Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in Colorado for the first civil trial of wrongful death and personal injury claims stemming from a 2012 mass shooting in which 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in a suburban Denver movie theater.
A group of more than two dozen plaintiffs, including surviving victims and relatives of the dead, have sued the movie theater chain Cinemark USA and the cinema’s property owners in state court, accusing them of various security lapses.
According to the lawsuit, the companies failed to hire sufficient security personnel in light of the cinema’s previous history of shootings and other violence.
It also cited a lack of surveillance cameras around the theater’s perimeter, a faulty emergency exit alarm that failed to go off when the gunman launched his attack through the cinema’s rear door, and the failure of theater security personnel to intervene once the shooting started.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Marc Bern said Cinemark was especially negligent in failing to notify its general managers about a U.S. Department of Homeland Security advisory issued in May 2012 warning that movie theaters had been deemed potential targets for terrorism.
Texas-based Cinemark owns the Century 16 Theater multiplex where the gunman, James Holmes, opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, shotgun and pistol during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012.
In its answer to the lawsuit, Cinemark said the case should be dismissed because the chain “did not have the legal duty to foresee the injury-causing mass murderous assault committed by James Holmes, nor did it have the legal duty to prevent it.”
Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student who pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, was found guilty last summer of murdering 12 people and wounding 70 in the rampage, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Jury selection in the civil trial, the first arising from the fatal rampage, was slated to begin in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado, with opening arguments expected to possibly get under way by day’s end.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for past and future economic losses, including medical expenses, lost wages and earning potential and disability, as well as for pain, suffering and emotional stress.
A separate personal injury and wrongful death case filed in federal court is expected to go to trial in July.