Fifteen survivors and family members of the horrific theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado have been ordered by a judge to pay nearly $700,000 to Cinemark, the parent company of the cinema at which the tragedy occurred.
Victims of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history had waited four years, meeting in private until they reached a point where they were willing to settle with the owner of the movie theatre. They had sued Cinemark on the grounds that the facility had not provided adequate security when James Holmes entered through an exit door and began shooting in July 2012. Twelve people died and 70 were injured during the opening night of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Ultimately, a judge ruled that the company was not at fault. But before the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson urged the survivors and Cinemark to end the case with a settlement. For the next eight hours, attorneys for both sides inched closer to a deal, which turned out to be just $150,000 split amongst 41 people, according to LA Times.
The settlement came with a disturbing caveat – if the survivors rejected the paltry sum and moved forward with the case and lost, they would be liable for paying Cinemark’s $699,000 legal bill for defending the case.
“Either seek justice and go into debt, or take that pitiful offering of money and the improved public safety,” said one survivor who had been shot in the shoulder.
But one woman who had been shot and paralyzed during the shooting – and who lost her daughter as well as the baby she was carrying – opted out of the deal. That’s when it all came crumbling down.
Twenty-six people immediately removed themselves as plaintiffs for fear of having to reimburse the movie theatre’s legal bills. Fifteen survivors remained when the judge ultimately ruled in Cinemark’s favor. They were ordered to pay the $699,000 bill for the movie chain’s legal costs.
In August 2015, James Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Meanwhile, the survivors and families of his horrific 10-minute shooting rampage received not one dime, with some now saddled with a huge debt.
One piece of information that was not allowed to be entered into evidence of the failed case against Cinemark – the Department of Homeland Security had warned theaters of the possibility of lone wolf attacks just prior to the shooting. Despite that warning, Cinemark did not increase their security in response.