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State high court rules that arbitration not required in Maui case

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 4:54 p.m. HST, Sep 27, 2013

The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that a Maui teacher has the right to sue Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. in court for reimbursement of $250,000 in medical bills, even though the state health trust fund agreed to an arbitration process to settle disagreements.

Kaiser officials argued that Maui High School teacher Michael Siopes was bound to go through an arbitration procedure agreed  by his employer -- a process that would have required him to give up his right to a jury trial.

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Siopes wasn't bound to enter into arbitration because he hadn't signed a waiver agreeing to arbitration.

"If you did not sign a waiver to arbitration, then they cannot compel you to go through arbitration," his attorney Mark Davis said.

Davis said under procedures available for Siopes, he had the option of choosing HMSA or Kaiser but was never required to sign a waiver when he became a Kaiser Health Plan subscriber in 2003.

"There's nothing to inform you if you go to Kaiser you're giving up your right to a jury trial," Davis said.

Kaiser spokesperson Laura M. Lott declined comment  and said the health firm was studying  the court decision.

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