Wednesday, March 8, 2000
By Rod Ohira
A legal question that will be answered by the state Supreme Court has forced postponement of trial in Kathryn "Katie" McKenzie's suit against a motorist whose car struck her in 1997 and against the driver's HMO.
At issue is whether the Kaiser Permanente Hawaii Medical Group has a "duty" to McKenzie for allegedly prescribing a drug to attorney Jerry Wilson, which he claims caused him to pass out while driving during morning rush-hour traffic on Aug. 8, 1997.
Wilson's car crossed over Bishop and King streets and struck McKenzie at the Bank of Hawaii Plaza seven days before her 12th birthday. McKenzie suffered critical injuries and was in a coma for a month.
Attorney George Playdon Jr., representing Kaiser, raised the issue Monday -- on the eve of the trial's opening -- since there is no state law covering "duty."
U.S. District Judge David Ezra will seek guidelines from the state high court and ordered the trial postponed.
"Judge Ezra made the correct decision because that precise issue has not been decided in Hawaii," said Richard Fried, one of the attorneys representing McKenzie. "But we believe the state Supreme Court will find there is duty."
McKenzie's lawsuit alleges that Kaiser prescribed Minipress to Wilson for urological problems when other drugs, such as Hythrin and Cardura, were available that would have caused fewer side effects during the day.
"With Minipress, most problems occur 30 to 90 minutes after it's taken," Fried said. "Wilson took it at 7:45 a.m., and at 8:15 he passed out.
"Minipress is only used by Kaiser, no one else, and better drugs are available. The allegation is that it's cheaper."
Kaiser's attorney disputed Wilson's claim.
"We're convinced the drug had nothing to do with the accident," Playdon said. "But we're not going to get there until (the legal question is resolved)."
The issue is expected to delay trial for several months.