Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains could not have anticipated or reasonably prevented a 2015 mass shooting at its Colorado Springs clinic, a jury decided Wednesday, bringing an end to a 5-year-long lawsuit that at one point made its way up to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The six-person civil jury ruled Planned Parenthood could not be held civilly responsible for the attack, in which confessed shooter Robert Dear killed three people and wounded nine others during a violent rampage.
The lawsuit was brought by victims of the shooting, who argued that Planned Parenthood should have foreseen such an attack and taken better security measures to prevent it, in part because the clinic and others nationwide had been receiving escalating threats of violence at the time.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood countered that no one could have stopped Dear’s “fanatical rampage” and argued there were no reasonable security measures that could have deterred him.
The Colorado Supreme Court in June 2020 ruled in a split 4-3 decision that the issue of civil liability should be determined by a jury, rather than a judge, with the majority of justices finding it was possible a reasonable juror might find Planned Parenthood responsible to some degree for the attack.
The decision drew attention from land and business owners, who worried about shouldering liability in future mass-shooting attacks. The three dissenting justices in the state Supreme Court’s decision argued that by putting the decision in the hands of a jury, the ruling wrongly subjected landowners to liability for the “irrational actions of a mass murderer.”
A civil jury trial started in Denver on Oct. 11. The jury deliberated for about a day-and-a-half before finding entirely in favor of Planned Parenthood on Wednesday.
“Yesterday’s unanimous decision in Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ favor, asserts that this act of violence on our Colorado Springs health center was neither foreseeable, nor preventable,” the organization’s spokeswoman, Whitney Phillips, said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood’s attorney, Kevin Taylor, said Thursday he was grateful the court ensured a fair and impartial trial.
“Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains thinks today of all the victims of Robert Dear’s murderous rampage,” he said. “The four plaintiffs suffered tremendously.”
An attorney for the shooting victims did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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