Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Route 91 Harvest hotel sues shooting victims to avoid liability

By | Published on Wednesday 18 July 2018

Route 91 Harvest

The company that owns the site where the Route 91 Harvest festival took place has filed lawsuits against over 1000 people who were caught up in the mass shooting that occurred at the event last year. MGM Resorts International is seeking court confirmation that it can’t be held liable for the tragedy that occurred at the 2017 edition of the Las Vegas festival.

58 people were killed during the attack on the Live Nation-promoted country music event. The shooting occurred during Jason Aldean’s headline set. Gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the 22,000 strong audience from a room on the 32nd floor of the MGM Resorts-owned Mandalay Bay hotel. Hundreds more were injured before Paddock finally turned a gun on himself.

A number of lawsuits have been filed by victims since the shooting, with MGM Resorts, Live Nation and Paddock’s estate variously named as defendants.

MGM Resorts – a publicly listed company that has long been a separate business to the MGM movie studio – has now filed its own litigation, claiming that it is protected from liability for the shooting under American federal law because of the security measures it had put in place for the festival.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, MGM is citing 2002 legislation that protects companies from liability for major attacks of this kind providing they use “anti-terrorism” technology or services that “help prevent and respond to mass violence”.

MGM says that the security firm it engaged for the festival, Contemporary Services Corp, had been certified by the US Department Of Homeland Security, meaning it should be protected by the 2002 laws, which were introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Whether that argument stands will depend slightly on how those laws are interpreted and partly on how the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival is defined, which is difficult given that Paddock’s motives remain a mystery.

Whatever the legalities, no company really wants to be seen to be litigating against the victims of such a horrific event. Even though MGM isn’t seeking any financial gain from its litigation, rather it wants court confirmation regarding its liabilities. If the court agrees that the company is protected under the 2002 laws, MGM would then argue all the lawsuits filed against it by victims should be dismissed.

One Las Vegas-based lawyer who is working for some of those victims has already criticised MGM’s legal filings, and in particular its decision to take action in the federal rather than state courts. Robert Eglet told the Review-Journal that this was a “blatant display of judge shopping” that “quite frankly verges on unethical”.

He went on: “I’ve never seen a more outrageous thing, where they sue the victims in an effort to find a judge they like. It’s just really sad that they would stoop to this level”.

But a spokesperson for MGM defended the company’s decision to take action in the federal court. They told reporters: “The federal court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with 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”.