Judge sets trial dates for Ka Loko Dam cases
LIHUE » A Kauai judge has blocked out nearly the entire year of 2009 to hear lawsuits related to the Ka Loko Dam breach.
The two cases, a wrongful-death suit brought by the seven victims' families, and a property damage claim filed by entertainer Bette Midler and others, name Ka Loko Dam owner James Pflueger, irrigation company owner Tom Hitch, partial reservoir owner the Mary Lucas trust, the state, Kauai County and former sugar plantation C. Brewer & Co. as defendants, among others.
Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe, who said yesterday that she expects to be the judge throughout the process, said the wrongful-death trial will start on Feb. 2, 2009. After what might be a short break, the property damage trial will start on Sept. 7, 2009.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they will try to consolidate the two cases into one trial, which could take up to six months. Pflueger's attorneys said they will fight any motions to consolidate the cases.
A third case, in which Pflueger is suing C. Brewer, Hitch and the state for allegedly failing to properly maintain and inspect the dam, may also make its way into the Circuit Court in Lihue. It was filed in Honolulu, but a judge there has granted a request to move the case to Lihue. A motion to reconsider has yet to be decided, nor has a trial date been set.
Pflueger is also suing Mimsy Bouret in the Circuit Court on Kauai. According to the suit, Bouret called Pflueger a murderer at a 2006 Kauai County Council meeting, and Pflueger is suing for slander. No trial date has been set in that case either.
The state Attorney General's Office, which is handling the criminal investigation in the Ka Loko breach, refused to comment this week on whether any possible criminal charges may still be filed against those involved.