Man sues hospital in loss of heirloom necklace

Removed for a CT scan; valued at $100,000

HILO (AP) — A Hawaii man filed a lawsuit against a hospital over the loss of an heirloom whale tooth necklace.

Attorneys representing Alejandro Tejada filed the lawsuit May 9 against Hilo Medical Center, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.

The lawsuit filed in Hilo Circuit Court seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The 62-year-old Hilo man suffered a stroke in September 2018 and was treated at the Big Island hospital.

A staff member preparing him for a CT scan removed and did not return the necklace described as a “niho kohola,” which is made of a sperm whale tooth and valued at more than $100,000, according to the lawsuit.

Tejada filed a claim for the lost necklace, which was denied in an April letter from the state Department of Accounting and General Services.

The hospital “did at one time have possession of the whale tooth but then claims it was later given to Mrs. Tejada who placed it in her purse,” an agency risk management officer wrote.

That statement is “false and derogatory,” the lawsuit said.

The hospital cannot comment due to patient privacy law, spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said Friday.

The necklace was entrusted to Tejada by his family due to his accomplishments as a Hawaiian martial arts master and “warrior for Hawaii.” The necklace is “a form of tabua, or kapu (forbidden) piece of regalia which held his ancestors’ mana (power),” according to the lawsuit.

“To me, it’s my soul. It’s my whole spirit,” Tejada said.