MGM Resorts International sued the victims of a Las Vegas music festival mass shooting in an effort to block any potential compensation claims against it.
The owner of the Mandalay Bay hotel claims a 2002 federal statute wipes out liability for any company that adopts “anti-terrorism technology,” which it says it did. It’s asking federal judges in Nevada and Los Angeles for a declaration that the company isn’t liable.
After Stephen Paddock opened fire at festival goers from the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 and wounding about 500, more than 2,500 people brought, or threatened to bring, lawsuits against MGM, the company said in a pair of complaints filed July 13.
A lawyer for the victims called the filings “reprehensible,” saying MGM is “trying to deflect attention from their own failures and a complete joke of security procedures they had at Mandalay Bay.”
The Las Vegas-based attorney, Robert Eglet, said that while the federal law shields security companies from some responsibility for terrorist acts, it’s “not designed to give immunity to hotels for their negligence.”
“All the evidence shows this was a lone shooter, acting on his own, with no affiliation or influence from any terrorist groups,” he said.
The casino operator argues that because it hired a company certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to provide security at the Route 91 Harvest Festival to “help prevent and respond to mass violence,” it complied with the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act, or SAFETY Act, which limits liability arising from mass attacks committed in the U.S. The law “precludes any finding against” MGM and other defendants and bars victims from targeting the companies’ insurance policies as well, according to the suit.
Lawyers for the hotel and for the victims were already sparring over whether the SAFETY Act applies to the massacre in pending suits before MGM countersued last week. The victims have been trying to keep the fight in Nevada state court and Eglet said MGM’s new complaints show that it’s “shopping” for judges who may be more favorable to its position.
“The federal court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution,” Debra DeShong, an MGM spokeswoman, 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.”
Las Vegas police commanders say Paddock shot festival goers from the windows he broke out of his 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay. The room was filled with more than 20 automatic weapons. Paddock, 64, killed himself before authorities could capture him. His victims included a U.S. Navy sailor, a California firefighter and an off-duty Las Vegas police officer.
Police haven’t identified Paddock’s motive for opening fire on the crowd.
Taking the victims to court isn’t MGM’s first unusual maneuver as it seeks to deflect responsibility for the massacre.
In March, the company allowed the New York Times to publish hotel surveillance videos showing Paddock’s movements through the building over a weeklong period, in which he gambled, dined alone and tipped bellhops who unwittingly helped him transport numerous suitcases loaded with guns and ammunition to his two adjoining rooms. The footage “is unnerving because even with his every movement laid out, the grotesquely composed protagonist of this film gives away nothing,” the newspaper reported.
Eglet, the victims’ lawyer, called that a publicity stunt, saying there were plenty of red flags the hotel should have picked up on about Paddock, starting with his renting two rooms and carrying such a large amount of luggage just for himself.
“There were so many signs of unusual behavior that anybody who had any alertness whatsoever would have picked on,” he said. “They have the most extensive security in the world when it comes to watching their money, but the security of their guests is woefully lacking.”
The cases are MGM Resorts International Inc. v. Acosta, 18-cv-01288, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas) and MGM Resorts International Inc. v. Aase, 18-cv-06113, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).