Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Aurora Movie Theater Could Be Liable for 2012 Shooting
Federal court rules armed assailant’s shooting could have been prevented if security measures were taken.
Key point 7-20.4. A church may be legally responsible for assaults occurring on its premises if similar assaults occurred on or near the premises in the recent past and the church failed to take reasonable precautions.

A federal district court in Colorado ruled that a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, could be liable for the acts of an armed assailant who killed 12 patrons. On the night of July 20, 2012, James Holmes entered the Century Aurora 16 theater complex in Aurora, Colorado, purchased a ticket for the midnight premiere showing of The Dark Knight Rises, and took a seat in Auditorium 9. During the previews he left the auditorium through the exit door to the outside, leaving it propped open with a plastic clip. He went to his car, which he had parked immediately behind the auditorium, donned body armor and a gas mask, and armed himself with a tear gas canister, a shotgun, a rifle, at least one handgun, and extra ammunition. Twenty minutes after the movie started Holmes reentered the auditorium through the exit door, disbursed tear gas, and began randomly shooting patrons. After killing 12 individuals and wounding many others, Holmes returned to his car, again through the exit door, and waited there until he was arrested by police.

Several victims and their families sued the theater and its parent company (the "defendants") claiming that the injuries and deaths could have been prevented had the defendants taken reasonable steps to provide security for its patrons. The defendants asserted that the shootings were so unprecedented as to be legally unforeseeable, and therefore they had no legal duty to protect against such acts. They asked the court to issue a summary judgment in its favor on the ground that they neither knew nor should have known of this danger because the danger was unforeseeable as a matter of law.

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