Lahaina wildfire cases could get a trial date as soon as Nov. 18

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Maui Fire litigation State Court hearing in Wailuku. (4.12.24) PC: Wendy Osher

Parties to cases involving the Lahaina wildfire disaster could see their first trial date as soon as Nov. 18, 2024 before Judge Peter Cahill. The date was set during a status conference held Friday before a room full of attorneys representing various interests in the case.

Judge Cahill met with attorneys to discuss the appointment of mediators to assist the court with potential settlement options, deal with discovery and administrative issues, set trial dates and consider logistics with handling so many claims.

In March, the court had already set trials for seven Upcountry fire cases for Sept. 9, 2024. “Kudos to the court. That’s very fast to be setting trials compared to what we’ve seen in a lot of other fires that we’ve worked on around the country,” said Jon Givens, an attorney whose practice is devoted solely to fire loss clients. He is working with survivors of the Lahaina wildfire in partnership with Maui attorney Jan K. Apo, who serves on the Liaison Committee overseeing the lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric Company.


For the Lahaina fires, there’s a proposal for some trial dates in November 2024 and more in February of 2025, to avoid the major holidays. The court reviewed the procedure and mechanism for deciding how to select which cases to put up for trial on respective dates.

Attorneys for Hawaiian Electric Company, the County of Maui and the state were among those who floated ideas for handling such a large volume of material in a timely and expeditious way.

One suggestion was to lump cases like property damage, wrongful death and business interruption into one trial group to get a broad range of expert testimony. Another suggestion was to refrain from a mix and match approach, and instead keep the liability similar in each group.


“In terms of the global picture, it’s a question of who is responsible for each of the fires. And so each fire has separate facts,” Givens said of the Kula, Olinda and Lahaina fires that occurred on Aug. 8, 2023. “We will be arguing with respect to each of the three fires, what was the cause and origin of that fire, why did that fire spread… and so the big picture is the liability, in other words the responsibility for who is to blame and who is responsible for the fire. And then on a personal level, for the individual plaintiffs, we have to establish what their family’s losses were—ranging for anything from business losses to losses of property, losses of loved ones [and] injuries,” he said.

The discussion comes as after a federal judge remanded the cases back to the state court on Maui, to be heard in front of Maui judges and Maui juries.

With the sheer amount of civil cases to put on the calendar and the list of plaintiffs growing to over 1,000, the court’s resources are stretched. The impact on jurors was also considered due to the amount of time required away from jobs, and the jury pool size needed to ensure enough backfill.


Due to the limited capacity of the courtroom, Judge Cahill said he is also considering the use of Zoom to accommodate witnesses, representatives and members of the press.

April 25, 2024 is a date identified for disclosure of insurance policies, and May 31, 2024 is a date set for disclosure of known or potential liens on properties under review in the case.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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