Cinemark increasingly looks like it will have to face a jury over liability for the July 20, 2012 fatal shooting rampage at the Aurora, Colo., midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. For the second time in a year and a half, a federal judge in Colorado has refused Texas-based Cinemark’s legal efforts to end the lawsuit by victims and their families that blames a lack of adequate security at the venue for contributing to the deaths of their loved ones.
‘This Court is in no way holding as a matter of law that Cinemark should have known of the danger of someone entering one of its theaters through the back door and randomly shooting innocent patrons,” said Judge R. Brooke Jackson in his Aug. 15 order (read it here). “I hold only that a court cannot grant summary judgment on what is normally a question of fact under Colorado law unless the facts so overwhelmingly and inarguably point in Cinemark’s favor that it cannot be said that a reasonable jury could possibly side with the plaintiffs on that question.” He added in the 17-page document denying Cinemark’s motion for summary judgement that, “I am not convinced.” A civil trial over 20 consolidated lawsuits is scheduled to start in February.
Since the suits first started being filed in late September 2012, Cinemark has argued over and over that it could not have known “a madman’s mass murder”could occur on their property. (James Holmes is scheduled to be tried in December for the shootings, which killed 12 and wounded 70 more. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.)
This week, Jackson said that was just not enough in the America of 2012. “Although theaters had theretofore been spared a mass shooting incident, the patrons of a movie theater are, perhaps even more than students in a school or shoppers in a mall, ‘sitting ducks,’” he wrote. “One might reasonably believe that a mass shooting incident in a theater was likely enough (that is, not just a possibility) to be a foreseeable next step in the history of such acts by deranged individuals.”
The judge also wrote that while Cinemark apparently left to local managers whether to bring extra security into their cinemas for the DKR screenings, the chain could not have known there were concerns. The Aurora manager did not deploy extra security but 80 other Cinemark theaters hired off-duty cops or other extra security for the film’s opening night.
All of the original lawsuits blame the lack of proper security at the Aurora Century 16 multiplex as a cause for the shooting. The bloody rampage left 12 people dead and 70 wounded. In a separate case, Long before then, Cinemark will also certainly appeal this latest development in the victims’ case.
In January 2013, Cinemark scored a tactical victory when a Colorado magistrate recommended the dismissal of the negligence and wrongful -death claims of seven initial cases under Colorado’s Premises Liability Act. The CPLA covers injuries that occur to an individual on another person’s property but it does not allow wrongful-death claims. In April, 2013 Judge Jackson basically accepted the recommendation, but denied Cinemark’s efforts to dismiss the claims, by then from 10 cases. While a previously set May 5, 2014 trial date was vacated, that ruling led to further discovery in the multi-plaintiff case and this week’s order.
A consortium of attorneys represents the plaintiffs. Kevin Taylor and Kyle Seedorf of Taylor|Anderson are primary lawyers for Cinemark.