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Arthur v. Goodfellow Brothers, Inc.

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

February 13, 2014

JAMES D. ARTHUR, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GOODFELLOW BROTHERS, INC., Defendant-Appellee, and JOHN DOES 1-10, DOE ENTITIES 1-10.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAI'I REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (CIVIL NO. 09-1-0212)

Venetia K. Carpenter-Asui for Plaintiff-Appellant

Ronald Y.K. Leong Melvyn M. Miyagi, Lani Narikiyo, Ross T. Shinyama for Defendant-Appellee

Nakamura, C.J., Fujise and Ginoza, JJ.

SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER

Plaintiff-Appellant James D. Arthur (Arthur) appeals from the Judgment, filed on March 18, 2 011, entered in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit court)[1] disposing of all claims in favor of Defendant-Appellee Goodfellow Brothers, Inc. (Goodfellow).

On appeal, Arthur contends that the circuit court erred when it: (1) denied Arthur's "Motion in Limine #3 to Exclude Evidence of Plaintiff's Complaints to HCRC, EEOC, NLRB and Lawsuit Against Union" (Motion in Limine #3), filed September 16, 2010; (2) denied Arthur's Motion for a New Trial (Motion for a New Trial); and (3) granted Goodfellow's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Motion for Fees/Costs).

Upon careful review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties and having given due consideration to the arguments advanced and the issues raised by the parties, as well as the relevant statutory and case law, we resolve Arthur's points of error as follows:

(1) Arthur argues that because his Motion in Limine #3 was denied, "the entire trial was saturated from opening statements, through examination of witnesses, and in closing arguments about the fact that [Arthur's] claims in those other forums were dismissed, and thus, the jury in this [case] should find in conjuction with those other cases and dismiss this case."

Arthur's Motion in Limine #3, which was brought pursuant to Hawai'i Rules of Evidence (HRE) 401, 402 and 403, sought to exclude evidence of complaints he filed with the Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), as well as evidence of a lawsuit he filed against the Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 and a co-worker {collectively, "Other Complaints"). In his motion, Arthur noted that each of the Other Complaints had been dismissed for various reasons and if the Other Complaints were raised, he would have to explain the circumstances as to each.

During the hearing on Motion in Limine #3, the circuit court indicated its concern that Goodfellow sought to use evidence of the Other Complaints as "telegraphing to the jury, look he tried all this stuff and none of the rest of it worked, so why should you give him this recovery." The circuit court .further explained its view, however, that the evidence would be relevant as to apportionment, as well as to show that Arthur gave different explanations in different forums for why he was injured. In relevant portions of the hearing, the circuit court explained:

THE COURT: .... What is presented here is alternative explanations for not only the degree of injury and the causes of it, but also inception of the lawsuit itself.
Is this a lawsuit about having been wrongly-terminated, or is it a lawsuit about having been accused by a fellow employee about sexual behavior, or is it - - it has very to do with the core of the allegations itself. If there's evidence that the plaintiff provided alternate explanations to different sources, then it's more than just apportionment, but it [s] apportionment.
THE COURT: .... But what I'm finding from this is that if he approached a number of different agencies and alleged different bases for why he is ...

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