Native Hawaiians eligible for millions in damages after decades battle

Oahu Landscape via flickr creative commons by Bernard Spragg

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons of Oahu Landscape by Bernard Spragg

Hundreds of Native Hawaiians could soon be eligible for tens of millions of dollars thanks to a ruling from the Hawaii State Supreme Court, reports KITV.

The 5-0 decision means the process will now begin to determine how much damages should be paid to 2700 plaintiffs who originally filed their class action lawsuit in 1999, according to the Star Advertiser.

Many of the original plaintiffs have since died.

The suit was filed under a 1991 statute which was intended to quickly compensate claimants for delays in granting them homesteads.

Native Hawaiians with at least 50% Hawaiian ancestry are eligible to apply for 99-year leases at $1 per year to be used for their residents, ranching or farming on land overseen by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The leases were established under the Hawaiian Home Commission Act of 1920, but the granting of those leases have been hampered by delays.

The plaintiffs argued the state has consistently blocked payment of those claims under the 1991 statute.

“The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands principal duty was not to create waiting lists; DHHL’s principal duty is to rehabilitate Native Hawaiians by creating homesteads that they can inhabit, farm or ranch.  The Hawaii Supreme Court understood this and applied the statute in a manner that supports its remedial purposes to achieve a just result,” co-lead counsel Thomas Grande said to KITV.

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