Friday, March 21, 2003

Honolulu attorney loses
legal-malpractice lawsuit

A former Kalihi woman is
awarded $483,875 in damages

By Debra Barayuga

A Circuit Court jury has found Honolulu attorney Erlinda Dominguez committed legal malpractice in a personal injury case, and awarded a former Kalihi woman $483,875 in damages.

June Barnedo and husband Juan Barnedo burst into tears when the verdict was announced yesterday, their attorney Frank O'Brien said.

June Barnedo had retained Dominguez to represent her in a workers' compensation and personal injury claim after losing three of her fingers and part of her right thumb in an accident with a noodle-making machine in 1989. She had been employed at Five Star Noodle Factory in Kalihi as a noodle packer for about a week and was cleaning the noodle machine when it activated and her right hand was pulled in. She had not been trained to operate the machine, but was asked by her employer to clean it.

The jury found that Dominguez was negligent in serving the lawsuit on the Japanese company that manufactured the noodle machine as well as responding to a lawsuit filed by the manufacturer against the Barnedos, O'Brien said. The jury also found that Dominguez was negligent in not naming Royal Trading as a defendant in the personal injury case. Royal Trading had obtained the noodle machine for Five Star.

Dominguez and Roy Chang, her attorney, could not be reached for comment.

During closing arguments, Chang had argued that the machine was not defective. Barnedo's injuries resulted because she and her employer violated government health and safety rules, he said.

He said Five Star failed to properly train Barnedo, who did not ask a co-worker for instructions. Barnedo did not turn off the main switch to the machine before she began cleaning it, he said.

He said Barnedo could not recover damages in her personal injury case because of issues that were not Dominguez's fault. He also said Barnedo's case was weak from the start.

Dominguez was able to resolve the workers' compensation claim and obtained for Barnedo more than $192,000 in compensation for scarring, disfigurement and loss of her fingers, lost wages and to pay for her medical bills and vocational rehabilitation, Chang said.

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