On Friday, September 21, three of the victims wounded in the July 20 Colorado movie theater shooting filed the first known civil lawsuits against Cinemark USA, the owner of the theater. In the lawsuit filed in Denver federal court, the victims claim that Cinemark was aware of previous criminal activity at or near the movie theater including “assaults and robberies” and at least one gang-related shooting. The lawsuit said that although the movie theater was screening a midnight premier of the Dark Knight Rises and was expecting large crowds of people to attend, no security personnel was present for the midnight screening. In a written statement released by Keating, Wagner, Polidori and Free, the law firm representing the shooting victims, “readily available security procedures, security equipment and security personnel would likely have prevented or deterred the gunman from accomplishing his planned assault on the theater’s patrons.” The lawsuit also alleges that “there was no action taken by theater employees to safely evacuate many people” in the theater once the shooting spree got underway.
Although Cinemark USA was not immediately available for comment, the theater chain filed a motion to dismiss the victims’ lawsuits on Thursday, September 27 Cinemark’s motion alleges that “it would be patently unfair, and legally unsound, to impose on Cinemark, a private business in the entertainment industry, the duty and burden to have foreseen and prevented the criminal equivalent of a meteor falling from the sky.” Cinemark, a Texas-based company, argued that because its employees did not know James Holmes, the alleged shooter, and because they were not trained in law enforcement or criminal pathology, “the fault here lies entirely with the killer.” In addition, Cinemark disputes the allegations in the victims’ complaint concerning the gang-related shooting but noted that even if such were true, “such an event would be insufficient to make a madman’s mass murder foreseeable.”