By now, everyone has heard of the horrific shooting at the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in an Aurora, CO movie theater. About 20 minutes into the movie, a man dressed in black, wearing a helmet, body armor, and a gas mask, entered the theater through an exit door, threw gas canisters, and opened fire on the audience, leaving 12 people dead and 59 wounded (including one wounded from an adjacent theater). Fortunately, the man responsible for the shootings, James Holmes who identified himself as the Joker, was arrested and taken into custody. After his arrest, the police discovered that his apartment was rigged with explosives, but they were fortunately able to disarm them. Although the event was tragic, a few heroes from that night were revealed through stories in the days that followed, including three men who were killed shielding their girlfriends from the spray of bullets.

In the weeks that follow, it is likely that civil lawsuits will be filed. James Holmes may be the target of some lawsuits; however, these will be more symbolic in order to hold him both criminally and civilly liable for the shooting. Century Theaters, the theater in which the shooting took place, is a more likely target. As more facts are discovered, it will be easier to determine whether Century Theaters was negligent in protecting its customers. One can certainly see an attorney arguing that Century did not take enough safety precautions to protect the crowd during the midnight premiere of a very popular movie. Although lawsuits are inevitable, it is an unfortunate consequence. Unless evidence is uncovered of a gross failure to protect its customers, there is little the theater could have done to prevent this tragic event outside ramping up security to uncomfortable levels and that may have not even prevented the shooting. There is speculation that Holmes bought a ticket, entered the theater, left through the exit while keeping it propped open, suited up, and reentered through the exit. Metal detectors would not have stopped this. Hopefully, lawsuits will not lead to the day that one cannot see a movie without passing through a metal detector and being frisked by a security guard.

–R.L. Florance

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