Why Were Aurora Shooting Survivors Ordered to Pay $700,000 in Court Costs?

Don Emmert/Getty Images
Don Emmert/Getty Images / Don Emmert/Getty Images

Last year, movie theater chain Cinemark drew a series of unfortunate headlines for attempting to hold victims of the July 20, 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, liable for court costs. The 15 plaintiffs, who had pursued legal action against Cinemark for what they argued was insufficient security to stop shooter James Holmes—who killed 12 and wounded 70 during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises—lost and were subsequently responsible for $699,000 in attorney fees for the defendants in the state case.

So did Cinemark actually collect on what would have been a rather morbid debt?

They didn’t. Shortly after being vilified in the media, Cinemark agreed to drop its pursuit of court costs if the remaining plaintiffs dropped any future appeals. An unnamed source told the Los Angeles Times that the chain never intended to pursue collection, but it’s unknown what their motivation was in circulating a bill of costs in that amount.

Legally, it was a legitimate claim. After a Colorado state jury ruled on May 19, 2016 that Cinemark could not have foreseen the deadly intentions of Holmes, the company was entitled to seek remuneration for its legal fees under state law. (In a separate, federal case, a judge used the state decision as cause to rule in Cinemark’s favor.) The company announced on September 13, 2016 that it had come to an agreement with the opposing parties to drop the case, ending any potential of recovering those costs.

A memorial for those killed and injured in the attack is being planned for a space across the street from the theater. The project is still roughly $90,000 short of its $200,000 goal. Donations are being accepted at 7-20memorial.org.