LIHU’E — Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and Kaua’i County Councilman Billy Swain have
asked a State House committee chairman to hold a public hearing on a bill to
indemnify counties in any lawsuits involving injuries at state beaches operated
by the counties.
If the Legislature approves the bill, Kaua’i County will
be able to post lifeguards at state beaches with dangerous swimming
The bill has moved out of three Senate Committees and is being
reviewed by the House Judiciary Hawaiian Affairs Committee.
committee doesn’t hold a public hearing on the bill by April 7, it will
Of all the counties, Kaua’i had the largest number of drownings -13
The apparent drowning of a 35-year-old California man off
Polihale State Beach Thursday afternoon underscores the need for the passage
of legislation, said Beth Tokioka, county public information officer.
is a sad coincidence that this is happening at a time when we are pushing so
heavily for this legislation,” Kusaka said.
The bill, if approved, would
require the state to defend and indemnify the counties when they are sued for
their operation of beach parks, whether or not they fall under the
jurisdiction of the state.
The state Attorney General’s Office is opposed
to the bill because the state would have no control over the actions of county
employees or of the county beaches.
As a result, the state should not be
mandated to defend or indemnify the counties under such circumstances, the AG’s
Kaua’i Sen. Jonathan Chun said a better solution than
indemnification would be to extend immunity from lawsuits to the county, the
same privilege granted to the state by law.
Extending immunity to the
counties would encourage the placement of lifeguards at dangerous state
beaches, he said.
All the counties would benefit from this protection from
lawsuits, Chun said.
Since 1970, 196 drownings, 150 of which have occurred
at state beaches, have occurred on Kaua’i.
In the past few years, the
county, at the request of Kusaka Administration, has increased funding for the
hiring of more lifeguards, the purchase of more safety equipment and upgraded