429 P.3d 1230 (Hawai’i App. 2018), CAAP-16-0000480, Benedict v. Employees’ Retirement System

Docket Nº:CAAP-16-0000480
Citation:429 P.3d 1230, 143 Hawai‘i 301
Party Name:Robin J. BENEDICT, Appellant-Appellant, v. EMPLOYEES’ RETIREMENT SYSTEM, State of Hawai‘i, Appellee-Appellee
Attorney:Ted H.S. Hong, for Appellant-Appellant. Patricia Ohara, Elmira K.L. Tsang, Brian Aburano, Deputy Attorneys General, Department of the Attorney General, for Appellee-Appellee.
Judge Panel:By: Fujise, Presiding Judge, Leonard and Chan, JJ.
Case Date:November 09, 2018
Court:Court of Appeals of Hawai'i, Intermediate
 
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Page 1230

429 P.3d 1230 (Hawai’i App. 2018)

143 Hawai‘i 301

Robin J. BENEDICT, Appellant-Appellant,

v.

EMPLOYEES’ RETIREMENT SYSTEM, State of Hawai‘i, Appellee-Appellee

No. CAAP-16-0000480

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai‘i

November 9, 2018

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Unpublished disposition." in the Pacific Reporter. See HI R RAP RULE 35

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 16-1-0024)

On the briefs:

Ted H.S. Hong, for Appellant-Appellant.

Patricia Ohara, Elmira K.L. Tsang, Brian Aburano, Deputy Attorneys General, Department of the Attorney General, for Appellee-Appellee.

By: Fujise, Presiding Judge, Leonard and Chan, JJ.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Petitioner-Appellant, Robin J. Benedict (Benedict) appeals from the Order Granting Appellee’s Motion to Dismiss Appeal Filed March 16, 2016 (Order), and the Final Judgment (Judgment) entered against her on May 26, 2016, in the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit (Circuit Court).1

Following Benedict’s appeal to the Circuit Court from a denial of her application for service-connected disability retirement benefits with the Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawai‘i (ERS), the ERS filed a motion to dismiss the appeal as untimely under Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS) § 91-14(b) (2012)2 and Hawai‘i Rules of Civil Procedure (HRCP) Rule 72(b),3 which the Circuit Court granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Benedict was employed with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Human Services from 1989 to 2002 as an Income Maintenance Worker III. On January 3, 1997, Benedict was injured at work when she slipped on a wet floor while trying to maneuver the drawer of a file cabinet in her office. In July 2012, following a number of surgeries and a worsening of her condition, Benedict applied for service-connected disability retirement benefits with the ERS.

Following a contested hearing on April 1, 2015, the Hearing Officer recommended denial of Benedict’s application. The Board of Trustees to the ERS (Board) adopted the recommendation as its Proposed Decision on November 23, 2015 (Proposed Decision). Benedict, through counsel, received the Proposed Decision on November 25, 2015.

On January 27, 2016, Benedict filed a notice of appeal to the Circuit Court, "appeal[ing] from the Proposed Decision from the Board of Trustees of the [ERS] ... dated November 23, 2015," and requesting that the Circuit Court reverse the Board’s Proposed Decision.

On March 16, 2016, the ERS filed a motion to dismiss Benedict’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction because it was untimely under HRS § 91-14(b) and HRCP Rule 72(b). Benedict opposed the motion, arguing that the Proposed Decision was not a "final" decision or order under agency rules and that, even assuming arguendo that the decision was final, equitable tolling, based on the "extraordinary circumstances" of a serious car accident in which Benedict was involved on December 29, 2015, permitted untimely filing.

On April 29, 2016, the Circuit Court heard argument on the motion. On May 26, 2016, the Circuit Court issued the Order, in which it granted the ERSs motion and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction as untimely. The Circuit Court found that...

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