Cinemark looks to recoup $700k in fees over Aurora shooting suit

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The Cinemark-operated Century 16 movieplex in Aurora, a Denver suburb, was the scene of a mass shooting in July 2012 and has been remodeled as the Century Aurora 16.(Photo: Karl Gehring / Denver Post )

The movie theater chain wants its legal costs paid in defending themselves from a negligence suit filed by survivors of the 2012 mass murder that took place in one of its outlets.

In May a civil jury trial in the Arapahoe County District Court against Cinemark found the company not liable in allowing the murderer access to the theater by not having armed guards and other security precautions in place.

Attorneys for Cinemark filed paperwork with the court last month asking for $699,187.13 in fees and costs incurred during the lengthy trial, as allowed by state law, KUSA reported.

Once made public, the news sparked a backlash driven by the hashtag #BoycottCinemark that has been taken up as a rallying call by gun control group Ceasefire Colorado, the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel and even California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“Cinemark, a company with a net operating income of over $200 million a year has elected to exercise their right to recover and is demanding $700,000 from two dozen survivors and some of the parents who lost their kids in the shooting,”Newsom said. “Cinemark may have the right to recover attorney fees but why would they want to re-victimize over two dozen people who have faced the horror of gun violence.”

It is not the first time that survivors of the shooting that left 12 dead have been hit with huge legal fees after losing civil suits in court.

Last May, U.S. Senior District Judge Richard P. Matsch chastised the Brady Campaign when he awarded $203,000 in legal fees to retailers who successfully defended themselves in federal court over claims they failed to properly vet the shooter in that case, who has since been found guilty and sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences plus 3,318 years without parole.

However, the nearly $700,000 in legal fees currently sought by the movie chain may just be the tip of the iceberg.

A federal suit filed against Cinemark was dismissed last month with the judge in that matter citing Matsch’s ruling.

“Here, plaintiffs claim that defendants failed to provide certain safety measures such as placing an alarm on the exit door or employing security officers on the evening in question. Even if such omissions contributed in some way to the injuries and deaths, the Court finds that [the murderer’s] premeditated and intentional actions were the predominant cause of plaintiffs’ losses,” wrote U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson, a 2011 appointment by President Obama.

Cinemark’s attorneys have until July 20 to submit their costs to the court in the federal case.