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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 1, 2004

No closure yet for families suing Uyesugi

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

Five years ago tomorrow, Byran Uyesugi went to work at the Xerox Corp.'s warehouse on Nimitz Highway and shattered forever Hawai'i's sense of immunity from the workplace violence that plagues Mainland communities.

Byran Uyesugi
The copier repair technician hid a loaded Glock 9 mm semiautomatic gun under his aloha shirt, climbed the stairs to the second floor of the building and gunned down seven of his co-workers, becoming the state's worst mass murderer.

Since then, Uyesugi has been convicted of first-degree murder by a jury that rejected his insanity defense — a conviction upheld by the Hawai'i Supreme Court. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. Now he is among the Hawai'i inmates housed at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss.


Byran Uyesugi's murderous rampage on Nov. 2, 1999, that left seven fellow Xerox employees dead led to lawsuits that are now combined in one case.

The lawsuits are on behalf of relatives of the seven slain men: Jason Balatico, 33, of Kalihi Valley; Ford Kanehira, 41, of Kane'ohe; Ronald Kataoka, 50, of Mililani; Ronald Kawamae, 54, of Makiki; Melvin W.T. Lee, 58, of Waipio Gentry; Peter Mark, 46, of Hawai'i Kai; and John Sakamoto, 36, of Hawai'i Kai.

The civil case also includes lawsuits by Randall Shin, a Xerox employee who was in the same room when two co-workers were shot, and George Moad, an employee of Hawaii Transfer Co., who discovered the bodies.

The suits are against Uyesugi; Xerox Corp.; five Xerox managers; Crisis Management International Inc.; Castle Medical Center; psychiatrists Denis Mee-Lee and Marvin Mathews; psychologist Marvin Acklin; and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Hawaii Permanente Medical Group Inc., which make up Kaiser Permanente.

But still pending is a massive and complicated civil-court case filed by relatives of the seven victims against Uyesugi, Xerox Corp. and healthcare institutions and mental-health experts who evaluated and treated the now 44-year-old before the slayings.

A weekslong trial is scheduled for March before Circuit Court Judge Eden Hifo on whether the defendants should be held responsible for the shooting deaths. If a jury finds them liable, a second trial will be held to determine whether the relatives will be awarded monetary damages.

But all have agreed to try to resolve the case through confidential mediation proceedings scheduled for Dec. 7, 8 and 9 before Keith Hunter, president of Dispute Prevention & Resolution Inc., and mediator Susan Haldeman of San Francisco, daughter of the late H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, President Nixon's chief of staff.

"For the sake of everybody, I hope the case is resolved," says Kenneth Robbins, the lawyer for a psychologist who had evaluated Uyesugi.

Lawyers for the relatives could not be reached or declined to comment out of fear of jeopardizing the court case or the mediation, which if successful, could bring closure for all parties and avoid years of litigation.

Uyesugi, who was diagnosed as suffering from a delusional disorder, is representing himself and is considered penniless. He was questioned by the lawyers at the Mississippi prison earlier this year in a videotaped deposition. There has been no ruling as to whether he will attend the trial. If he doesn't, portions of the tape may be replayed for the jury.

Xerox is among the defendants in a huge civil-court case filed by the families of the seven men killed by Byran Uyesugi on Nov. 2, 1999.

Advertiser library photo

The other defendants all deny any liability for the shootings.

Xerox already has paid the relatives of seven more than $7 million that include workers' compensation, insurance and other payments, according to company letters sent to the families.

The workers' compensation payments block Xerox from being sued by the relatives, but Xerox remains in the case because of a lawsuit by George Moad, an employee of Hawaii Transfer Co. who discovered the bodies, and its lawyers are defending the company managers.

According to the court file which already has grown to 29 volumes, the plaintiffs are alleging that the Xerox managers failed to take action against Uyesugi to protect the employees. In addition, they point to the way Uyesugi was evaluated and treated more than six years before the shooting.

Xerox brought in Crisis Management International Inc. to deal with Uyesugi after he kicked an elevator door in 1993. That led to his admission to Castle Medical Center for evaluation for five days.

He was evaluated by Castle psychiatrist Denis Mee-Lee and psychologist Marvin Acklin, who is represented by Robbins, before he was released and referred to psychiatrist Marvin Mathews with Kaiser Permanente. The plaintiffs allege that Mathews never followed up with adequate treatment and never saw Uyesugi after 1994.

"We really don't consider Castle Medical Center as having any responsibility in this case," said lawyer Edmund Burke, who represents the facility. He said Mee-Lee and Acklin evaluated Uyesugi and found he suffered from a delusional disorder, but concluded he did not pose an immediate risk to himself or others and made arrangements for him to see Mathews for treatment and to determine if he was fit to return to work.

Uyesugi returned to work in November 1993.

Scott Nariyoshi, director of corporate communications for Kaiser Permanente, said Uyesugi decided to terminate his appointments with Kaiser Permanente in early 1994.

"He's the one responsible for these deaths," Nariyoshi said.

Nariyoshi said Kaiser Permanente will attend the mediation to "really make a good-faith attempt to determine if it's possible for all the plaintiffs and defendants to reach a settlement in the case."

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.