Insurance is key in Xerox suit

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

The estate of one victim is being sued by the other six

By Debra Barayuga

dbarayuga@starbulletin.com

Attorneys will get extra time to find out if one of the Xerox managers killed in the Nov. 2, 1999, Xerox shootings had liability insurance.

Families of the six other victims killed by copy repairman Byran Uyesugi are suing the estate of Melvin Lee, contending that as a manager, Lee was aware of Uyesugi's violent episodes and should have done something about it.

Yesterday, Circuit Judge Eden Elizabeth Hifo denied a motion by Lee's estate to dismiss all claims against it by the six families. The estate maintains that there are homeowners' and auto insurance but no liability insurance that would have covered Lee in an event such as the deadly shootings.

"We feel we've done what we're required ... provided complete and truthful responses and further disclosed no indemnity agreement," Lex Smith, attorney for Lee's estate, told the judge yesterday.

The families of Ford Kanehira, Ronald Kataoka, Ronald Kawamae, Peter Mark, Christopher "Jason" Balatico and John Sakamoto had sued Lee and other management, saying they knew of Uyesugi's violent record and previous threats against co-workers but failed to take reasonable measures to protect them.

Crystal Rose, attorney for Xerox, said all the lawsuits filed by families of the victims against Xerox were forwarded to Xerox's workers' compensation and general liability insurance carriers, and both denied coverage as far as Lee was concerned.

Gerald Sekiya, attorney for Sakamoto's wife, Susan, said that just because insurance companies denied coverage, it does not mean there is no coverage, and he wants more proof.

"Liability insurance or insurance is not in any way limited to commercial insurance," he said.

State law prohibits claims against an estate made more than 18 months after the person's death. The exception is for claims covered by insurance.

In this case, there is no liability insurance, Smith said, so the claims should be dismissed.