Four survivors of the July 20, 2012, movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., are on the hook for nearly $700,000 in legal fees after their lawsuit against Cinemark failed earlier this year. A Colorado law allows the winning side of civil cases to seek costs from the plaintiffs, and a judge ruled this week in favor of the theater, ordering the plaintiffs to pay Cinemark’s hefty legal bill.
Over 40 survivors of the attack have been trying to sue the theater chain for the last four years, according to an in-depth report from the Los Angeles Times. The plaintiffs argued that the theater’s relaxed security measures allowed the shooter—then-25-year-old James Holmes—to enter the theater and fire into the audience unchallenged.
After the lawsuit failed at the state level, the victims took their case to federal court. At the conclusion of the proceedings, U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson informed the survivors he was planning to rule in favor of the theater—Cinemark could not have known Holmes was planning an attack, and even increased security measures would not have stopped him.
Jackson urged the plaintiffs to settle with Cinemark, and the victims were prepared to take the theater’s offer of $150,000 split among the 41 plaintiffs, according to the Times. The theater would also commit to taking additional measures to protect its patrons.
But one of the plaintiffs rejected the deal at the last minute. Two of her children had been killed in the shooting: one who was with her and one she was carrying. The gunshot wounds she sustained also left her paralyzed.
“It was done then,” Marcus Weaver, one of the survivors, told the Times. Thirty-seven plaintiffs immediately removed themselves from the case. The four who remained now owe the theater chain nearly $700,000.
“Theaters aren’t any safer,” Weaver said. “It’s almost like everything was for naught.”
If Cinemark had lost the case, theaters around the country could have been forced to beef up their security measures—a costly proposition for theaters already running a tight budget and one that would have increased ticket prices, according to the NY Daily News.
Cinemark may have won its day in court, but Colorado gun owners are still fighting to repeal the gun control measures passed in the wake of the attack. Universal background checks and a magazine ban are still in place, but the State Senate recently passed a repeal of the magazine restriction. That legislation should be considered by the House next legislative session.