In an aggressive legal maneuver, MGM Resorts, owner of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, sued more than 1,000 people, along with their families, who were killed or injured when Stephen Paddock inexplicably opened fire from his room at Mandalay Bay on the Strip. That’s a sure way to tarnish your brand.
MGM VS. VICTIMS
The lawsuits filed by MGM in Nevada and California federal courts are intended to move victims’ Nevada state court lawsuits into federal courts. More importantly, the MGM lawsuits seem to be a play to have MGM released of all liability for the 58 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
The lawsuits seek a declaratory judgment “that the MGM parties cannot be held liable to defendants for deaths, injuries or other damages arising from Paddock’s attack.” Wow.
In press releases, MGM has put out that it is merely asking to change venue from state court to federal court and is not asking for money or attorney’s fees. Nothing about MGM avoiding liability.
The basis for the MGM lawsuits is the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, or the SAFETY Act.
MGM contracted its security service to a company called Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC). CSC is certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the SAFETY Act. The purpose of the SAFETY Act is to protect from liability federally-certified security companies that use anti-terrorism technology or services in the event of a disaster or mass violence. Without such protection, it is argued, no companies would step forward to develop and implement anti-terrorism services.
The SAFETY Act defines “terrorist act” as any unlawful act taking place inside the United States that causes “mass destruction, injury or other loss.” It was implemented in 2001 after 9/11. With that broad language, the Mandalay Bay shootings could be determined to be a terrorist act, although Homeland Security has not yet made that determination.
MGM OFF THE HOOK?
Hurdle one for MGM to be released of liability is to have the government determine Paddock’s shooting spree was a terrorist act. Paddock’s motives are unclear.
MGM’s second hurdle is to convince a judge it is entitled to the protection of the SAFETY Act. CSC meets the criteria if the incident is determined to be a terrorist attack, but why would MGM be relieved of all liability merely because it hired federally-certified CSC? Apparently this issue has never been ruled on by the courts.
MGM suing the shooting victims has not gone over well with the general public and certainly the victims. If the SAFETY Act clearly protects MGM from liability for terrorist acts, I suppose I could understand, but to incur the public’s outrage by suing innocent victims when the incident has not even been determined to be an act of terrorism and when the SAFETY Act most likely will not protect MGM (as opposed to CSC), suing the victims seems imprudent and ill advised.
I’m not saying MGM is or is not partially responsible, but to release the Resort of all liability because it hired a Department of Homeland Security-certified consultant for security is a stretch.
Paddock’s deranged acts will be wreaking havoc for years.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at email@example.com or www.portersimon.com.
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The content contained and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author. This blog contains content and opinions concerning the law generally, and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create any attorney‑client relationship with the reader. The reader should consult with an attorney about any specific legal issues prior to embarking on any course of action or inaction involving legal matters.