Hawaii State Court System

  • District Courts: Hawaii’s District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions in which the value of the claim does not exceed $40,000.
  • Circuit Courts: The Circuit Courts have general general jurisdiction in civil cases, as well as exclusive jurisdiction over civil cases where the contested amount exceeds $40,000. They have concurrent jurisdiction with District Courts in civil non-jury cases over amounts between $10,000-$40,000.
  • Intermediate Court of Appeals: The Intermediate Court of Appeals is Hawaii’s second highest court that reviews appeals from state trial court.
  • The Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is Hawaii’s highest court, and makes binding decisions over appeals from lower courts.

*Some of the above courts also have jurisdiction over certain proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 20 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

Civil parties have the ability to obtain more information about factual issues in the case via the discovery process. In general, Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter of the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Parties may obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things or permission to enter upon land or other property for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission.

Settlement Negotiations

At all times throughout the claims process, the parties can agree to settle the dispute by reaching an amicable solution for both parties. 95% of all personal injury claims or lawsuits are resolved by way of settlement prior to trial.

Lawsuit Filed

In Hawaii, a personal injury claim may be filed in the District Court if the expected damages are $25,000 or less. If the expected damages exceed $25,000, the case must be filed in the Circuit Court. All cases must be filed in the county where either the accident occurred or where the defendant resides.

Summons and Service

A lawsuit is initiated by filing a Complaint with the clerk of the court in the courthouse of the county where the injury occurred. The Complaint is a document that sets forth the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant(s). After filing the Complaint, it will be personally served, along with a summons, upon the defendant(s). Service may be made by an officer authorized by law to serve process, but the court may appoint any competent person not interested in the action to serve the process. When appointed, the person making service shall make proof of service by affidavit promptly.

Response

A defendant has 20 days to file a response including any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims. If the defendant does not respond within 20 days, you can file forms related to obtaining a default judgment.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The judge in a personal injury matter may enter an order referring all or any part of a contested civil matter to mediation or arbitration. Most cases are ordered to non-binding arbitration where an appointed attorney listens to evidence and arguments in an informal proceeding and then issues a decision that the parties may choose to accept or decline. If the parties cannot agree on a resolution, the case will move to trial.

Trial

trials can take as little as a single day, but most trials last between a couple days to two weeks depending on their complexity.

Motions and Appeals

After a final ruling is provided from the Court, parties may appeal the verdict. The notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the trial court within 30 days of the date of the entry of the judgment.

Recovery

Judgments obtained in Hawaii are valid for 10 years.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Hawaii. Should you have a question/concern specific to Hawaii law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Hawaii.