Lawmakers get complaints on outdoor lawsuitsUPDATED 8:45 PM HST Apr 10, 2014Video Transcript
crossing lines... putting her OWN interests in front of the state's. Good evening, I'm Kenny Choi, in for Paula Akana. And I'm Yunji de Nies... Outdoor groups just filed an ethics complaint against Representative Sylvia Luke... They say she CHANGED a bill designed to make it HARDER to sue the state or counties if you get hurt on public land. KITV4's Andrew Pereira talked to both sides, and joins us now with tonight's top story. Andrew? Yunji, Rep. Luke is a personal injury lawyer.... but says she had the best interest of outdoor enthusiasts in mind when she removed language from a bill supported by DLNR. Whether it's mountain biking... or mountain climbing, your access to some outdoor areas might hinge on how safe the state and counties are from lawsuits! More than 2,000 people are urging the state to take one important step. MARCUS GRIEGO: "WE WANT THE STATE TO PUT IN THE SIGNS REGARDING LIABILITY THAT IF YOU GO IN THERE, YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF." Outdoor groups already thought they had climbed that mountain when the governor's office supported a bill that would grant the state and counties immunity. Protection would come from signs warning of dangerous "non-natural conditions on unimproved lands." MICHAEL RICHARDSON: "AND THAT LANGUAGE WAS REMOVED FROM THE BILL" Finance Committee chair Sylvia Luke removed the language about "non-natural conditions on unimproved public lands" , claiming it actually leaves the state liable, for example if rock climbers leave behind an anchor or rope. REP. SYLVIA LUKE: "SO THE NEXT PERSON WHO COMES ALONG, THEY'RE GOING TO USE THAT AND GET INJURED BY THE TIME THE STATE FINDS OUT ABOUT IT. AND THEN PUT UP A SIGN, IT WOULD BE AFTER THE FACT." Luke is an attorney with Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina and Fairbanks, billed as Hawaii's largest personal injury law firm. Outdoor groups say that's a clear conflict of interest, and have filled a complaint with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission. MARCUS GRIEGO: "IF SHE TAKES OUT THIS VERBIAGE THAT WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THEN BASICALLY SHE GETS TO KEEP ALL HER CLIENTELE. IF SHE WERE TO LEAVE IT IN, SHE LOSES CLIENTELE." Luke flatly denies the allegation, and says she's not looking out for her own skin. REP. SYLVIA LUKE: "I THINK THROUGH COMMUNICATION WE'LL HAVE A BETTER APPROACH AND THEY WILL UNDERSTAND THAT MY INTEREST IS PROTECTING THE STATE." Luke says a better way to protect the state and counties from lawsuits is to set-up an online permitting system for outdoor enthusiasts. She envisions DLNR taking the lead. REP. SYLVIA LUKE: "AND THEN WE REQUIRE THESE USERS TO WAIVE THEIR LIABILITY, IT WOULD PROVIDE FULL PROTECTION. WHEREAS IN THE BILL WE WOULD ALWAYS BE BEHIND TWO STEPS." MICHAEL RICHARDSON: "ADDING ANOTHER PERMIT SYSTEM IS ANOTHER LAYER OF BUREAUCRACY FOR THE STATE. DOES DLNR HAVE TIME AND MONEY AND RESOURCES FOR THAT? I DON'T THINK SO." The liability protection bill is headed to conference committee, but Luke says her permit idea doesn't need legislation. As far as the ethics complaint against Luke, it faces an uphill climb since lawmakers are granted immunity for official actions while they're in office.