On July 20, 2012, a shooting rampage in a Colorado theater screening The Dark Night Rises left 12 people dead and 70 injured. In the wake of the tragedy, victims and their family members began filing lawsuits against CineMark, the company that owned the theater, claiming the company's negligence led to the severe death and injury toll.
In the lawsuits, victims and their family members argued that the staff of CineMark failed to do enough to stop the shooter and to protect the victims in the theater. The lawsuits allege that the gunman made multiple trips to his car through an exterior door in order to access more ammunition, and he was not stopped by a security guard or staff member of the cinema. The lawsuits also claim that the company failed to set off alarms or otherwise warn victims of the shooting.
The 26-year-old shooter was sentenced to life in prison plus over 3,000 years. He does not have a chance at parole.
The Colorado Premises Liability Act requires landowners to “exercise reasonable care to protect invitees against dangers of which he actually knew or should have known similarly requires proximate cause”. To hold landowners liable for dangers on their property, plaintiffs are required to prove that the landowner was a “substantial factor” in the cause of the injury.
CineMark officials continued to argue that they could not have predicted a “madman's mass murder” since that was the first mass shooting in a movie theater.
But this past May, a jury unanimously found the company not liable for the injuries and deaths, blocking 28 victims and their family members from compensation from the company.
The verdict had far-reaching effects as another lawsuit against the company for negligence during the rampage was dismissed this month. U.S. District Judge R. Brook Jackson wrote in his ruling, “The Court concludes that a reasonable jury could not plausibly find that Cinemark's actions or inactions were a substantial factor in causing this tragedy.”
Now that CineMark has been released from liability, the company wants its money back.
At the end of last month, CineMark filed the initial papers to seek about $700,000 in legal fees and other related costs for the case. More than two dozen victims who filed the case against CineMark would be responsible for the payment. Colorado law allows the winning party in a civil case to seek legal and other costs from the other party.
The plaintiffs plan to appeal the verdict.
CineMark was also awarded “reasonable costs” from the dismissed case but has not sought payment.