Lawsuit says Ala Moana mall officials knew about faulty rail

HONOLULU (AP) — Lawyers who have filed a lawsuit against the parent company of the Ala Moana Center say mall officials were warned about a railing years before it gave way, killing a young man and leaving another with a traumatic brain injury.

Nicholas Freitas died and his best friend Macroy Nagato suffered a traumatic injury when the third-level parking deck rail broke in 2016. Both were 21 years old at the time.

Freitas fell about 30 feet  into a basement planter box and Nagato fell to a second-level walkway.

Attorney L. Richard Fried Jr. said Nagato is wheelchair-bound, brain damaged, partially paralyzed and partially blind from the fall.

“His care over his lifetime will be astronomical. It’ll be round the clock care, rehab, physical therapy,” Fried Jr. said.

He said the mall and parent company General Growth Properties knew about the rusty rail posts since 2005, when a contractor found it and recommended repairs. The lawsuit claims the parent company was warned by the contractor and an architect four times about the unsafe rail.

“Ala Moana and the GM Francis Kofran knew the railings were unsafe and a hazard, but they did nothing this entire time to repair the railings,” Fried Jr. said.

An Ala Moana representative could not be reached for comment.

After the railing collapsed, the city issued a notice of violation to General Growth Properties, giving the company 30 days to address the issue or face fines.

“The evidence indicates a safety issue with the railings and we issued a notice of violation, which requires the owner to apply for a building permit to repair or replace the damaged railings,” said Art Challacombe, acting city Department of Planning and Permitting director, at the time of the notice.

The city confirmed that the railings were fixed in January 2018.

Fried Jr. said the mall’s net worth in 2016 was $1.36 billion and the cost to fix the defective railings was $4 million.