James Holmes case: Aurora Century 16 owner Cinemark files to dismiss victims' lawsuits
Update: Mere hours after we published a post about the possible impact of lawsuits filed Aurora theater shooting victims on plans to reopen the Century 16, shuttered since the July 20 massacre that killed twelve and injured 58, Cinemark provided an answer -- in court. The Texas-based owner of the theater filed a motion asking that the lawsuits be dismissed on the grounds that no one could have foreseen the actions of James Holmes, the accused killer.
As we've reported, two suits -- the first jointly filed by Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, the other by Joshua Nowlan, all of whom sustained injuries in the attack -- argue that because of past incidents at the Century 16, including "at least one shooting, involving gang members," plus assaults and robberies, the theater should have had security personnel on hand for the midnight screenings of The Dark Knight Rises, during which the assault took place. The complaints also take Cinemark to task for failing to have alarms that would have alerted employees after Holmes allegedly blocked open the exit door in order to arm himself.
Cinemark rejects these claims, according to a document cited by 9News. Here are some excerpts from the motion:
The essence of the complaint is that Cinemark "should have known" that James Holmes would commit a mass murderous assault in the Century 16 Theater on July 20.... Federal, state and local law-enforcement entities...would not be expected to foresee Mr. Holmes' criminal conduct.... Family members and friends who knew him personally for multiple years did not foresee it....Our interview request yesterday to Cinemark vice president of communication and marketing James Meredith has not been returned, and neither have at least six calls for comment to City of Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart.
It would be patently unfair, and legally unsound, to impose on Cinemark...the duty and burden to have foreseen and prevented the criminal equivalent of a meteor falling from the sky. Thus, even accepting the allegations in the complaint as true, plaintiffs cannot state a claim that anyone other than Mr. Holmes, the irrational killer, is responsible for the consequences of his criminal conduct.
Continue for our previous coverage.
Original post, 11:12 a.m. September 27: Lawsuits by three surviving victims of the July 20 Aurora theater shooting name Cinemark, the Texas company that owns the Century 16, where James Holmes is accused of killing twelve people and injuring 58. These documents were made public on the same day Cinemark announced its intention to reopen the theater. Will the suits affect these plans? Neither Cinemark nor the City of Aurora has addressed the question thus far.
On September 20, 9News reported the results of a survey about reopening the Century 16; it was conducted by the City of Aurora, mainly through its Facebook page. According to the station, the majority of respondents wanted the theater to reopen. But 9News didn't note the final percentage or provide any details about whether Aurora made an effort to insure that the people weighing in were actual residents of the community.
In an effort to get more details, I made an interview request the following morning with City of Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart. A few hours later, I received a call from someone else on staff asking on Stuart's behalf for more information about my questions, but she did not get back to me afterward -- and neither has she responded to multiple messages left today.
Later on Friday, Aurora issued a news update revealing that Mayor Steve Hogan had sent a letter to Cinemark President and CEO Tim Warner on September 12 expressing a desire that the company reopen the Century 16. Here's an excerpt from that letter, which can be read in its entirety below:
While no one will ever forget that day, it is now time to look forward and plan for the future. We believe that we are hearing, and indeed have heard for some time, a collective wish and desire for the theater to re-open. We understand that it will need to be refurbished and we hope you will be able to take on that task. As part of that process, there will certainly be some special circumstances to be addressed. These include possible provision for visitation by survivors and families of the deceased, discussions surrounding memorials and possible facade modification. All of these, and others, will be addressed through ongoing conversation.Warner replied to Hogan in a letter dated September 20 but not made public until the next day; it, too, can also be seen below. After noting that "we will never forget the victims and their families," Warner wrote:
As you know, the city of Aurora is important to us, individually and as a company. It will be our privilege to re-open the theater. We pledge to reconfigure the space and make the theater better than ever.Hogan added that the firm hopes to have the Century 16 up and running "by the beginning of the New Year."
This news arrived around the same time as two lawsuits from individuals who were injured in the theater shooting -- one was filed jointly by Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, the other by Joshua Nowlan. (Traynom was shot in the gluteus maximus while she and Axlerod, who suffered knee damage, took refuge behind seats during the attack; Nowlan's arm was almost severed by a bullet, and he was also hit in one leg.) The trio is represented by Denver-based Keating Wagner Polidori Free, P.C, which filed the suits in United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Both suits name Cinemark, because of what the text describes as security shortfalls that add up to negligence on the part of the company.
Continue to read more about claims against Cinemark and see letters from the company and Steve Hogan, as well as the lawsuits.