Hawaii Supreme Court rules on wrongful death suit
By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — Ala Moana Center had a duty to care for a woman after she got stuck in an exhaust duct and later died, even though she was trespassing on the roof, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled.
The opinion issued Thursday also affirmed parts of a lower court’s ruling in favor of Ala Moana that the mall couldn’t be liable for not anticipating the woman would sneak onto the roof and end up in the vent.
The case now goes back to Circuit Court.
The family of Jasmine Rose Anne Fry, 22, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming Ala Moana was negligent and failed to care for her and her unborn baby.
Fry was six- to eight-weeks pregnant when she somehow accessed the roof, squeezed into the duct above the food court, and got trapped in a stove hood in 2005, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion.
The ruling said she died of hyperthermia after rescuers removed her from the duct. The medical examiner said that based on information about circumstances leading to her death, she had a psychotic episode.
“We are very happy that we are going to get our day in court,” Myles Breiner, one of the family’s attorneys said Friday. “We can resume litigation and get this matter before a jury.”
The high court said the mall “had a duty to exercise reasonable care to control those factors to prevent them for doing harm to Fry, even if she was a trespasser.”
A maintenance worker found Fry on the roof, barefoot and dressed in shorts and a tank top. She had grease smeared on her feet, hands, hair and face and told the worker she was a contractor hired to clean grease from an exhaust fan.
He thought it was odd and said she seemed to be acting erratically, jumping on the duct and saying there was a baby inside, according to the court’s opinion. Her jumping broke a hole in the metal and she squeezed her way in. The worker called security.
She fell four stories and landed above a deep fryer in the food court, Breiner said.
“She literally baked to death, he said. “Her and her fetus.”
Employees eventually turned off the stoves. While trapped, she told a security officer she was on the roof because “she wanted to be free.”
No one from Ala Moana called emergency services until about 20 minutes later, according to the ruling. The first call was to police to say a woman had broke into the duct and was crawling through without authorization. Later, another call asked for help getting her out of the duct. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
General Growth Properties, Inc., which owns and manages Ala Moana Center, declined to comment on the ruling. The company owns the Prince Kuhio Plaza mall in Hilo.
Michael Green, another attorney representing Fry’s family, said it’s still not known how she was able to access a series of locked doors to get up on the roof. “We’re convinced someone took her up there,” he said.
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