Settlement claims bills include 2 items related to Big Island charter schools

A pair of companion bills introduced in the state Legislature requesting more than $1.73 million to pay off claims against the state include a couple of Hawaii Island cases, both including Big Island public charter schools.

House Bill 885 and its Senate companion, SB 1039, seek $75,000 to settle the 2016 Kona Circuit Court case of Pamela Miller-Potter.

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Miller-Potter was at a night meeting at Waimea Middle School and, after excusing herself to go to the restroom, tripped over a bench in the hallway where the lights had burned bout.

According to the attorney general’s written testimony, Miller-Potter suffered “facial and dental injuries and scarring, right shoulder pain and aggravation of a pre-existing left knee condition that necessitated a total knee replacement.”

Miller-Potter’s settlement demand claimed medical expenses of $212,846.46. Mediation in the case, however, resulted in a settlement of $75,000.

Miller-Potter’s case was in a 2019 claims appropriation bill, but money for her case wasn’t appropriated. The coronavirus pandemic curtailed almost all non-COVID-19-related business in the 2020 session, including appropriations for settlements against the state, its officers or employees.

The other Big Island case was an administrative wrongful termination case brought by the Hawaii Government Employees Association on behalf of Ardith Renteria, former education director of Volcano School of Arts and Sciences. A hearings officer entered a judgment of $74,053.25 in Renteria’s favor.

The largest settlement in the bill, accounting for more than half of the money requested, is $995,000 to the family of Nickolaus Siu. Siu, a 26-year-old motorcyclist, was killed July 12, 2014, while he and two other motorcyclists were riding on the on-ramp to the H-3 Freeway from the Likelike Highway on Oahu.

One of the motorcyclists lost control and slid into another motorcycle.

Siu died at the scene. Another man was taken to The Queen’s Medical Center in serious condition but survived.

Siu’s family sued, claiming the state failed to adequately warn motorists of hazardous conditions on the roadway.

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Both bills passed their first hearings in their respective chambers and were referred to the judiciary and money committees. Neither had been scheduled for a hearing as of Wednesday.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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