Legal

Kate Taylor of The Business Insider writes about potential lawsuits RE: Mandalay Bay Vegas shooting

On 5 October, Kate Taylor of the Business Insider wrote an article titled, “The hotel where the Las Vegas gunman stockpiled weapons for 3 days has been quiet about what happened — and legal experts say it could be in hot water.”

Ms. Taylor’s main points in the piece, heavily condensed here, are as follows:

  • Because the Las Vegas gunman took three days to stockpile as many as 23 firearms in his room in as many as 10 suitcases, it seems that someone in housekeeping, management, or security might have noticed this oddity and said something.
  • Lawsuits against the hotel are likely.
  • Liabilities pressure from the Mandalay Bay case could cause hotels to rethink their security, which could include assessing potential threats from guests, which would change various privacy issues.
  • The potential success of any lawsuit in this case “would depend on many factors that remain unknown to the public,” and might “break legal ground in terms of assigning liability for mass shootings that are becoming more common,” writes Taylor.
  • A security consultant suggests that the shooter’s odd behavior should have tipped off the hotel that something was amiss.
  • Mandalay insiders counter that the “do not disturb” sign on the shooter’s door kept housekeeping from noticing any threat behavior.
  • “Unwittingly hosting a shooter or missing something that’s a red flag only in retrospect is not enough to hold MGM Resorts legally liable,” writes Taylor.
  • At the same time, Taylor quotes experts that say hotels should indeed anticipate such violence because these days, it is a foreseeable phenomenon. (The legal concept is called “totality of circumstances.”)

For certain, violence at hotels is not uncommon. Criminal assaults happen on occasion, and terror attacks, political violence, high order criminal violence, and war all impact hotels, as Muir Analytics’ hotel attack database demonstrates.

And there are cases roughly parallel to Las Vegas where belligerents have used hotels as attack platforms. For example, on 9 May 2016, in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, three men checked into the Days Inn and Suites, Columbus East Airport, a Wyndham property, and fired multiple rounds at passing cars from their second story hotel window. While this was nowhere near the premeditated, hyper violent episode that occurred in Las Vegas, it was, nevertheless, the same concept. Someone with malicious intent checked into the hotel and used it as a shooting platform against civilians outside.

In a similar case, on 21 February 2010, a man checked into the Hotel Panorama (or Panorama Balas) in Cairo, Egypt, and, from his hotel balcony, hurled a homemade bomb at the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue across the street. The device fell instead to the hotel’s sidewalk below and only partially detonated. While the damage done was merely slight, the attack concept was similar to Las Vegas. The hotel was used as a base of premeditated attack against a target outside the hotel.

In other cases, insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan have used hotels as shooting positions against their enemies, and the Afghan National Army once took over a hotel to use as a shooting platform against the Taliban who had seized a neighboring building.

And then there are cases in places like Russia and Lebanon where terrorists have been discovered in their hotel rooms prepping for attacks outside the hotel, and they ended up turning their weapons on the hotel and/or its staff.

The point is that these cases and others like it clearly demonstrate the totality of circumstances regarding violence at hotels. More, such cases can be used to help hotels prevent violence, or lessen the impact of violence, or at least increase security to the point that lawsuits might be lessened if violence still occurs.

Hotels need to take a comprehensive, intelligence driven approach to protect guests, staffs, and properties in the current threat environment. Security, lawyers, and insurers should combine their resources in this effort.

Sources and further reading:

The hotel where the Las Vegas gunman stockpiled weapons for 3 days has been quiet about what happened — and legal experts say it could be in hot water,” Business Insider, 5 October 2017.

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