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Lawsuits Gone Wild: MGM Sues Las Vegas Shooting Victims

In the days of the Greek and Roman empires, lawyers came from noble families, worked for the public good, and were well respected.  Fast forward to the 21st century where it became common to disdain insidious leeches and “ambulance chasers” who would defend even the lowliest criminals. 

This week has been a dark day for the legal profession. The owners of a Las Vegas hotel where the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history took place filed a lawsuit against victims of the massacre.  The Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017 left 58 people dead and more than 500 injured.

MGM Resorts International filed a lawsuit on July 17 saying the company has “no liability of any kind” to the victims. The company said any claims against MGM parties “must be dismissed.”

MGM said it was released from liability for the attack under a US law passed in the wake of 9/11 because the security firm it contracted to oversee the concert, Contemporary Services Corp (CSC), was certified by the Department of Homeland Security “for protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction.”

MGM contends that under the law, which Congress passed in 2002, it is immunized from liability because a security company that was hired for the concert had a certification from the Department of Homeland Security, and the shooting qualified as an “act of terrorism.”  Scores of legal experts are not convinced MGM will be successful in using this law to its advantage, and far more legal insiders contend that filing this lawsuit may be disastrous to MGM’s business.

For example, there have been reports that thousands of people are canceling their hotel reservations and conferences and conventions at MGM properties, including Bellagio, CircusCircus, Luxor, Excaliber, Mandalay Bay, and others.  #BoycottMGM has been trending on Twitter. Over the years, the city has earned the distinction as one of the world’s top meeting and convention centers. The city welcomes over 5.1 million of convention delegates annually but perhaps not so anymore.

MGM’s suit is another literal blow to the victims. MGM’s filing in federal courts means that there would be no state trials for survivors; no examination of evidence or witnesses; and no opportunity in the court to determine how the shooter managed to carry an arsenal of high-powered rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition into the hotel and keep those weapons hidden in his room for days. (After stockpiling an arsenal of weapons in his suite on the 32nd floor, the murderer broke two windows and fired hundreds of rounds into the crowd of 22,000 attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival across the street at Las Vegas Village, also owned by MGM Resorts.)

More than 2,500 people have filed or threatened lawsuits against MGM, the parent company of the Mandalay Bay, a Las Vegas hotel and casino where a gunman rented a room and opened fire onto a country music festival. The victims are looking to hold MGM responsible for the “deaths, injuries, and emotional distress resulting” from the attack. Lawsuits have been filed against MGM as well as concert promoter Live Nation, accusing the companies of not having adequate security or properly trained staff.

MGM has filed against 1,900 survivors in eight states. Its procedural goal is to get the cases moved to federal court, where it would be protected under the SAFETY Act.  But the optics look awful for MGM, and it may hurt them in the wallet in huge ways.

An MGM statement – poorly prepared and ill-conceived, in my humble opinion – says that it is not seeking money or attorneys’ fees, and that its action provides defendants “with the opportunity for a more timely resolution.” The company wants all claims against it dismissed. Based on my twenty-plus years as a litigator, let me fill you in on a secret: A defendant NEVER cares about a timely resolution of claims for the victims. This reprehensible MGM statement is pure fiction.

Humanity. Its something more lawyers could embrace. This is a topic Corless Barfield Trial Group will discuss in an upcoming podcast with other legal experts and industry insiders.  If you are interested in contacting Corless Barfield with your legal questions, call us today at (877) 517-5595. We look forward to hearing from you.