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Gilding v. State

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai‘i

June 29, 2012

Rocky R. GILDING, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
v.
STATE of Hawai‘i, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

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This decision has been designated as "Unpublished disposition."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 First Circuit (Civil No. 08-1-1852).

Marie Manuele Gavigan, Deputy Attorney General, on the briefs, for Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

Eric A. Seitz, Delia A. Belatti, Ronald N.W. Kim, on the briefs, for Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

NAKAMURA, C.J., FOLEY, and FUJISE, JJ.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee State of Hawai‘i (SOH) appeals from the Judgment entered March 9, 2011, in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit [1] (circuit court) in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant Rocky R. Gilding (Gilding). Gilding cross-appeals from the same Judgment.

On appeal, SOH contends the following:

(1) Circuit court erred when it awarded special damages for Gilding's medical expenses. Finding of Fact (FOF) 36 is in error and Conclusion of Law (COL) 6 is wrong.

(2) Circuit court erred when it failed to apportion damages between Gilding's alleged injury and his pre-existing condition. FOF 29 is in error and COL 5 is wrong.

(3) Circuit court's finding of sole liability in favor of Gilding was against the weight of the evidence presented at trial. COL 4 is wrong.

On cross-appeal, Gilding contends:

(1) Circuit court erred when it found insufficient evidence to support an award of future medical expenses. FOF 37 is in error.

(2) Circuit court erred when it found that testimony of Robert A. Male, Ph.D., (Dr. Male) was not credible. FOF 42 is in error.

(3) Circuit court erred when it found insufficient evidence to support an award for loss of Gilding's past and future earning capacity, and loss of past and future household services. FOF 43 is in error.

(4) Circuit court erred when it entered judgment in favor of Gilding in the amount of $300,516. COL 8 is wrong.

I. BACKGROUND

On September 15, 2006, while incarcerated at Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC), Gilding and eight other inmates were transferred by van to the Federal Detention Center (FDC). The inmates were restrained by waist chains and leg irons, which hindered their movements.

On September 10, 2008, Gilding filed a Complaint against SOH, seeking damages for an injury allegedly sustained during the transfer from OCCC to the FDC. In his Complaint, Gilding alleged that as he stepped down from the van onto a wooden stool, the stool slid out from under him, causing him to fall back and hit his neck, left shoulder, and back on the bottom of the van's door well and ground. Gilding asserted that, due to this incident, he sustained permanent and disabling injuries as well as severe emotional and mental distress.

Trial was held January 31, February 1, and February 2, 2011. Circuit court entered its FOFs, COLs, and Judgment on March 9, 2011. SOH filed its notice of appeal on April 6, 2011. Gilding cross-appealed on April 12, 2011.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Findings of Fact (FOF)/Conclusions of Law (COL)

" In this jurisdiction, a trial court's FOFs are subject to the clearly erroneous standard of review. An FOF is clearly erroneous when, despite evidence to support the finding, the appellate court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Chun v. Bd. of Trs. of the Employees' Ret. Sys. of the State of Hawai‘i, 106 Hawai‘i 416, 430, 106 P.3d 339, 353 (2005) (internal quotation marks, citations, and ellipses omitted) (quoting Allstate Ins. Co. v. Ponce, 105 Hawai‘i 445, 453, 99 P.3d 96, 104 (2004)). " An FOF is also clearly erroneous when the record lacks substantial evidence to support the finding. [The Hawai‘i Supreme Court has] defined " substantial evidence" as credible evidence which is of sufficient quality and probative value to enable a person of reasonable caution to support a conclusion." Leslie v. Estate of Tavares, 91 Hawai‘i 394, 399, 984 P.2d 1220, 1225 (1999) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (quoting State v. Kotis, 91 Hawai‘i 319, 328, 984 P.2d 78, 87 (1999)).

An appellate court is " not confined to the trial court's express findings of fact and may also take into consideration the uncontradicted evidence contained in the record." Molokoa Village Development Co., Ltd. v. Kauai Elec. Co., Ltd., 60 Haw. 582, 593, 593 P.2d 375, 382 (1979). Furthermore, " [f]indings of fact ... that are not challenged on appeal are binding on the appellate court." Okada Trucking Co., Ltd. v. Board of Water Supply, 97 Hawai‘i 450, 458, 40 P.3d 73, 81 (2002).

A COL is not binding upon an appellate court and is freely reviewable for its correctness. [The appellate court] ordinarily reviews COLs under the right/wrong standard. Thus, a COL that is supported by the trial court's FOFs and that reflects an application of the correct rule of law will not be overturned. However, a COL that presents mixed questions of fact and law is reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard because the court's conclusions are dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case.

Chun, 106 Hawai‘i at 430, 106 P.3d at 353 (internal quotation marks, citations, and brackets in original omitted) (quoting Ponce, 105 ...


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