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Asked a question 6 months ago

Upon theater re-openings, how will US exhibitors be protected from potential liability lawsuits, assuming tracing points to their venue as a source of a customers' infection? Would it be possible exhibitors will need to get signed release forms from customers?

Since our first live session we've received so much feedback, emails and questions we feel it would be wrong just to store it all as a survey response. 

For that reason we've created this community where you'll be able to bring up new topics, ask questions, discuss directly with each other, and continue the discussion also after the webinar has ended.

On behalf of the cinema community: Thank you for contributing!

J. Sperling Reich
Executive Editor of Celluloid Junkie

I should start this answer by mentioning that it's almost impossible to truly trace a community transmitted viral infection with 100% accuracy, which would make it difficult for any plaintiff to prove their case.

I could also point out that any judge (at least in the United States) that is presented with such a customer infection case would likely dismiss them outright except for instances of gross negligence, since at this point anyone who goes out in public knows the risks of contracting COVID-19.

But alas, I am not a lawyer.  And while there are plenty of lawyers working for the industry trade groups we queried over the past several days to get an answer to this question, none really had a specific answer.

Apparently, the cinema industry is not alone in trying to answer this question... so is everyone operating any form of business, as is evidenced by this recent article in The New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/business/businesses-coronavirus-liability.html19

Excellent question and ideally one answered by a lawyer, but I will take a stab at it. My guess is that if cinemas can be shown to have taken reasonable steps to minimise or prevent infection, then it would be hard (but not impossible) to mount a lawsuit. There is similarity to other health and safety hazards, ranging from fire, food and building safety. But it will also be tough to prove that the infection took place at the cinema or as a result of lack of due care. While not the same, it is worth remembering that families of the victims of the Aurora cinema shooting lost the lawsuit against the cinema for negligence.  

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