The case can definitely be made that the Aurora theater shooting of 12 people by James Eagan Holmes in 2012 woke up business owners to the severity of premise liability. Just as the Columbine High School shooting raised awareness of the dangers of kids and guns at schools, so did the shooing during the premier of Batman’s “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Cinemark Theaters, and the need for additional precautions against any future type of incident at retail businesses. Probably the first sign that business owners jumped to attention to try and cover their tracks (a.k.a. cya) is they went about posting “NO GUNS ALLOWED” signs on their store front windows.
The case also looked to be a no-brainer for family and victims of the shooting to start a civil suit against the theater chain, since it appeared suing the defendant Holmes seemed as useless as trying to drain blood from a rock. But, what the plaintiffs didn’t count on was a team of high-powered attorneys hiring five expert witnesses to testify and paying them $500,000. However, the most damaging of all to the civil matter was that the plaintiffs weren’t allowed to enter a May 2012 warning from the Department of Homeland Security that the theater chain was notified of a possible “mass-casualty attack” on a theater. The civil lawsuit started out with about 27 plaintiffs, but several saw the writing on the wall and bailed on the litigation. In the end, survivors were found liable for $700,000 in court costs and attorney’s fees. Sources close to Cinemark said the theater chain had no intention of seeking recovery for costs.1
Where Did the Families of the Survivors Make Their Mistake in the Civil Suit?
Obviously, the Aurora shooting goes down as one of the most prolific acts of domestic terrorism in American history. And, it’s hard to see how survivors with brain damage, paralysis, and in some cases even death lost the case. Well, truth be told U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson overseeing the case had even made a conference call with the victims the day before he issued his ruling, and the told them all that he was planning to rule in Cinemark’s favor. Here are a few of the final details of that landmark decision:2
- A lower, state court found that Cinemark couldn’t have foreseen the consequences of the July 12, 2012 shooting.
- The federal judge, however, wanted to see the survivors settle out of court with Cinemark.
- At that point, some of the plaintiffs left the civil lawsuit thinking the lower court’s decision was the final decision in the matter.
- On June 23, 2016, Cinemark’s attorneys issued a settlement offer: $150,000 that was to be split among 41 plaintiffs.
- The plaintiffs still have a chance appealing the decision with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
How Good Attorneys Go After Premise Liability
Business owners in Colorado must adhere to the Colorado Premises Liability Act, which states they must exercise reasonable care to protect the general public against any known dangers, or those which are obvious and should have been repaired or some action taken to improve the dangerous condition. The following are a list of ways good attorneys look at premise liability to build their cases:
- A good attorney would investigate the logs and security measures retail stores use to protect themselves against premise liability claims. If a company takes the precautions to act with a duty to protect its customers, then it’s hard to prove negligence against them.
- Lawyers will also look for breaches in security systems and find out if the business has attempted to fix it or not. If there is a breach, then the lawyer has a solid claim to make that the business wasn’t proactive or reasonable in fixing the security problem.
- In a good number of battery cases, the defendant must pay compensation to victims for lost wages and necessary compensation for them to return to health.
- A good attorney will check to ensure emergency exits are working and have alarms that are activated.
- Attorneys will also consider whether or not employees are trained properly to handle security issues.
- Attorneys will investigate whether there is adequate security surveillance for the facility.
- A good attorney will also check to see if threats are related to the staff, so they can act properly.
Contact a Pasadena Personal Injury Lawyer at the Law Offices of Pius Joseph
Have your or a loved one been injured by the negligence of a business, even if it seems vague as to who is responsible for your injury? If so, let the experienced and trustworthy Pasadena Personal Injury Lawyer at the Law Offices of Pius Joseph advocate for your rights. Chances are the business owner may not have considered the circumstance that caused your injury. In which case, you have a right to fight for your justice and compensation for damages.
For a free initial consultation to discuss how our Pasadena personal injury lawyer can assist you and the best strategy to move forward, contact us by calling (626) 397-1050 or by emailing us via the contact form on this page.
1“Aurora massacre survivors sued. How did some end up owing the theater $700,000?” published in Los Angeles Times, August 2016.
2“Colorado Businesses will be Watching Civil Trial in Aurora Theater Attack, Say Lawyers” published in the Denver Business Journal, May 2016.