Only days after the Aurora theater shootings, and mere hours after the initial court appearance by accused gunman James Holmes, TMZ reports that the first lawsuit over the assault has been filed.
The plaintiff: Torrence Brown Jr., who was not physically injured in the melee but was friends with victim A.J. Boik. The attorney: Donald Karpel, a Beverly Hills lawyer who doesn't shy away from the limelight.
Karpel appears to have a direct line to TMZ. For instance, the site noted his representation of paparazzo Jordan Dawes, who was attacked by actor Sean Penn in 2009. Dawes donated the settlement he received from Penn to Haitian charities, and Karpel is said to have done likewise with a "large chunk of his attorney's fees."
Among other high-profile Karpel cases featured on Karpel's Facebook page -- a complaint against a Mailbu teacher who allegedly struck a student in imitation of the slapping scene in Bridesmaids, and a suit by the lead singer of the group Hollywood Undead, who says he was beaten up by his bandmates. Both cases were prominently covered by (you guessed it) TMZ, with Karpel described in the latter item as a "legal pitbull."
The site's most recent Karpel offering describes three targets in the Brown suit over the shootings:
1. The theater. Karpel claims it was negligent for the theater to have an emergency door in the front that was not alarmed or guarded. It's widely believed Holmes entered the theater with a ticket, propped the emergency door open from inside, went to his car and returned with guns.
2. Holmes' doctors. Karpel says it appears Holmes was on several medications -- prescribed by one or more doctors -- at the time of the shooting and he believes the docs did not properly monitor Holmes.
3. Warner Bros. Karpel says Dark Knight Rises was particularly violent and Holmes mimicked some of the action. The attorney says theater goers were helpless because they thought the shooter was part of the movie.
In reference to the latter, Karpel tells TMZ, "Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today."
Of course, Holmes presumably had not seen The Dark Knight Rises before his assault, given that its premiere had only been underway for a matter of minutes when he began firing. But that may not matter in a suit like this one, which seems designed more for a settlement from entities that might rather pay to make matters like this go away than litigate them for years. Then again, there are so many victims in the Aurora case, and so many others who were traumatized in the theater but escaped physical wounds, that ponying up in one case could set an expensive precedent.
We've reached out to Karpel. If and when he gets back to us, we'll update this post.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "James Holmes: Inside the courtroom with shock-haired Aurora theater shooting suspect."