| DENVER, April 17
DENVER, April 17 A federal judge refused on
Wednesday to dismiss wrongful death and personal injury claims
brought against a movie theater chain on behalf of victims of
last summer's mass shooting at a suburban Denver screening of
the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."
U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that Cinemark
USA, owner of the theater where 12 people were shot
dead, could potentially be found liable for damages under a
Colorado law that holds landowners responsible for activities on
The statute, he wrote, "provides that Cinemark owes its
theater patrons a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect
them against dangers of which Cinemark knew or should have
Although he denied Cinemark's bid to throw out the lawsuits,
he agreed to narrow the scope of the litigation, finding that
the theater chain could not be held liable under a general
Numerous civil actions have been brought in state and
federal court against the Texas-based company over the July 20
shooting rampage in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Twelve people
died and 70 were injured in the shooting.
The lawsuits generally claim Cinemark was aware of previous
crimes at the multiplex and failed to provide adequate security
to its patrons.
James Holmes, a former graduate student, has been charged
with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder
stemming from the shooting, which ranks as one of the most
lethal bursts of gun violence in U.S. history.
Police have said Holmes was a paying member of the movie
audience the night of the massacre, having purchased his ticket
in advance. They say he left the theater through a rear exit
after the film started, then returned moments later from the
parking lot, lobbed a tear gas canister into the auditorium and
began spraying moviegoers with gunfire until his weapon jammed.
He was arrested by police behind the theater moments later.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for
the 25-year-old California native if he is convicted. Holmes'
lawyers are expected to pursue an insanity defense if the case
goes to trial.
An attorney for various victims suing in state court, Marc
Bern, hailed the decision to allow the lawsuits to proceed.
"We applaud the judge for doing the right thing. Now it's up
to Cinemark to do the right thing," he said.
Attorneys for Cinemark were not immediately available for
comment. But in its motion seeking dismissal of the lawsuits,
the company said its employees could not have anticipated having
to deal with "a madman's mass murder."
"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," the motion said.
Legal analyst and Denver personal injury lawyer Craig
Silverman said the lawsuits "survived, but barely."
"The plaintiffs can now proceed with discovery where they
will seek to learn more about the theater's prior problems with
dangerous situations," he said.