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Vue Cinemas fines $1M for the death of the armchair patron in 2018

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London based cinema chain Vue Cinemas Must Pay $1 Million (£750,000) in fines after a patron was killed by a motorized recliner three years ago. What was initially considered an “extraordinary accident” turned out to be the result of the… the negligence of the cinema chain in the security protocol.

In 2018, 24-year-old Ateef Rafiq was attending a screening at the Star City venue in Birmingham when he dropped his phone under the seat. As he tried to retrieve it, the motorized footrest on Rafiq’s neck began to sink. His wife, other moviegoers and employees struggled to free him for 15 minutes, and had to break the footrest to release Rafiq from the enormous pressure on his head and neck…which was equal to 3/4th of a ton. He went in cardiac arrest, and was rushed to hospital where he died weeks later from his injuries.

It turns out that the motor in the seat had blown a fuse, in a bizarre sequence of events that led to what Judge Heidi Kubik described as “an accident that should never have happened”. In addition, the automated seat was missing the rod that allowed Rafiq to be unlocked manually.

“It is admitted that a number of members of the public were clearly exposed to the same risk of harm,” added Judge Kubik. “The complete lack of a risk assessment was a major cause of the actual damage that resulted.”

In April, admitted Vue Cinemas “failed to ensure that persons not in their employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety” and for “failing to make an appropriate and sufficient risk assessment”, filing two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Vue has since removed all those armchairs from his theaters, and after the verdict, a spokesperson told Variety“The death of Mr. Rafiq saddened everyone at Vue and we regret the loss suffered by his family and friends.”

“We hope that the end of this procedure will put an end to this tragic accident. All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken every possible step to learn from this and ensure it cannot happen again,” the company added.

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