Lynne Fenton, James Holmes's psychiatrist, sued by wife of Aurora theater shooting victim
At least eight lawsuits have been filed against Cinemark, owner of the Aurora Century 16, where twelve people were killed and seventy injured in a July 20 attack. (The theater will reopen tomorrow.) Now, however, a newly filed suit targets different parties: Dr. Lynne Fenton, who provided psychiatric care for accused shooter James Holmes under the auspices of the University of Colorado, which is also named in the filing. See the document and get details below.
The plaintiff in the case is Chantel Blunk, wife of Jonathan Blunk, who was killed in the assault. The pair had two children together: Max and Hailey.
The allegations contained in the lawsuit are mainly drawn from reporting originally done by 7News. According to sources who spoke with investigator John Ferrugia, Holmes, a CU-Denver student, allegedly shared thoughts of mass homicide with CU staffer Fenton during an early June session. She responded by informing police about the comments. But after being told that Holmes's criminal background check came up clean, she did not ask for him to be put on a 72-hour mental-evaluation -- presumably because he was in the process of withdrawing from the university and would soon be gone.
This decision had deadly consequences, the lawsuit maintains. "Upon information and belief, James Holmes told Defendant Fenton on June 11, 2012, that he fantasized about killing a lot of people," it states. But after "Colorado University Police Officer Lynn Whitten asked Defendant Fenton if she should apprehend James Holmes and place him on a 72-hour psychiatric hold," the suit goes on, "no further action [was] taken by Defendant Fenton to warn or otherwise stop James Holmes from killing Jonathan Blunk on July 20, 2012."
The filing goes on to charge Fenton with negligence. An excerpt reads:
Defendant Fenton knew that James Holmes was dangerous. Defendant Fenton had a duty to use reasonable care to protect the public at large from James Holmes. Defendant Fenton was presented with the opportunity to use such reasonable care when the Colorado University Police offered to apprehend James Holmes on a psychiatric hold. Defendant Fenton breached her duty to use reasonable care.
Due to this breach of duty to warn or protect the public from James Holmes, Jonathan T. Blunk was killed on July 20, 2012.
The lawsuit maintains that "as a direct and proximate result of Defendant Fenton's negligence, the Plaintiffs will suffer loss of companionship, emotion and psychological distress, economic damages, extreme mental and emotional pain and suffering and fear in an amount greater than $75,000."
The suit also maintains that CU is also liable because "Defendant Fenton was in the employ or employed by The University of Colorado...and was acting within the scope and course of her employment" when she was treating Holmes.
Winning a judgement on this argument has to be considered a long shot. After all, even if Fenton had asked for Holmes to be placed on a 72-hour mental-health hold, he still could have committed the attack on the theater, which took place more than a month after the remarks cited by 7News.
Consider the claim for yourself by reading the entire suit below.
Note: An earlier version of this post included a photo misidentified as featuring Chantel Blunk. We regret the error.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting spawns eighth lawsuit (at least) against Cinemark."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.