Judge allows case to proceed arguing that mass theater shooting was foreseeable

by Walter Olson on August 23, 2014

A federal judge has declined to award summary judgment to Cinemark Holdings against a claim that it should have foreseen a madman’s mass shooting rampage at its Aurora, Colo. theater two years ago. [Deadline Hollywood] Ken White at Popehat corrects some media misapprehension about the difference between a summary judgment motion and disposition of the merits, but as a commenter points out, much of the practical damage is indeed done when a judge declines summary judgment in such a case, since the defendant then faces not only the substantial cost of trial but also the unpredictability of a jury faced with very sympathetic plaintiffs and a deep-pocket defendant; there is nothing either unusual or untraditional about judges’ averting these costs by ruling out particular liability theories as a matter of law.

More from Scott Greenfield: “The biggest growth job in America will be armed guard. … A theater showing a movie, even a Batman movie at midnight, is not a crazy killer magnet such that Cinemark could have possibly anticipated what would happen…. The law shouldn’t impose a duty that suggests otherwise.”

{ 6 comments }

1 Boblipton 08.23.14 at 7:53 am

Since it is foreseeable that a mass murder will take place in a theater, this is clearly license to bring my halberd the next time I go to the Museum of Modern Art.

Bob

2 ras 08.23.14 at 2:41 pm

Also, the theater, iirc, was clearly marked as a gun-free zone. Might there be hay to be made from that on the issue of foreseeability given the statistical preponderance of mass shootings in such zones?

3 kimsch 08.23.14 at 6:19 pm

Because there is a ***remote*** chance that a deranged shooter will shoot up any place at all, every place of business could now be liable if someone does shoot the place up. Theaters, restaurants, stores, malls, ice rinks, theme parks, offices, libraries, museums. Even municipalities should be liable if someone were to shoot up a park or just a street.

4 SmallGovernmentGuy 08.24.14 at 9:57 am

Bob-

I have a mace you can borrow if needed…

5 Wfjag 08.24.14 at 10:51 am

And the consequences of this type of judicial reasoning will include going into a dark movie theatre, knowing that my life is in the hands of a Mall Cop who is carrying a loaded firearm, who won’t be able to see in the dark (either), and whose hearing and vision is distracted by the movie’s special effects. Sounds like another reason to rent movies and stay home (other reasons being that renting movies is cheaper; you don’t have to first watch commercials for chiropractors and whatever before the movie; you can invite over people with enough manners who will turn off their cell phones’ ringers; & you can drink beer with your popcorn — a great way for friends to share their latest home brews).

6 Melvin H. 08.24.14 at 3:32 pm

Another example of one of the things I despise about the law: The concepts of “Should have known” or “Should have foreseen” something; By what legal precedent did this idiotic legal concept come from anyway? What, are places of business or public areas supposed to hire a time machine company or a fortune teller on permanent retainer to see what MIGHT happen?

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