Theaters are buildings used for dramatic performances or spectacles.  You may be charged an admission fee to enter a theater to view a movie, play, musical, opera, or other performance.

What Duties Does a Theater Owner Have?

A theater owner must exercise reasonable care to see that the theater and the outside of the theater are reasonably safe.  The owner must warn customers of hidden dangers and provide safe seating.  An owner must guard against dangers if he has reason to believe they will happen.  If he does not, he may be found negligent.  Some possible injuries that may occur at theater include: 

  • Injuries from slipping and falling on the floor.
  • Injuries from defective seats.
  • Injuries from horseplay of patrons. 
  • Injuries from thrown objects.
  • Injuries from pushing and crowding. 

What Might Show Negligence by the Theater?

To be negligent, the theater owner must know, or should have known, about the thing that caused the injury, or the thing must be inherently dangerous.  Some common factors that suggest negligence include:

  • The owner does not have enough ushers, attendants, supervisors, or personnel to supervise the theater.
  • The owner does not inspect and maintain the theater.
  • The owner arranges the theater in a dangerous way by putting things in strange places.

What About Theater Lighting?

Partial darkness is important for theaters.  The theater must be dark enough to avoid straining the eyes of patrons.  However, there must be enough light to allow people to leave their seats during a performance or find their seats if they arrive late.  Improper lighting could lead to injuries when people try to get to or leave their seat.  However, lack of illumination alone is not enough.  It must be combined with some other danger, such as a slippery floor, which was not illuminated to be negligence.

What Limits on Liability are There?

The negligence of the theater owner must cause the injury and not some other unforeseen event.  For example, a panic in a theater is not foreseeable, so the owner is probably not liable for injuries suffered during a panic.  Also, the owner is only responsible for unreasonable risks.  That means that the owner does not have to fix every possible dangerous condition.  If the condition is so obvious that everyone should know to avoid it, then there is no liability.  Furthermore, if the defect did not exist long enough for the owner to possibly discover it, there is no liability.  Contributory negligence and assumption of risk may also limit recovery.  

Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Have Been Injured at a Theater?

If you have been hurt or injured during a visit to a theater and want to assess the viability of your claim, the advice of a personal injury lawyer can be extremely helpful.  An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you investigate your injury and recover damages.