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Hawaii Supreme Court rules on Ala Moana wrongful death case

HONOLULU >> Ala Moana Center had a duty to care for a woman who died after getting stuck in an exhaust duct, even though she was trespassing on the roof, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled.

But the opinion filed Thursday also affirms parts of a lower court’s ruling in favor of Ala Moana that the mall couldn’t be liable for not anticipating she 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 and squeezed into the duct above the food court and got trapped in the stove hood in 2005. She died of hyperthermia after rescuers removed her from the duct. The medical examiner said that based on information on the circumstances leading to her death, she had a psychotic episode. 

The high court said it was proper to grant summary judgment in favor of Ala Moana but that 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 she seemed to be acting erratically, jumping on the duct and saying a 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.

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. A first call was to police to say that a woman 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 a hospital. 

General Growth Properties, Inc., which owns and manages Ala Moana Center, declined to comment on the ruling. 

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