Aurora Shooting Survivors to Pay Theater $700,000 in Fines Because 'Justice' Sucks

The 2012 mass shooting in a Cinemark theater in Aurora, Colorado, left 12 people dead and more than 70 injured. Afterward, more than 25 survivors filed a lawsuit against Cinemark saying the attack could have been prevented with more security (like armed guards and beefed up surveillance), and they're probably not wrong. But that lawsuit -- plus a strange Colorado law -- left a group of the survivors $700,000 in debt to the theater to cover its legal fees. Yes, the same theater where they almost lost their lives at a Batman screening. This might be the law, but it sure doesn't seem like justice.


The lawsuit felt like an easy one, but both a jury and a judge ruled that Cinemark wasn't liable. That's when it got complicated.

The judge's order said Cinemark could try to recover its litigation costs so it wouldn't have to pay for the lawsuit -- instead, it could make the survivors cover the bill. The judge knew this was trouble for the plaintiffs, so he told them the stakes before the ruling to give them an option to opt out and settle.

More than half did (though we don't know how much they settled for), and one told the Denver Post that the threat of having to pay Cinemark's legal bills was enough to convince them to settle. But the rest didn't.

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That means that four mass shooting survivors are on the hook for nearly $700,000 in legal fees.

Is this really justice for people who did nothing more than go to Cinemark to see The Dark Knight Rises?

Cinemark hasn't responded to a request for comment from CafeMom.

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Marcus Weaver, one of the survivors and a plaintiff in the case, told Business Insider that they were just looking for improved safety in theaters to hopefully prevent future mass shootings.

"It was the biggest smack in the face," Weaver said. Referring to a federal magistrate judge who had approached him, he continued: "He was basically telling us, you're right, they're basically at fault, but there's justice and then there's true justice."

This certainly isn't the final word on the issue -- the plaintiffs can appeal to a higher court and get their case retried. Also, according to the Denver Post, companies are known to inflate their court costs as an opening negotiating position, meaning that the $700,000 number could go down. But that doesn't make this stink any less. 

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The Colorado law that caused this whole mess isn't the only one of its kind. Generally, laws like this are passed to discourage people from starting frivolous lawsuits and clogging up the court's resources. But this is a case where there's a group of traumatized people trying to bring some change about as a result of a horrific experience. Is that really something they should be financially punished for?

In the wake of mass shootings across the country -- from Sandy Hook to Aurora to Orlando -- every American is faced with the reality that the threat of gun violence is real and can happen anytime. Any efforts we can make to encourage public places to be safer and more prepared to protect its public are a good idea ... and not something people should be threatened with crippling fines for trying to push.

Let's hope these victims ultimately are spared on appeal so they don't have to pay nearly a million dollars to the business they feel is responsible for putting them in danger. As for Cinemark, it might have the legal right to make these people pay, but that doesn't mean it should take it. It's more than unfair. It's just not right.


Image via Denver Post/Twitter

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