It is not unusual to have injured people file lawsuits following events like the shooting in Colorado last week. However, I am sometimes surprised at how quickly some of those suits are filed. What is the hurry? Are the parties really in a position to begin litigation so quickly?
In any case, Injured is now reporting that the first lawsuit from the Colorado shooting has been filed by a man who did not suffer a physical injury. His claim is based on the fact that his best friend was shot in the chest and died. In other words, the claim is for the fear the plaintiff suffered himself and for the emotional distress at witnessing someone else suffer a physical injury. Different states deal with those types of claims differently and I am not familiar as to which approach Colorado takes. The majority view requires the plaintiff to be within a physical zone of danger where he himself was at risk of physical injury and it would seem that the plaintiff can make a claim he was.
What is more interesting about the report on this lawsuit, though, is the list of defendants. The plaintiff (and I assume at the suggestion of his lawyer) has sued the movie theater, the doctors of James Holmes, and the film studio that produced the movie.
The claim against the movie theater (for negligence related to the emergency exit) I can understand. The claim against the doctor will be a tough sell. The claim against the producers of the movie sounds dangerously close to frivolous. Interestingly, there are no claims against any member of the gun industry.
The claim against the doctors argues that the doctors should have
foreseen the shooters' violent tendencies and should have made sure he was not skipping
his medication. I am not familiar with what is known about the medical treatment the shooter was under but the question will depend on the issue of the proper medical duty of care. I suspect the doctors will argue they did not have a duty to anything beyond what they did.
The claim against the producers of the movie is that the previous movies were so violent they caused the shooter to imitate the conduct depicted in them. I could be wrong about this, but I think this is a claim that has been raised and defeated many times before in other types of cases involving movies, tv and video games.