Hawaii Employment Decisions November 20, 2016 to November 26, 2016 – Jeffrey S. Harris

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District court properly granted summary judgment against long term disability claim.  Employee offered no evidence she timely pursued review of the plan's decision, as required before claimant seeks review by court.  Walters v. Odyssey Healthcare Management Long-Term Disability Plan, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 20886 (9th Cir. Nov. 22, 2016).

District court properly dismissed claim defendant violated ERISA by failing to furnish plan documents and deciding former employee was ineligible for benefits, because employee failed to allege facts sufficient to show violations.  Gutierrez v. Crown, Cork & Seal Co., Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 20865 (9th Cir. Nov. 21, 2016).

District court properly granted summary judgment against claim for surviving domestic partner benefits.  Plan documents gave administrator discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits.  Surviving domestic partner did not raise dispute of fact whether administrator abused discretion by denying claim.  District court properly granted summary judgment against claim administrator breached fiduciary duty.  Surviving domestic party did not raise dispute of fact whether administrator breached fiduciary duty by failing to inform either domestic partner of registration requirement for benefits.  Bailey v. Union Bank Retirement Plan, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 20872 (9th Cir. Nov. 21, 2016).

Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals

Circuit court properly held prior federal judgment against former employee's federal Title VII retaliation claim collaterally estopped her from litigating state HRS Section 378 retaliation claim.  Issues whether employee engaged in protected activity or any activity caused her suspension and termination were decided against her and substantially the same.  Circuit court properly held prior judgment against employee's federal ADA failure to accommodate and retaliation claims collaterally estopped her from litigating state HRS 378 failure to accommodate and retaliation claims.  Issues whether employee was denied reasonable accommodation and whether her accommodation request caused adverse action were decided against her and substantially the same. Circuit Court properly held two-year statute of limitations barred employee's claims for libel, slander, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Circuit Court properly held prior judgment collaterally estopped employee from litigating wrongful termination in violation of public policy claim and Hawaii Whistleblower protection act claims.  Issues whether employee's termination was for cause or retaliatory and would have been the same regardless of alleged protected activity were decided against her and substantially the same.  Motoyama v State of Hawaii Department of Transportation, 2016 Haw. App. LEXIS 496 (Nov. 22, 2016).

Note: We analyze cases to learn rules the courts will follow or disappoint us if they don't. Rules that the courts follow allow us to behave and provide explanations they accept. But competent advocates may limit the rules to the facts of the case where they are discussed, or expand rules by showing that differences in other cases are irrelevant.