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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Judge fast-tracks appeal of Sacred Falls negligence ruling

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario yesterday gave the state permission to immediately appeal to the Hawai'i Supreme Court his ruling that the state was at fault for a May 1999 rock fall at the Sacred Falls state park that killed eight people and injured more than 40 others.

Del Rosario's decision came after assurances by attorneys for the state that the lawsuit filed over the rockslide will be settled out of court if the Supreme Court upholds Del Rosario's ruling that the state was negligent.

Attorneys Arthur Park and Larry Remillard, who filed the lawsuit against the state on behalf of about 40 Sacred Falls victims or their relatives, were to return to court Jan. 23 to establish how much money each of their clients should receive. They said they expected monetary damages to be in the millions of dollars.

But Del Rosario's action yesterday delays the damages portion of the trial until the Supreme Court either agrees to hear the appeal and rules on it, or rejects it out of hand.

Park and Remillard yesterday were considering filing a request for the Supreme Court to dismiss the state's appeal or, in the alternative, to order Del Rosario to proceed with the damages portion of the trial.

State Attorney General Earl Anzai has said Del Rosario's September ruling in the Sacred Falls case sets an undesirable precedent of requiring the state to come up with "perfect signs" warning visitors to all state parks of any potential hazard. But Park maintains that Del Rosario never said the signs had to be perfect, just adequate. Park said the signs posted at Sacred Falls on the day of the tragedy ignored national safety standards and standards used by the National Park Service and the Kaua'i parks division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.