Legal

24 November 2017, lawsuits over the October 2017 Las Vegas MGM hotel/concert venue attack pile up

On 20 November, Newsweek reports that a massive lawsuit was filed on behalf of 450 victims against the MGM Mandalay Bay Resort (and others, see below,) for negligence regarding the 1 October mass shooting (effectively, a machinegun attack) by Stephen Paddock on the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. Paddock killed 58 and wounded 500. The case was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Muir Analytics covered the initial attack at its SecureHotel.US website here.

Newsweek reports that, immediately following the attack, MGM’s revenue fell 72 %, decreasing from $535.6 million to $149.1 million over the same quarter from 2016 (a loss of $386.5 million.) Hundreds of employees at the Mandalay Bay have been laid off, and multitudes of others have had their hours cut back.

This 450-person lawsuit is one of many filed in the wake of the shooting. Newsweek reports four other lawsuits have been filed; two by persons severely injured in the attack, and two that are wrongful death cases. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports 14 lawsuits were filed in Clark County district court (Nevada) the week of 13 November by a legal team of two firms: Las Vegas-based Titolo Law Office, and Chicago-based Romanucci and Blandin.

According to the Insurance Journal, two Houston-based firms are reportedly behind this new, 450-person suit:

The Insurance Journal says the targets of the suit are:

According to Gears of Biz, Pinkerton lawyer Chad Pinkerton said their legal strategy was as follows: “What we’re going to show in this case is that the defendants did not keep people safe. The security was an utter failure.”

More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the Mandalay Bay hotel:

  • Failed to prevent the gunman from bringing weapons into the hotel
  • Failed to prevent the gunman from using the freight elevator, which he should not have had access to
  • Failed to call 911 when the gunman first opened fire and instead waited six-minutes before doing so

The suit also alleges:

  • That Live Nation did not have properly marked exit signs at the concert venue
  • Some concert venue exits were blocked
  • Some concert venue entrances were designed to not let people to exit
  • All of these issues effectively boxed concertgoers into the kill zone

These cases might have traction because of a recent Nevada Supreme Court verdict that came out against a hotel/casino in the case of Humphries vs. New York-New York Hotel and Casino. In this case from 2010, a couple in the New York-New York, ironically an MGM property, was viciously assaulted. The couple sued the hotel for not providing adequate security. They lost in district court, but won on appeal in Nevada’s Supreme Court. The Las Vegas Review-Journal said the Supreme Court, “ruled that the New York-New York should have known the attack was foreseeable because there had been similar incidents of violence there. Humphries and Rocha were attacked by a man at the casino, and she suffered a fractured skull. Evidence in the case showed there were three fights a week at the resort.”

So this is a case where the legal concept of reasonable foreseeability (in layman’s terms: “we couldn’t possibly have seen this coming”) did not work for the defense, and totality of circumstances (in layman’s terms: “this happens enough to the extent that you certainly should have seen it coming”) worked for the plaintiffs.

This ruling came down on 5 October 2017, just days after the Mandalay Bay/concert venue attack.

Craig Drummond, of Drummond Law Firm, who was on the victorious appeal case, said that the Supreme Court ruling laid down what could be used as guidelines when analyzing if a hotel or like entertainment property was potentially negligent in injury and violence cases. This, he says, could impact the Mandalay Bay series of lawsuits.

There are five takeaways here. First, in today’s hyper litigious environment, especially in the U.S., hotels that sustain violence ranging from personal assaults to mass casualty attacks will be sued, possibly by multiple parties. The weight of these lawsuits will grow exponentially in instances where attacks are spectacular with high rates of killed and wounded. Hotels will have no choice but to dedicate hundreds of thousands of dollars – in the case of the Mandalay Bay, tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars – to legal defense. If they settle or lose these cases, they will have to pay even more. Figures in high casualty cases could reach into the hundreds of thousands to the millions per person injured and per each deceased victim’s family.

Second, these lawsuits will focus on security related negligence issues, and failure to uphold duty of care of guests and staffs.

Third, hotels that use protective intelligence to feed smart physical security programs will be at lower risk of violent attacks, and, as a result, they will be at lower risk of being sued for negligence. And, if violence still occurs despite the application of protective intelligence and smart physical security programs, hotels will be better positioned to blunt lawsuits and/or reduce payouts in court proceedings because they should be able to demonstrate that they applied an effective measure of duty of care and security that matched the threat environment.

Fourth, massive financial losses resulting from hotel violence – $386.5 million in the case of the Mandalay Bay/concert attack – justify the costs of hotels purchasing protective intelligence and paying for smart physical security programs.

Fifth, the Humphries vs. New York-New York Hotel and Casino case, at the very least, demonstrates that reasonable foreseeability is not always an effective defense for hotels in cases dealing with violent attacks. This is, in part, because as violent incidents at such venues increase or simply stack up over time, they reveal patterns that demonstrate that these instances are:

  1. …not always isolated, or;
  2. …that they occur frequently.

These two factors, in turn, demonstrate:

  1. …that such violence is indeed foreseeable (therefore, lending credence to totality of circumstances,) and;
  2. …that such violence is at least partially preventable.

The above concepts, however, are no guarantee of success in the many lawsuits filed in the Las Vegas massacre. Scores of unknown legal factors and a highly effective legal defense team might blunt the Humphries verdict.

Sources and further reading:

Hundreds of Las Vegas Shooting Victims Sue Live Nation and MGM Resorts,” Gears of Biz, 24 November 2017.

Las Vegas shooting lawsuits: Hundreds of victims say hotel, concert promoter didn’t train workers for emergency,” Newsweek, 21 November 2017.

Las Vegas gun massacre lawsuits have gone from a trickle to a flood,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 21 November 2017.

450 Las Vegas Shooting Victims and Family Members of Deceased File Lawsuits,” Insurance Journal, 20 November 2017.

Nevada Supreme Court ruling could expose MGM Resorts in Las Vegas shooting,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 19 November 2017.

Hotel where Las Vegas gunman carried out attack is laying off employees after mass shooting,” Newsweek, 13 November 2017.

Humphries v. New York-New York Hotel & Casino,” JUSTIA US Law.

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