Tort Law

Victim's widow sues psychiatrist re Batman movie theater massacre

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Corrected: The widow of a man massacred last year, with nearly a dozen others, in a July 20 shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater showing the new Batman movie has sued the former treating psychiatrist of the suspected gunman, James Holmes.

Dr. Lynne Fenton acted negligently by failing to take appropriate measures after Holmes told her, less than a month before the slayings, that he fantasized about killing numerous people, Chantel Blunk alleges in the suit she filed Monday in federal court in Denver. It also names as a defendant the University of Colorado, Denver. Fenton serves as director of student mental health services on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where Holmes, before the shootings, was a neuroscience graduate student. Articles in the Denver Post and Reuters provide additional details.

In particular, the suit alleges, Fenton failed to take reasonable care by refusing an offer by University of Colorado police to detain Holmes for a 72-hour observation in a psychiatric facility.

A spokeswoman for the university told Reuters that “the university has nothing but sympathy for the victims, but in our initial review of this case, the university believes the lawsuit is not well founded legally or factually.”

Blunk’s suit over the death of her husband, U.S. Navy veteran Jonathan Blunk, 26, is reportedly the first filed against Fenton concerning the movie theater slayings. Another 70 people were injured in the attack.

Additional and related coverage: “Will U of Colorado Face Duty-to-Warn Suits re Off-Campus Movie Theater Shooting Spree?” “U of Colo Retains 4 Law Firms to Represent 6 Employees in Aftermath of Movie Theater Shooting Spree” “First Suits Filed re Shooting Spree During Batman Movie Blame Colo. Theater for Lax Security” “Accused Movie Theater Shooter’s Arraignment Delayed by Judge”

Updated Jan. 16 to correct the spelling of Chantel and Jonathan Blunk’s name.

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