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Aurora theater shooting spawns eighth lawsuit (at least) against Cinemark

The Aurora Century 16, where James Holmes allegedly killed twelve and injured seventy, is slated to reopen next Thursday, January 17. But the attempts by Century 16 owner Cinemark to move on haven't stopped the shooting-related lawsuits against the firm that have appeared regularly over the past six months. The latest, filed by Chichi and Derick Spruel, is at least the eighth. Details below.

The Spruels were attending the July 20 screening of The Dark Knight Rises with their friend Jesse Childress, one of the dozen patrons who lost their lives in the attack.

Jesse Childress.
Jesse Childress.

The lawsuit's account of what happened shortly after the film began to play is detailed and startling. The entire document is on view below, but here's an excerpt:

Plaintiff, Chichi Spruel, initially thought that someone was setting fireworks off in the theatre, and turned to her husband, Derick Spruel, for confirmation. When she turned toward her husband she looked in front of the chair her husband was sitting in and saw that the person sitting in the seat in front of her husband was laying face up, with blood on his head, and had apparently been killed by the gunshots. She then realized that she had to get out of the line of fire and immediately lay down on the floor in front of her seat, and called 911. Her friend, Jesse Childress, was laying face down on the floor in a pool of blood, apparently killed by the gunshots.

Plaintiff, Derick Spruel, first saw and heard an object pass over his head and then heard loud popping sounds from the rear of the theatre and saw flashes in the corner of the theatre. He saw his friend, Jesse Childress stand up and move in front of his other friend, Munirih Gravelly. At that point, Jesse Childress stumbled into his arms, and Mr. Spruel told everyone around him to get down. While Plaintiff, Derick Spruel, was lying on the floor he heard the man in front of him gurgling on his own blood, apparently in the throes of death. Immediately after hearing the man dying in front of him he heard a man yelling that his child was shot. He heard several types of gunfire at various times, ranging from what sounded like it was a from 9mm weapon to an AR-15 assault rifle. When Plaintiff, Derick Spruel, was finally able to stand up, he immediately reached down for Jesse Childress, and told him to get up. When he reached for him he could tell something was wrong, because he felt so heavy and it was hard to move him. When his eyes finally focused on Mr. Childress, he observed that he was lying in a pool of blood, not moving and had apparently been killed by the gunshots.

The lawsuit's allegations against Cinemark are similar to those found in other complaints against the company , the first of which arrived in September , but it features some additional factoids. For instance, the Spruels' suit alleges that between March 20 and July 19 of 2012, approximately 99 emergency 911 calls, plus "35 additional calls involving assaults, concealed weapons, disorderly conduct, a shooting, robberies and suspicious persons" pointed to the Century 16 or locations in its immediate vicinity. The above are said to have included nine calls "involving suspicious activity, mental health, fighting and emergency 911 calls" -- yet "no security personnel were present" for the Dark Knight midnight premiere.

Moreover, the suit goes on, the exterior doors to the theater, through which Holmes is thought to have entered the auditorium where he opened fire, had no "alarm system, interlocking security systems, or any other security or alarm features which would have put Defendant's employees or security personnel on notice that someone had surreptitiously left the theater by the exterior door and had put the door in an open position which would facilitate a surreptitious and unlawful re-entry."

Cinemark has refuted these negligence claims and others like it in filings that ask for previous complaints against it be dismissed. But as the latest document shows, the suits just keep coming.

Continue to read more about lawsuits against Cinemark, including a copy of the latest.

Accompanying the main suit is a "notice of related cases" also filed by Aurora's Davidovitch Law Firm, which is representing the Spruels. (The couple were not physically hurt in the attack, but both reportedly suffer from psychological issues as a result of the attack, including but not limited to post traumatic stress disorder.) It notes that the lawsuit is believed to be related to the following complaints:

Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod v. Cinemark, USA, Inc. d/b/a Century Aurora 16, 1:12-cv-02514; Joshua Nowlan v. Cinemark, USA, Inc. d/b/a Century Aurora 16; 1:12-cv-02517; Gregory and Rena Medek v. Cinemark, USA, Inc. d/b/a Century Aurora 16, 1:12-cv-2705; and Jerri Jackson v.Cinemark, USA, Inc. d/b/a Century Aurora 16, 1:12-cv-2704; Mary Theresa Hoover v.Cinemark, USA, Inc. d/b/a Century Aurora 16, 1: 12-cv-2706; Dion Rosborough, Ryan Lumba, Tony Briscoe, Jon Boik, and Louis Duran v. Cinemark, USA, Inc. d/b/a Century Aurora16, 12-cv-02687; Ian Sullivan v. Cinemark, USA, Inc., d/b/a Century Aurora 16, 1:12-cv-02900.

Add the Spruels' complaint to the ones above and the total is seven. However, the roster only counts those filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and skips what may be the highest profile suit to date.

In October, as you'll recall, New York attorney Marc Bern, who successfully represented a number of 9/11 first responders, sued Cinemark on behalf of several high-profile survivors of the attack -- among them Farrah Soudani, who got an assist from theCHIVE.com to help defray enormous medical costs associated with the serious injuries she sustained, and Yousef Gharbi, a teenager shot in the head during the assault. But because Bern filed in Arapahoe County District Court as opposed to U.S. District Court, his suit was excluded from the Davidovitch list.

That brings the number of lawsuits against Cinemark to at least eight -- and as seen by the attendance at this week's preliminary hearing in the theater shooting case, there are many more victims who could potentially petition the courts for redress. Clearly, the folks at Cinemark have more to deal with than just next week's theater reopening.

Here's the latest lawsuit.

Spruel v Cinemark

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting hearing, day 3: James Holmes took photos of himself dressed to kill."


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