This is the second of our two-part discussion, Civil Lawsuits Following the October 2017 Mass Shooting in Las Vegas. First, we looked at the potential liability of those in the gun industry (i.e., manufacturers) when their products are used in horrific criminal acts. We next examine potential liabilities that the hotel, resort, casino, and promoter of the concert may face.
Ten survivors filed a negligence suit against the hotel, resort, casino, and promoter in Los Angeles County, seeking to recover damages from Stephen Paddock, the deceased gunman, as well as MGM Resorts, Live Nation & Mandalay Bay. Their attorney stated the event promoter and host venue had a responsibility to notify attendees of the process of exiting the site in the case of emergency. Although none of these ten plaintiffs incurred significant physical injuries, they are all struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. In their lone statement thus far, Debra DeShong of MGM, acknowledged the tragedy and called it “meticulously planned, evil and senseless”. She expressed gratitude for all who assisted the victims, including emergency responders and law enforcement. Lastly, she stated that the organization was not going to discuss legal actions in the public domain.
The suit claims MGM failed in adhering to their duty to provide reasonable care and to safely maintain the conditions. Specifically, they insufficiently monitored individuals entering the hotel and did not respond in a timely manner when a security officer was shot by the assassin several minutes before firing on the crowd. MGM, the owner of the venue, and Live Nation are also alleged to not have established proper emergency protocols or exits and to have insufficiently trained and supervised their employees. A plaintiff attorney explained that overall safety and security measures were poor considering the massive size of the event.
Other Similar Litigation & Importance of Evidence Preservation
Lawsuits against firearm industry companies have largely failed; however, many brought against hosts of large events have had some moderate success. Following the shooting at Virginia Tech where 32 people were killed, a settlement of roughly $11 million was reached in court for the victims. The university was found to have insufficiently warned those on campus during the shooting. Two of the families refused the terms of the settlement and had their awards reduced to $100,000 each.
Based on other recent crimes at large events, courts have recognized the importance of preserving the crime scene and related evidence. These venues are naturally inclined to quickly improve the appearance of settings where horrific events occurred and beginning to repair their reputation. The Mandalay Bay received an order to preserve photos, video, gambling records of the shooter, and his hotel room from a Clark County court.
Overview & Details: Colorado Mass Shooting
A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012 was the site of a mass shooting that killed 12 people. A federal civil suit was filed by a group of plaintiffs against Cinemark & Century Theaters. The claim alleged the defendants maintained inadequate security personnel and surveillance equipment, enabling the shooter to better execute the crimes. A settlement offer was made of $150,000 to be divided among 41 plaintiffs, which they deemed laughable. The case was based on Colorado's Premises Liability Act, which holds property owners responsible for injuries incurred on their property. Plaintiffs must show the landowner did not maintain reasonably safe conditions or prevent hazardous incidents that they are aware of.
Ruling in Colorado Cinema Case
The court found the defendants could not have foreseen a scenario where a gunman would enter through a rear door and begin firing on innocent patrons. The plaintiffs failed to prove the defendant contributed to the injuries (proximate cause), a necessary element in proving negligence. The court stated the injuries resulted from the gunman's actions--which were intentional and premeditated. The court ruled that no reasonable jury would find Cinemark liable for the incident. Arapahoe County's Court permits those who prevail in such civil actions to recover certain legal costs incurred in the suit. Much to the dismay of the plaintiffs, defense attorneys presented a detailed list of legal costs totaling nearly $700,000 to the court that they wished to recover from the plaintiffs.