahu is handled and those... The lawyers here are trying to get a handle on exactly what each judge's preferences are, but the news is that there will be civil jury trials that are gonna be scheduled and held starting in November and moving on into 2022.

Rob Rosenthal:

Talk to us a little bit, Wayne, about the importance of being able to take a case to trial, 'cause we can still do out of court settlements or mediations, that sort of thing, right?

Wayne Parsons:

That's right. So the idea of, Well, I don't wanna go to trial anyway, which is what most people feel when they bring a lawsuit, when they file a lawsuit, they hope they don't have to go to trial and lawyers try to find other ways of settling their cases, Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediation, arbitration. And the problem with that is, and let's talk now about injury cases where people are gonna get money from a person that injured them, but they're gonna get that money from an insurance company. 

Rob Rosenthal:

Right. 

Wayne Parsons:

The insurance companies don't have any motivation to pay money unless they're faced with a date where they're gonna have to go to trial and take a risk, so if the case gets moved out to 2023, and right now, judges are setting jury trials in civil cases in 2023, then the insurance company is gonna have the attitude, we'll see you and we'll see in December 2022, and if you go to a mediation, they're not gonna offer any money. It's hard to settle out of court and get any kind of fair value for your case, unless a trial is set. The judiciary is aware of this, the trial lawyers are aware of this, the groups that I'm involved with, and we're gonna try to get jury trials going as quickly as we can and get trial dates set in 2022 that will then bring the parties to the bargaining table. 90% of the cases settle out of court. That's a historic fact. And we wanna get back to that point as opposed to having most of the cases sitting in the mud with nothing happening. 

Rob Rosenthal:

So I know that at the high point of the pandemic, Hawaii really shut down and really was strict about the rules. What are the rules now, can people even go into court houses? Where do we stand there?

Wayne Parsons:

Hawaii is very conservative, and I think very health-conscious in terms of the pandemic. Hawaii as a state, in all aspects of the state have instituted good protections to prevent the spread of the virus, to limit the number of people who get it, to limit the number of deaths obviously. That is also true in the judiciary. The judiciary has instituted very careful procedures. If I wanna go down to court and go into a court to sit down at the judge's chambers for a conference, I have to be vaccinated or have to have a valid, highly scientific COVID test saying that I don't have COVID. There are exemptions to those things are going on all across the country, people can petition for excuse from that, but in general, you're gonna have to be vaccinated to get into that courtroom and to get into that court house. Masks will have to be worn. People have to wear masks also in confined areas, and that's anywhere in the building, so I think those things are good, but they make it harder for us to quickly get back to a normal sort of jury trial routine or going to court routine.

Rob Rosenthal:

Unfortunately, even if there is a lock down, even if there's a pandemic, people are still gonna get injured due to someone else's negligence. What's your advice, Wayne? What if somebody's injured and they think they might have a case. What's your advice? Do they wait? What should they do?

Wayne Parsons:

Everybody should be aware of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitation says When you get injured, when the person gets injured, they have a certain period of time to finally a lawsuit, and I mean file lawsuit. Not write a letter to the insurance company. Not write a letter to the defendant, but file a lawsuit, and if you don't file a lawsuit within that time period, your case is forever barred. Generally in injury cases, and there are many exceptions to this, so there are other time limits, but generally, it's two years, you have two years in a tort case, in a personal injury case to bring a claim, and if that two years expires, you're out of luck. Can't bring the case. So don't wait, go to a lawyer, lawyers can advise you as to what time limit you have, and lawyers can protect you because anybody can file lawsuits, now we can file the lawsuits, it's just getting trial dates. That's the hard part. So protect yourself by getting the case filed. Don't think, Oh, I'll just go to the insurance company and settle out of court, they're not gonna pay you much. You're not gonna get the value of your case.

Wayne Parsons:

And if you don't file within two years, you're gonna be out, so we get the case filed and then it's the lawyers that represent you, try to get you a trial date as quickly as they can. However, it's gonna take longer than it did five years ago, and five years ago, we would typically tell a client that it takes between one and a half and three years to get a run of the mill type injury case resolved, and that would be if you have to go to trial, it can take longer than that, but that's before COVID, so we've had 20 months of nothing, and we got a big backlog, so that's even gonna get extended.

Rob Rosenthal:

But your optimistic, right Wayne? We're starting maybe to see, to come out of this?

Wayne Parsons:

I'm very optimistic. I think all of society is dealing with this, the restaurant owners or the hospitals, everybody is dealing with a pandemic, and we've got a lot of very bright people. The judiciary here is high quality and serious about what they do, they're working with the trial lawyers on both sides of the cases and other interests in the community to get this system going. The justice system is a part of the country, part of our state and part of the country, it keeps the whole thing going. Makes democracy work, and people need to have their cases resolved in a court, and so we have to get it going and we will.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of really helpful information, thank you for keeping us updated and we'll check in again maybe in another six months, and you'll have even more positive information for us. Thank you, Wayne.

Wayne Parsons:

Good. If anything really big happens, I will get back to you.

Rob Rosenthal:

Perfect, that's gonna take care of today's episode of Ask the Lawyer, my guest has been Hawaii attorney Wayne Parsons. Remember, if you wanna ask questions of Wayne on your own, you can go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button at the top that says Ask a Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. Thanks for watching, I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


AskTheLawyers

© 1999-2021 AskTheLawyers.com™

Terms and Conditions / Privacy Policy /
Report an Issue

Legal Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only. Use of this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Information entered on this website is not confidential. This website has paid attorney advertising. Anyone choosing a lawyer must do their own independent research. By using this website, you agree to our additional Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.