The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled today that a wrongful death lawsuit against Ala Moana Center can move forward.
The high court said Ala Moana had a duty to aid 22-year-old Jasmine Fry, who died in 2005 after she fell into an exhaust vent above the center's food court.
"Genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Ala Moana breached this duty and whether such a breach was a substantial factor in causing Fry's injuries and/or death," Justice Sabrina McKenna wrote.
A Big Island resident, Fry came to Oahu in September 2005 to audition for a part in the theatrical show Stomp. Ala Moana officials say they later found a disoriented Fry on the center's highly secured roof, wearing only a bikini.
But before workers could remove her, Fry fell into an exhaust vent and remained stuck in the vent for more than two hours before she was removed.
In today's ruling, McKenna said that even after Ala Moana employees discovered that Fry was stuck in the vent, they didn't immediately turn off the stoves that fed into the vents.
"She literally cooked to death," said attorney Michael Green, who along with lawyer Myles Breiner is representing Fry's family.
"Nobody calls anyone to help her -- fire, police or any other rescue service -- for almost 19 minutes, 20 minutes. She gets extracted an hour later."
The medical examiner concluded that Fry died as a result of hypothermia and respiratory compromise and that "an acute psychotic episode" contributed to her death. Drugs were not a factor.
Fry was six to eight weeks pregnant when she died.
Ala Moana declined comment today. But in court papers, it said it was not required to help her because she was trespassing.
Under the high court's decision, the case gets sent back to the lower court to be retried.
The ruling has broad implications because it now means that shopping centers and other landowners have a duty to aid people who suffer an injury after they invite them onto their property.