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Paco v. Myers

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

November 27, 2018

NATHAN PACO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
MARY K. MYERS, dba MARY K. MYERS, Ph.D., dba MARY MYERS, Ph.D., INC., aka MARY MYERS, TRUST, Defendant-Appellee, and DOES 1-10, Defendants


          Nathan Paco, Plaintiff-Appellant Pro Se.

          Thomas Benedict, (Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stiefel), for Defendant-Appellee.

          Ginoza, Chief Judge, Fujise and Leonard, JJ.


         Plaintiff-Appellant Nathan Paco (Paco) appeals pro se from the Judgment entered by the Circuit Court of the- First Circuit (Circuit Court) on October 4, 2016 (Judgment). Paco also challenges the Circuit Court's August 23, 2016 Order Granting Defendant Mary K. Myers, dba Mary K. Myers, Ph.D. dba Mary Myers, Ph.D., Inc., aka Mary K. Myers Trust's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint filed April 29, 2016, filed July 6, 2016 with Prejudice (Dismissal Order), [1]

         Paco raises three points of error on appeal, contending that: (1) in an earlier civil suit (Civil No. 14-1-0576-03-KTN) (Prior Suit), a circuit court erred when it dismissed Paco's complaint therein; (2) in this case, the Circuit Court erred when it refused to relieve Paco of the judgment in the Prior Suit; and (3) the Circuit Court erred when it dismissed this case based on the statute of limitations, rather than applying the doctrine of equitable tolling.

         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, we resolve Paco's points of error as follows:

         (1) Both parties request that we take judicial notice of the Prior Suit. It appears that judgment was entered against Paco in the Prior Suit on April 26, 2016, and that no relief from judgment was sought therein and no appeal was taken. Instead, Paco filed another suit raising the same allegations.

         Paco seeks a ruling that the court in the Prior Suit erred in dismissing that suit. However, appeals must be taken "in the manner and within the time provided by the rules of court." Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 641-1(c) (2016). To appeal a civil matter, a notice of appeal "shall be filed within 30 days after entry of the judgment or appealable order." Hawai'i Rules of Appellate Procedure (HRAP) Rule 4(a)(1) (emphasis added).

         Paco filed a Notice of Appeal in the instant case on November 1, 2016.' Even if Paco had identified the April 26, 2016 judgment in the Prior Suit in the Notice of Appeal, which he did not, such an appeal is now untimely under HRAP Rule 4(a)(1). Therefore, we lack appellate jurisdiction to consider the merits of Paco's first point of error.

         (2) Paco similarly argues that the Circuit Court erred in denying him relief from the judgment in the Prior Suit. However, HRS § 602-57(1) (2016) gives the Hawai'i Intermediate Court of Appeals jurisdiction "[t]o hear and determine appeals from any court or agency when appeals are allowed by law." HRS § 641-1(a) (2016) authorizes appeals from "final judgments, orders, or decrees." Paco cites no authority granting a circuit court jurisdiction to hear an appeal or otherwise review a final judgment entered by another circuit court and, with respect to the circumstances here, we find none. Thus, we conclude that Paco's second point of error is without merit.

         (3) This case involves a medical malpractice claim subject to a two-year statute of limitations.[2] The Circuit Court concluded that "Plaintiff was required to file any claims concerning alleged harm arising out of the treatment by Defendant Myers no later than April 2015." Paco does not dispute that, absent "equitable tolling," the complaint filed in this case on April 29, 2016, is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         Instead, Paco contends that the doctrine of equitable tolling of the statute of limitations applies to the facts of this case. Paco relies primarily on Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273 (9th Cir. 1993). In Cervantes, based on its application of California precedent, the court tolled the statute of limitations for a plaintiff s complaint after he had pursued remedies in another forum.[3] Id. at 1274. There, the plaintiff pursued remedies in an administrative proceeding and appealed the adverse determination of the administrative authority to the state court. While pursuing administrative remedies, the plaintiff was unable to pursue a remedy in another forum, i.e., a federal court proceeding. Id. The instant case is distinguishable from Cervantes on various grounds, most importantly that Paco did not file this suit in a different forum; rather, Paco filed a new suit in the same forum rather than pursuing relief in the Prior Suit from the trial court, such as through an HRCP Rule 60(b) motion, or by way of appellate review of the judgment in the Prior Suit.

         Hawai'i courts have recognized equitable tolling as "[t]he doctrine that the statute of limitations will hot bar a claim if the plaintiff, despite diligent efforts, did not discover the injury until after the limitations period had expired." Narmore v. Kawafuchi, 112 Hawai'i 69, 75 n.15, 143 P.3d 1271, 1277 n.15 (2006) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 579 (8th ed. 2004)), superseded by statute on other grounds, HRS ยงยง ...

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