Aurora shooting victims have to pay $700,000 unless they drop the appeal against Cinemark

After losing a lawsuit against the movie theater where the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting took place, survivors and families were faced with a stunningly insulting offer: if they drop their future appeal, Aurora survivors won’t have to pay out $700,000 to the theater’s owners in legal fees. Earlier in 2016, 41 survivors and relatives of victims of the Aurora shooting came together to sue Cinemark, which owns the theater where the shooting happened and is the third largest movie theater chain in America. They claimed Cinemark was negligent in failing to prevent the shooting and that it didn’t have adequate security measures in place.

However, the court not only ruled in Cinemark’s favor, but also allowed the company to hold the survivors and victims’ families liable for its court costs. Now that the Aurora group is planning to appeal the decision in civil court, though, Cinemark is offering to waive the bill of $700,000 if the appeals are dropped. Basically, if they call it a day and agree that Cinemark had nothing to do with their loved ones being murdered, wounded, and traumatized… well, they still won’t get anything, but at least they won’t have to pay out $700 grand. How did we get to a point where this is permissible?

Aurora theater memorial
CREDIT: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Cinemark did initially offer an out-of-court settlement of $150,000, but $150,000 isn’t much when it has to be shared among 41 people. The other problem is that all the plaintiffs would have had to agree to settle, otherwise no one would get anything. Despite the small amount that each of them would have received, many did want to settle, but one woman said no; as the Los Angeles Times reports, she lost her child and unborn baby in the shooting and was paralyzed herself from her injuries. A few thousand, which is all she’d have gotten, can’t even begin to address that level of damage.

What makes Cinemark’s stance seem extra callous is its detachment from the shooting’s emotional impact on survivors and families. It could have offered a much bigger amount in the initial settlement proposal. It could have found a way to do some good while still maintaining legal protections, like donating to an organization working to keep people safe from gun violence. The company has chosen to do none of this.

But whatever the Aurora group decides, in a way, Cinemark has already lost a public battle by showing it values revenue over people’s lives.