Houman Fakhimi

Movie Theatre Injuries

Movie theater patrons expect to be moved by dramatic performances, perhaps even to the point of tears. They don’t, however, expect those tears to be the result of a painful injury caused by the theater’s negligence.

Theater owners and franchise operators rake in a great deal of revenue from their operations. It should be no spoiler alert that this benefit comes with a duty to ensure customers are reasonably safe while on site. The combination of older buildings, dim lighting, high employee turnover of youthful workers, being open to the public and entrusting people to carry their own snacks and drinks can create a host of hazards in a theater setting.

Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, know theater owners must address dangers that are known, as well as those that are reasonable to believe may happen. The latter are referred to in premises liability law as “reasonably foreseeable” hazards.

For example, a known hazard would be if the manager were notified by a customer of a large soda spill in the hallway outside one of the theaters. But also, spills in general are also a reasonably foreseeable hazard in a movie theater, given that drinks are a primary product sold in the theater, and people often walk with their hands full down dimly-lit hallways. This means theater managers need to regularly inspect walkways and other common areas for this kind of issue. So even if there is no proof someone told the manager of a certain spill, a patron who can prove it existed for a long period of time can still prove negligence by way of showing the workers would have learned of it had they been exercising reasonable care.

Some examples of possible injuries that could occur at a movie theater include:

  • Injuries from defective seats
  • Injuries from slipping-and-falling on spilled drinks or other slick surfaces.
  • Tripping-and-falling due to poorly-light walkways, hallways, stairs or bunching carpet or rugs.
  • Injuries from objects thrown.
  • Injuries from crowding and pushing.
  • Injuries stemming from a third-party criminal attack.

Depending on the nature of what happened, patrons who suffer harm at a movie theater may find themselves coping with:

  • Neck and back injuries
  • Fractured Wrists and hands
  • Fractured hips
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Closed head injuries
  • Facial injuries
  • Gunshot wounds

Any of these can result in substantial medical expenses, lost wages from time off work, painful recovery and even long-term disability. Those injured may under some circumstances have grounds to file a civil case.

Although these injuries may occur at a movie theater, one may only be compensated for them if the movie theater owner or management was in some way negligent.

Proving Negligence for Movie Theater Injuries

It’s not enough to prove an injury occurred at a movie theater. One must also show that the theater was somehow negligent in creating the condition or situation that resulted in that injury.

In any negligence case, one must prove the following:

  • Defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff;
  • Defendant breached that duty;
  • That breach was the cause of injury to the plaintiff;
  • Plaintiff’s injuries were substantial enough to require monetary compensation.

As mentioned before, premises liability lawsuits have some additional elements. For one thing, in showing defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff, plaintiff needs to show he or she was there lawfully as an invitee. Usually, this is not difficult if one is a ticket-holder or an independent contractor.

Secondly, one needs to show that not only did a danger exist on site, but that the property owner knew about it or should have known about it or anticipated it would happen.

  • Plaintiffs also need to prove the property owner failed to take steps to address that danger or warn patrons about it. This failure to address the danger could be in the form of:
  • Failure to properly train employees to supervise the theater;
  • Failure to inspect and reasonably maintain the theater;
  • Operating in a way that creates an unsafe situation.

Finally, an injured plaintiff needs to show the movie theater owners and staffers failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate these risks. That could mean taking action like hiring more security at a location known for prior disturbances, placing a “Wet Floor” warning sign near a spill they can’t immediately clean or repairing broken walkway lights in a dark hallway.

Negligent Security at Movie Theaters

In recent years, there have been a number of cases in which violence has been inflicted on movie goers.

Some examples:

  • In 2009, a Pennsylvania man shot a fellow patron who was being “too noisy” while attending a showing of the film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
  • In 2012, a mass shooting occurred at a theater in Colorado, where 12 people were killed and 70 were injured at a showing of the film, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
  • In 2015, a gunman opened fire at a theater in Louisiana, killing two and wounding nine before turning the gun on himself during a showing of the film, “Trainwreck.”

In ten consolidated civil lawsuits following the 2012 shooting, a U.S. District judge in Colorado ruled that plaintiffs, who were suing the movie theater for negligent security, were owed a reasonable duty of care by the theater, which included protection from known or knowable dangers. He ruled the victims had raised enough questions about whether the theater chain should have known that an armed person could enter undetected, and regarding the theater’s failure to place adequate security on site to deal with such a threat.

Movie theater patrons who have been injured should seek immediate legal counsel to determine whether they may have grounds to pursue civil action.

Contact the injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, by calling (714) 705-6701 or (909) 859-0280. Serving the Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.