Las Vegas shooting: why hotel is suing 1,000 victims
Lawyers for survivors of the massacre say decision to file claims is ‘utterly reprehensible’
The owner of the Las Vegas hotel where a gunman shot dozens of concertgoers has provoked outrage by filing a lawsuit against the victims of the massacre.
On 1 October last year, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on crowds at a music festival from the window of his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 59 people and wounding a further 851 before turning the gun on himself.
MGM Resorts International, owner of the Mandalay Bay and the festival venue, has now named more than 1,000 of those caught up in the deadly rampage in two lawsuits aimed at blocking liability claims from victims.
The company says that 2,500 people have started or threatened legal action against them relating to the massacre, the largest in modern US history.
In the lawsuits filed on Friday, “the company cites a 2002 federal act that extends liability protection to any company that uses ‘anti-terrorism’ technology or services that can ‘help prevent and respond to mass violence’,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
The security service hired for the festival had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security as capable of “protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction”, which MGM argues should absolve the company of liability for the shooting.
The lawsuits do not seek any money, and legal experts say the proceedings are a formality.
However, lawyers representing the victims have lambasted the company’s actions as insensitive and unethical.
“We are shocked,” attorney Catherine Lombardo, who represents several hundred victims, told CNN’s sister network HLN.
She added that MGM was “absolutely liable” for allowing Paddock to amass so many firearms in his hotel room. More than 20 rifles were found in the room, brought into the hotel in bags.
In the lawsuits, MGM requests that the individual claims against them be moved from state to federal court, where a judge can rule on the viability of future claims against the resort firm.
Robert Eglet, an attorney representing some of the victims, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the decision to file the complaints in federal court was a “blatant display of judge shopping” which “verges on unethical”.
However, MGM Resort International defended the decision as being in the best interests of the victims, NBC reports.
“The federal court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution,” said company spokeswoman Debra DeShong. “Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”