• April 21, 2015

Iowa State Daily

Stoffa: Lawsuits being filed about Aurora shooting are absurd

Attempting to cash in on tragedy is obnoxious

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Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 1:17 am, Fri Aug 3, 2012.

Like clockwork, the first round of lawsuits are now in the works concerning the Aurora shooting. The lawsuits were filed for Torrence Brown Jr., who was a member of the audience when James Holmes allegedly threw smoke canisters and open fired on the crowd during a late night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Brown was not injured from any gun play, but has claimed extreme trauma resulting from the experience and the loss of Alexander J. Boik, who Brown described as his best friend. Brown's attorney has leveled the lawsuits at three defendants, in regard to negligence: the Century 16 Movie Theater in Aurora, Colo., a part of the Cinemark USA, Inc.; doctors involved in prescribing Holmes drugs; and Warner Bros., the studio that produced the new Batman trilogy.

While the idea of trauma from a shooting incident is not unlikely, it is a stretch to understand how the three entities involved are responsible for negligence.

Holmes claimed to have taken 100 mg of Vicodin two and a half hours before going to the theater, Vicodin that may or may not have been prescribed, according to an article in The Telegraph.

A patient misusing drugs is hardly the fault of the doctor, unless signs show the doctor to know of the abuse, which there is currently no sign of. And purchasing a drug on the street is not the fault of the doctor who initially prescribed it.

Alongside that, the content of Vicodin is generally something like 7.5mg of hydrocodone, while the remainder is acetaminophen/tylenol. 500 mg a few times a day is a fairly regular prescription for many patients, and a tolerance does build up over time.

If Holmes was a first-time user of Vicodin, the effects of the drug would hardly account for his actions at the theater, and the duration of the drug would already have dwindled to little if anything based on the amount of time between when he claims to have taken it and when the shooting began.

It has also been claimed Holmes was known to smoke marijuana. The claim Holmes had smoked marijuana before the shooting is, so far, merely an Internet rumor.

The closest to the inkling he used marijuana before the shooting was from an interview from a man who lived across the street from Holmes while talking to the New York Post. The man claimed to have seen "[Holmes] smoking weed behind the apartment" on various occasions.

Despite no proof of marijuana causing any violent behavior, ever, it will probably be included in the lawsuit because marijuana is frequently used as a scapegoat for causing criminal activities.

The theater itself is being blamed for not having alarms and guards at its exits, which is a ridiculous notion altogether.

Movie theater security levels have worked for years with few incidents, and the shooting is hardly an incident a movie theater can be prepared for if it wants to continue to offer films at a reasonable price. Ticket costs would soar higher than they irrationally are now, and theaters would shut down for lack of attendance.

An isolated incident such as Aurora is terrible but hardly reason to invest in overly expensive, highly intrusive and not entirely efficient TSA-style measures, no matter how freaked out folks feel.

And the icing on the cake for every paranoid parent out there comes with the potential for violence in the media. Warner Bros. is being attacked for making "The Dark Knight Rises" and the other Batman films as violent as they are.

Donald Karpel, the attorney in charge of the current lawsuits, claims theatergoers were helpless because they thought the shooter was part of the movie and that Holmes mimicked some of the action. In a TMZ interview Karpel said, "Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today."

This is more of that panic arising unnecessarily from any and all violent events. Holmes hadn't seen the movie yet, and as such his actions weren't mimicking the movie.

If you can blame movies for the Aurora incident, then you can blame every incident of violence on media. That is absolutely ludicrous, considering most people who watch films are not involved in or partake of violence similar to the type viewed.

The only thing to blame for the violence in Aurora was James Holmes; not guns and certainly not movies. Politicians will rally to censor the world and try to shield us from reality, and that is their place to play up insecurities and misinformation shoved on the general public. But understand, it is nonsense being manipulated for political and financial purposes.

To add a possible lawsuits to ensue, Dr. Lynne Fenton, who specializes in schizophrenia and "threat assessment" at the University of Colorado where Holmes attended, is under scrutiny for negligence along with the university.

Holmes sent a notebook to her, allegedly filled with drawings and statements about his plans to murder people. The notebook apparently was not discovered until after the shooting.

In court documents filed July 27, defense lawyers alleged Holmes had been undergoing mental health treatment at the university. "A legal source said: ‘This is a significant development because it suggests Holmes sought treatment for a mental health issue and that his mental state was known to his university counselor. If negligence can be proved then the victims’ families could have a strong civil case against the university,’" according to an article in Mail Online.

Maybe there is a great faith placed in mental health evaluation by the majority of folks, but not noticing someone is a murderer without seeing them in the act or having the person admit to desires as such hardly makes the doctor at fault; perhaps inept and in need of re-evaluation for their certification, but not at fault for the actions of the murderer.

The university and those who had interacted with Holmes appear to have taken the proper line of action, as there is currently no evidence showing Holmes to have been actually planning to pursue violent actions.

And as to the notebook, well, it is unfortunate it was not brought to light in time to possibly prevent the incident. But again, this is not the fault of the doctor or the university for mail not arriving on time or being unopened for a day.

Hell, if you can blame the university, then stretch the lawsuit out to the postal delivery service. Was it the U.S. Postal Service? Then the whole of the American government is to blame for the shooting.

See how stupid things can become when you forget that correlation does not imply causation?

However, there is a lawsuit that makes sense to some for the shooting, and that is against Holmes. He planned to go in and murder people. But Holmes doesn't have the deep pockets of the University of Denver or Warner Bros. or Cinemark USA, Inc., or even the likely lawsuits someone will attempt against those in charge of making guns.

And so, the obnoxious lawsuits and political pandering begins, with some attempting to cash in on a tragedy, much as do vultures circling a downed animal.

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