Cinemark Beats Victims' Lawsuit Over Mass Shooting at Colorado Movie Theater

A judge concludes that the proximate cause of deaths wasn't the lack of safety measures, but rather shooter James Holmes' premeditated state.
James Holmes

A federal judge has thrown out the last remaining claim against Cinemark over the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colo.

The development follows a trial on separate claims made in Colorado state court where a jury examined James Holmes' rampage at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. After hearing about lax security during the trial, the jury concluded that Cinemark wasn't liable for killings and injuries.

In federal court, Cinemark was still facing a claim of violating the Colorado Premises Liability Act for allegedly not exercising reasonable care to protect against dangers. Despite arguments from Cinemark that it had no legal duty to foresee the mass shooting, a judge in 2013 rejected a motion to dismiss and ushered in discovery about what the movie theater chain knew about security risks. A trial was originally scheduled to occur on July 11.

After the verdict in the state court, Cinemark brought a new summary judgment motion. This time, with the judge less constrained to accept plaintiffs' alleged facts as true, the case is dismissed.

In his opinion issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson notes another lawsuit that occurred after the 2012 Aurora shooting. In that case, the father of a daughter who was killed sued gun shops where Holmes had purchased ammunition and other equipment. The claims in that case were rejected last year because it was determined that even if the gun shops owed a duty of care, the sale of weapons to Holmes was not the proximate cause of the death.

Jackson says he agrees with the analysis.

"Here, plaintiffs claim that defendants failed to provide certain safety measures such as placing an alarm on the exit door or employing security officers on the evening in question," the judge writes. "Even if such omissions contributed in some way to the injuries and deaths, the Court finds that Holmes’ premeditated and intentional actions were the predominant cause of plaintiffs’ losses. The Court concludes that a reasonable jury could not plausibly find that Cinemark’s actions or inactions were a substantial factor in causing this tragedy. Therefore, as a matter of law, defendants’ conduct was not a proximate cause of plaintiffs’ injuries."