European cinema chain Vue has been fined $1m (£750,000) by Birmingham Crown Court for safety breaches after a cinemagoer was killed by a motorized reclining chair at one of its UK sites.
The court heard how during the March 2018 incident patron Ateeq Rafiq was trying to retrieve personal items from beneath his seat when he became trapped by the footrest, with a significant amount of pressure being placed on his neck.
Cinema workers and his wife were unable to free him for 15 minutes, after which he was rushed to hospital but died one week later from his injuries. The seat was later found to have blown a fuse.
Judge Heidi Kubik described the incident as “an accident that never should have happened” and said other members of the public had been “exposed to the serious risk of harm” in her ruling. Vue was made to pay £130,000 ($178,000) in costs in addition to the fine amount.
In a statement following the verdict, Vue said it was “deeply sorry for the loss suffered by his [Ateeq Rafiq’s] family and friends” and confirmed those types of seats have been removed from all of its venues.
“We hope that that the end of these proceedings brings some closure to them following this tragic accident. All recliners of the type involved in the incident have been removed from our cinemas and we have taken all possible steps to learn from this and ensure it could not happen again,” the company added.