Cinemark, the company that owns the movie theater were the 2012 Aurora theater shooting occurred, is seeking $699,187.13 in legal fees from victims of the shooting.
The Start of the Dispute
Cinemark was sued in federal court on May 19th, on grounds that the theater did not provide adequate security in the theater where the shooting occurred. However, the six person jury ruled that that theater management would have no reasonable way of foreseeing the shooting, and was therefore not liable for damages to the victims and their families.
Cinemark was again sued in Arapahoe County District Court on June 24 on similar grounds. U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson, who oversaw the case, ruled in favor of Cinemark stating that the “premeditated and intentional actions [of the shooter] were the predominant cause of the plaintiff’s losses.” Jackson based the ruling on previous cases, including the 1999 case of the Columbine High School shooting, in which claims against Jefferson County School District, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and an organizer of a gun show were all found to not liable for the damages sustained by victims.
The argument used by the plaintiffs in both cases was that the theater did not have devices such as silent alarms, security cameras, and nearby exits that would have prevented or reduced the deaths and injuries that happened at the theater. The plaintiffs also argued unsuccessfully that the company should have known about the potential risks of a shooting on the premiere night of The Dark Knight Rises at the theater, and should have had armed guards in response to the large crowds of people attending the viewing.
What Happens Now
In the state of Colorado, parties that are found in favor of the Court may receive compensation for legal fees. Marc Burn, lawyer for the victims and families of the Aurora shooting, stated last month that he expects to appeal the decision. This action has resulted in resolution of legal fees in past cases, in exchange for an agreement to drop the appeal.
Some other victims, like Marcus Weaver, already settled with Cinemark before the trial. “Personally, I just want safety… I didn’t want financial burden.” said Weaver, who knew that a ruling in favor of Cinemark could result in paying legal fees.
Final evaluation of a fair legal fee is under examination by both judges involved in the cases, and the $699,187.13 fee has yet to be approved.