MGM Sues Las Vegas Shooting Victims, Survivors, Claiming No Liability

Tuesday, July 17th 2018, 2:28 pm
By: News 9

MGM Resorts International is suing more than 1,000 victims and other survivors of last year's mass shooting in Las Vegas, claiming it has no liability for the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The lawsuits outraged the victims and their lawyers.

"It's a sign of desperation from MGM," Muhammad Aziz, a Houston attorney who said he represents about 1,400 survivors, told CBS News.

He called the lawsuits "unprecedented" and said his clients were "surprised, shocked, angered" by them.

MGM filed federal complaints in Nevada and California on Friday arguing to dismiss any claims that it is responsible for deaths, injuries or damages from the October 1 massacre committed by Stephen Paddock.

"Plaintiffs have no liability of any kind to Defendants, or any of them, arising from the Paddock's mass attack," the complaints say.

Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on a crowd of more than 22,000 people at a country music festival. He killed 58 people and injured more than 850; he shot and killed himself before police breached his suite. MGM owns Mandalay Bay as well as the concert venue that held the Route 91 Harvest festival.

Since the shooting, more than 2,500 people have sued or threatened to sue MGM and its properties, according to the lawsuits. Many of the plaintiffs alleged that the hotel and entertainment company failed to adequately protect them.

In its lawsuits, MGM cites a federal act from 2002 that says companies are protected from liability if they use "anti-terrorism" services to help prevent and respond to "mass violence." MGM says the security company it hired for the festival, Contemporary Services Corp., was protected from liability and certified by the Department of Homeland Security to handle "acts of mass injury and destruction." The hotel company says this should protect MGM from liability as well.

The 2002 act broadly defines terrorism as an act that causes mass destruction, injury or other loss. The shooting has not been ruled as a terror attack and authorities said Paddock appeared to have no terrorist connections or political motive. The FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department have not determined Paddock's motive and are still investigating.

Aziz, the attorney, said MGM's hiring of an outside security company shouldn't protect it from lawsuits. He also noted that Paddock was not the first person to stockpile weapons in Mandalay Bay — a guest was caught with semi-automatic rifles in his room in November 2014, nearly three years before Paddock's rampage.

Another attorney representing victims alleged that MGM filed in federal courts, rather than state courts, in hopes of getting better treatment from a judge.

"'I've never seen a more outrageous thing, where they sue the victims in an effort to find a judge they like," Robert Eglet, who works in Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It's just really sad that they would stoop to this level."

Eglet did not immediately return messages from CBS News.

MGM did not immediately answer questions sent by CBS News. In a statement to the Review-Journal, spokeswoman Debra DeShong said federal courts would provide "the opportunity for a timely resolution."

"Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing," DeShong said.