The Denver Post reports that four survivors of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting now owe Cinemark — the company who owns the theatre where the shooting took place — a lot of money. At least according to the laws of Colorado.
9News reports the most recent development in the case: the theater has offered them a deal: if they drop their appeals, they won’t risk having to pay the $700,000. Among the people they list who’d be owing this money if they continue with the appeals are family members of Alex Teves and Jessica Ghawi, who were both killed during the shooting.
This is all in the wake of a lawsuit filed against the company, claiming that poor security at Cinemark’s (now reopened) Aurora Century 16 theater enabled the shooting by James Holmes, which killed 12 and wounded approximately 70 more near the beginning of a midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises. Holmes was given 12 life sentences last year, but survivors had also banded together to sue the theater. The jury in the civil case took the side of the theater, stating that this was unpredictable —and given the extent of his weaponry and protective gear, extra security may not have done much.
In Colorado, the Los Angeles Times explains, the winner in civil cases can go after money to pay the cost of the court time. What happened thereafter gets complex. demonstrating the ways the minutia of the law often end up protecting corporations and screwing over individuals. But essentially what happened was that even with the jury’s decision, the plaintiffs in the case were still offered a total of a $150,000 settlement — to be shared by the 41 people suing the company. (The settlement allegedly also included the theater’s promise to “take new measures to protect patrons,” as the Times describes.)
The plaintiffs initially thought they’d allocate $90,000 of this to the people who’d suffered the most bodily harm, and everyone else would split the $60,000 that was left. One plaintiff — who’d suffered immensely emotionally, and whose son had been killed in the shooting — decided not to go along with the meager deal. They were given 24 hours to either settle or not get that money — and be able to potentially continue to aim for more. But that would mean they’d also risk the potential of owing the movie theater company approximately $700,000 for the court fees. With that one plaintiff’s rejection, when the Times article was released, 25 of the 41 plaintiffs in total withdrew; when the Denver Post reported the news, however, only four plaintiffs were left, and so those four were left to also front the bill, if the movie theater decided in fact to collect the fees — which it now seems they’d only consider doing if the appeals aren’t dropped. Either way, it’s somewhat scary that the decision to charge the survivors ended up in the theater’s hands.
Cinemark is the country’s third largest movie theater company, with a revenue in 2015 of $2.853 billion.