The Colorado magistrate judge presiding over various lawsuits brought by victims of the shooting tragedy at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises has recommended to a District Court that the lawsuits be allowed to survive but only under a state law governing premises liability.
The lawsuits come from those wounded and from family members of those killed on July 20. James Holmes is being charged with the criminal act, and in these lawsuits, Cinemark, the owner of the Aurora, Colorado theater where the shootings took place, is being tested to see whether it holds civil liability in not hiring more security, failing to have alarmed exit doors, and other measures the plaintiffs believe could have mitigated 12 deaths and dozens of more injuries.
In response to the lawsuit, Cinemark has asserted that it was not "foreseeable" what happened, and that the "fault here lies entirely with the killer."
On Thursday, Judge Michael Hegarty gave his own assessment.
The plaintiffs brought various tort claims in their lawsuits, but Cinemark asserted that only the Colorado Premises Liability Act -- a state law on the liability of a landowner for injuries on premises -- applied.
The magistrate judge agrees that plaintiffs' claims for negligence and wrongful death should fail because they were abrogated by the CPLA.
Cinemark also challenged whether the plaintiffs had stated a plausible claim for relief under the CPLA since it wasn't foreseeable what happened on the night in question.
The plaintiffs argued that the theater owner should have known about previous danger and criminal activity at the theater and the conditions of its premises -- e.g. the unlocked and unmonitored exit door and the lack of security personnel.
Judge Hegarty can see both sides but believes it's premature to dismiss the case without more discovery.
"The extent of Defendant's knowledge in this case has yet to be explored. Discovery may reveal that other more serious crimes had occurred at or near the theater and that Defendant had knowledge of such crimes. Further, as the Court noted at the hearing, discovery might show that Defendant had knowledge of and/or concern for the numerous mass shootings that had taken place in the United States in recent times. As the CPLA demonstrates, Defendant, a landowner, has a higher duty of care to its patrons, or 'invitees', and the extent of its knowledge of such duty should be explored."
The judge has recommended that the District Court deny Cinemark's motion to dismiss claims under the CPLA.
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