Wrongful death claims kept open in Colo. shootings

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Associated Press

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 17 at 8:33 PM

DENVER (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday declined to dismiss wrongful death and liability claims filed against the company that owns the Colorado movie theater where 12 people were shot to death last summer.

Cinemark USA filed a motion in federal court in February arguing the lawsuits did not show the company was liable under the Colorado Premises Liability Act, which covers slip-and-fall lawsuits and other claims against landowners. But Judge R. Brooke Johnson ruled the claims filed under the act could move forward.

He dismissed separate claims that Cinemark was negligent in the July 20 shootings, which also injured 70. The ruling was one of several legal hurdles the lawsuits had to clear before going to trial.

A spokeswoman for Cinemark said the company had no immediate comment.

Christina Habas, an attorney for three plaintiffs who were injured in the shooting, said the ruling essentially adopted what a magistrate judge recommended earlier this year.

"The landowner must guard against dangerous conditions on their property, and in this case the shooter is not the dangerous condition," said Habas, a former Denver judge. "The dangerous condition is an unlocked and unmonitored exit door."

She said the common law negligence claims were dismissed because the only avenue for someone to sue a landowner in Colorado is through the Premises Liability Act.

James Holmes, who is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, is accused of propping an exit door open at the Aurora movie theater before retrieving guns from his car and opening fire on the crowd. A judge has entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Wednesday's ruling came in 10 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs that include relatives of some of the dead, people who were injured and others who were witnesses.

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