A 2012 stampede of panicking people cost Miami’s Maria Navas a healthy right foot and cost Regal Cinema $1.7 million after a Miami-Dade County jury ruled on a lawsuit in Navas’ favor Thursday.
Navas’ injury on her right foot occurred at the last showing of The Dark Knight Rises on July 30-31, 2012. Witnesses testified that when moviegoer David Escamillo began exhibiting erratic behavior at the Lincoln Road theater, including marching up and down the aisles, then shouting “This is it!,” the 140 patrons fled toward the exit.
Escamillo was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, given four months probation and fined $358.
Navas said she underwent two surgeries and had 18 pieces of hardware stuck in her foot. Navas said her main reactions were relief that it was over and grateful she had enough money to take care of future medical bills.
“Since then, I don’t really wear high shoes, I wear flats that aren’t what I like to wear,” Navas said. “I can’t really run. I used to play kickball and flag football. I can’t participate in sports anymore. It really took over my life.”
Navas’ attorneys argued Escamillo should’ve been dealt with by cinema staff before he caused a mass reaction predictable by then-recent events. Only 10 days before, James Eagan Holmes set off tear gas and fired shots in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre, killing 12 during The Dark Knight Rises. Attorney Jason Brenner said Regal sent an e-mail to its theatre staff requesting extra vigilance and quick action regarding people behaving erratically.
“We don’t believe their policies and procedures were adequate for the protection they were attempting to provide patrons,” Brenner said. “But specifically, following this particular incident, with this being on everyone’s mind and with this specific directive from the president of the company, we believe they failed to do even the minimum that was required of their policies.”
In its court filing, Regal countered that the negligent parties were Navas for knowing the potential danger for injury and leaving herself exposed to it, and the stampeding patrons for “failing to conduct themselves in a reasonable or prudent fashion.”
The company’s attorneys could not be reached for comment to determine whether Regal would appeal.