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MGM Resorts defends its lawsuit against victims of Route 91 Harvest shooting

By | Published on Monday 23 July 2018

Route 91 Harvest

The hotel company that owns the site where the Route 91 Harvest festival took place in Las Vegas has filed new legal papers seeking to consolidate various lawsuits in relation to the mass shooting that occurred at the event last year. It follows the same company’s filing of its own litigation asking for court confirmation that it can’t be held liable for the shooting.

58 people were killed during the attack at the Live Nation-promoted country music event last October. Gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the 22,000 strong audience during Jason Aldean’s headline set. MGM Resorts International owns the site where the festival took place and the nearby hotel from which Paddock committed his crime.

A number of lawsuits were filed by victims caught up in the shooting, with MGM Resorts, Live Nation and Paddock’s estate variously named as defendants.

On Thursday, MGM filed a new motion court requesting that all the litigation in relation to the shooting be transferred to a single federal district court. That includes four lawsuits filed by representatives of the victims, and the hotel and casino company’s own litigation.

According to Law360, MGM argues that each lawsuit in relation to the shooting “promises to be a mammoth undertaking” just in the so called discovery stage. And given that they all relate to a single incident – and ultimately ask pretty much the same factual questions – it makes sense to group all the various actions together.

The hotel firm’s filing stated: “Discovery into these areas will likely involve dozens, if not hundreds, of witnesses and require the production of voluminous documents and other data, including terabytes of video data. Litigation of this matter, if not centralised, will be hugely inefficient, with an extraordinary volume of duplicative discovery”.

MGM added that it expected a flurry of further lawsuits in relation to the shooting. Indeed, citing one plaintiff’s lawyer, it suggests that as many as 20,000 additional suits could ultimately be filed. That, it reckons, is another reason why everything should be centralised in one court.

Speaking to Law360, a spokesperson for MGM Resorts stated: “We believe that the co-ordination of all the legal actions in one court will promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation. Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, communities and those still healing”.

Elsewhere the hotel chain has been defending its decision to file its own litigation in relation to the shooting, which basically means suing over a thousand of the festival-goers affected by the tragedy. Legal opinion may be divided over that move, but from a PR perspective it’s definitely not a good look to be seen to be suing people who have already suffered so much.

MGM’s lawyers reckon that under US federal law it cannot be held liable for the shooting because of the security measures it put in place. That included the hiring of security firm Contemporary Services Corp, which had been certified by the US Department Of Homeland Security. It wants federal court confirmation of that interpretation of American law.

Defending the company’s controversial legal action in USA Today on Friday, the firm’s SVP Global Corporate Communications, Debra DeShong, stated: “The recent filing for declaratory relief by MGM Resorts International was made under the Support Anti-terrorism By Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002”.

“This filing under the SAFETY Act will not deny any victim from their rights to a hearing in court and to a determinative outcome in their case”, she then claimed. “All we are doing, in effect, is asking that these issues be decided in federal court. The assertion that this action would deny victims their day in court is not only inaccurate, but may confuse victims of their rights under law”.

DeShong added: “MGM believes the SAFETY Act filing will ensure claims are properly resolved in federal court quickly, fairly and efficiently. In accordance with the SAFETY Act, we do not believe MGM can be found liable for the tragic and unforeseeable events of 1 Oct. In any event, Congress has made clear that litigation arising from an event at which such services were provided is a matter of national interest and should be resolved in the national court system”.

Again arguing that by hiring Contemporary Services Corporation there can’t be any direct liability on MGM’s part, the comms boss went on: “We believe the law permits liability in appropriate cases only as to Contemporary Services Corporation, our longtime security vendor that provided security for the concert, whose services have been certified by the Department of Homeland Security. CSC is required to carry – and does carry – liability insurance of $25 million, which would be used to pay successful third-party claims”.

She signed off: “MGM’s priority of bringing a resolution to the victims and their families has not changed, and we remain steadfast in reaching a conclusion”.