Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 25, 2012, 3:07pm

Three survivors of the shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater in July have filed lawsuits against the Texas theater owners.

Plano-based Cinemark USA Inc., doing business as Century Aurora 16, is named as defendant in two suits filed Sept. 21 in U.S. Court for the District of Colorado.

In the first suit (Case 1:12-cv-02514-RBJ), plaintiffs Denise N. Traynom and Brandon K. Axelrod were attending the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Auditorium 9 at the Century Aurora 16 theater in Aurora, Colo., on July 20.

During the movie, a gunman entered through a side door armed with a variety of guns and ammunition and began shooting at the audience.  Twelve people died and 58 were injured. The alleged gunman, James Holmes, is currently in police custody, but he is not named as a defendant in the lawsuits.

According to the suits, the gunman purchased a ticket and first entered the theater with other patrons through the regular entrance. However, after the movie began, the suit claims he went in and out of the theater through an exterior door to the right of the screen. He kept the door in an open position and went to his car to retrieve the guns and ammunition, the suits state.

“That door was unlocked, and had no alarm or other monitoring system to guard against the door being kept open,” the suits state.

“The gunman was able to have sufficient time to transfer several weapons as well as ammunition at or near this door without being discovered by any theater personnel.”

Plaintiffs Traynom and Axelrod ducked down behind the seats because the gunman was shooting at people that were trying to escape.

Traynom was shot in the buttocks and Axelrod suffered injuries to his right knee and ankle. In addition, they claim to have suffered significant emotional and psychological distress and trauma from the incident.

“Plaintiffs lay helpless on the ground for many minutes, while the gunman continued shooting people,” the suit states.

The second suit (Case 1:12-cv-02517-RBJ) was filed by plaintiff Joshua R. Nowlan, who was shot in the right arm and left leg. The suit states the gunshot nearly severed his right arm.

“No security personnel and no employee intervened during the entirety of the incident. The gunman simply walked back out of the theater through the same door he used to enter, and sat in his car," the suits state.

The plaintiffs accuse the theater of negligence for failing to have security procedures in place and having no alarm system to indicate the exterior door had been opened.

"Any person who wished to make a surreptitious and unauthorized entry into the theater could easily determine that the lack of security personnel and lack of any alarm on the door at the right ... would allow them to leave the theater, and re-enter without fear of being discovered, interfered with, monitored or stopped,'' according to the suit.

The suits also claim there had been other recent incidents at the theater, including a gang-related shooting, that should have prompted the hiring of security personnel for the much-anticipated "Dark Knight" premiere.

The plaintiffs say they have undergone significant medical treatment for their injuries; have incurred and will continue to incur economic damages, including costs for hospitals, physicians, therapists, medical and assisted care and other medical expenses.

Plaintiffs have also suffered non-economic losses such as physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering; emotional distress; inconvenience; and impairment of the quality of life. In addition, plaintiffs have been informed and allege that these injuries are permanent and have results in permanent impairment and disfigurement, the suits state.

Attorneys William L. Keating, Christina Habas, Deirdre Ostrowski of Keating Wagner Polidori Free PC in Denver, Colo., are representing the plaintiffs.


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