Four years ago, a gunman opened fire on the audience of an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, killing 12 and wounding 70. Now, Cinemark, the movie theater chain where the attack occurred, is asking victims and their families for thousands of dollars.
Last month, a state jury ruled that Cinemark wasn’t liable for massacre. The movie theater chain — which is the nation’s third largest — then filed paperwork seeking $699,187.13 in legal fees from the plaintiffs, as reported by Deadline.
It’s not altogether unusual for the victor in a civil case to seek legal redress from the other party, but in this case, the victor is a massive movie chain conglomerate, suing victims of a gun massacre — some of whom are survivors, and some of whom are the parents of those who were killed. Many of those killed in the shooting died while protecting others.
The plaintiff’s attorney indicated after the loss that they intended to appeal the decision, calling it an “unjust verdict.” Oftentimes, the winning side of a civil case will agree to drop cost demands in exchange for no appeal being filed, which means that this legal move may be a strategic tactic aimed at bringing the litigation to an end.
In a separate case, on June 24 a federal court dismissed a similar lawsuit alleging that the chain had been negligent. In that case as well, the court awarded Cinemark “reasonable costs,” though the chain has yet to name a number. More than half of the victims in that case settled privately with Cinemark; one of the victims said the possibility of having to pay the company’s legal fees was a factor in his decision to settle, as reported by the Denver Post.
Judges must still approve the fine totals before people will be required to pay up, which means that the victims may not ultimately have to pay it, but the intimidation factor remains all the same. In a direct contrast, in 2012 three of the five hospitals who treated the victims said they would limit or forgive their medical bills.
While the victims of the Aurora massacre are targeting the movie theater chain, arguing that the lax security allowed for the tragedy, victims of the Sandy Hook shooting are taking a different approach: Targeting the gun manufacturers themselves. In a novel lawsuit, the families of the children and teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary are arguing that by selling and marketing the AR-15, the assault rifle used in Sandy Hook, Aurora, and San Bernardino, to the public instead of the military and trained professionals, the companies are negligently selling the gun to people who are likely to cause grievous harm.