Normally after a mass shooting (and how awful is it that there is a ‘normally’ attached to ‘mass shooting’), victims and their families are the ones that file lawsuits — against the shooter, the gun-maker, the police, or the owner of the location. But in the wake of the horrific shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas last year, the tables appear to have been turned.
MGM Resorts International, which owns Mandalay Bay and the concert venue where the victims were gunned down, has filed federal lawsuits asking judges to declare the resort company free from any liability in the shooting. Why the reversal?
Federal Terrorism Protection
While the lawsuits are technically filed against over 1,000 shooting victims, MGM is not seeking any damages. Instead, the company is asking federal judges to declare it immune from lawsuits under a 2002 statute that provides liability protection to companies that use “anti-terrorism” technology or services that can “help prevent and respond to mass violence.”
MGM hired Contemporary Services Corporation to provide security for the Route 91 Harvest festival, and is arguing that, because the company’s services had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security for “protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction,” that immunity should extend to MGM and its subsidiaries.
Incompetence and Immunity
It does seem ironic that the MGM is using its employment of an ultimately ineffective security company as a way to preemptively block victims’ lawsuits and avoid liability. Stephen Paddock stayed at the Mandalay Bay resort for several days before he opened fire on festivalgoers last October, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more.
The suits filed by MGM name over 800 defendants in California, and more than 200 in Nevada, many of whom have threatened to sue or have already filed injury or wrongful death lawsuits against the company in state court. “No MGM Party attempted to commit, knowingly participated in, aided, abetted, committed, or participated in any conspiracy to commit any act of terrorism,” the federal lawsuits claim.
If successful, MGM could bar any current or future litigation based on the shooting. “The Federal Court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. “Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”
But Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglet, who has represented several of the victims, called the legal maneuvering a “blatant display of judge shopping” that “quite frankly verges on unethical.” “I’ve never seen a more outrageous thing, where they sue the victims in an effort to find a judge they like,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s just really sad that they would stoop to this level.”