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Lawsuit announced in death of man at Ala Moana Center

By Diane Ako
Posted: May 09, 20185:22 PM HST
Updated: May 09, 20185:22 PM HST

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HONOLULU - The families of a 21-year-old man killed, and his friend who was injured, at Ala Moana Center after a railing collapsed are filing a lawsuit Wednesday, citing the mall's parent company, General Growth Properties for negligence.

Nicholas "Koa" Freitas died the night of October 9, 2016, when he fell several stories from the third level of the center's mauka wing. His longtime friend Macroy "Macky" Nagato who also fell was in critical condition. Nagato was also 21-years-old at the time of his accident.

Attorney L. Richard Fried, Jr. or Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina & Fairbanks, is representing the families. He says of Nagato, "His care over his lifetime will be astronomical. It'll be round the clock care, rehab, physical therapy."

Fried says Nagato is wheelchair-bound, brain damaged, partially paralysed, and partially blind from the fall. He was in the painter's union, but now, according to Fried, will likely not work again. Fried says Nagato currently has a sixth grade reading level and his intellectual comprehension may also be permanently damaged from the fall.

The families of both men hired Fried to sue the mall's parent company, General Growth

Properties. Fried says of the railing that fell, 'The support post almost totally rusted through."

Fried says the mall knew about those exact rusty posts since 2005, when a contractor found it and recommended repairs. "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."

Right after the railing collapse, the city issued a notice of violation to Ala Moana Center owner 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 DPP director, in a news release at that time.

The city's notice indicated it found rust and spelling found on metal railings. The city confirms the railings were fixed in January 2018. Fried says this hopefully serves as a warning that "owners of properties need to do proper inspections."

According to Fried, the mall's net worth in 2016 was $1.36 billion, and the cost fix the defective railings was $4 million.

Ala Moana Center has not yet responded to our request for comment. In 2016, General Manager Francis Cofran issued the following statement about the accident: "Our hearts go out to the families and all those affected by this tragic event."