MGM Resorts International has agreed to pay upwards of $800 million to settle nearly all of the lawsuits stemming from the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017 that killed 58 concertgoers and wounded hundreds of others. The multimillion-dollar settlement, announced just last week, would resolve allegations that MGM was negligent in allowing the lone gunman, Stephen Paddock, to stockpile tactical equipment, high-powered rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino where the deadly attack took place. The lawsuits were filed against MGM by victims of the mass shooting and their loved ones for personal injury and wrongful death.
59 Killed in Shooting, Hundreds Others Injured
The mass shooting at Mandalay Bay took place on October 1, 2017, when Stephen Paddock opened fire from his room on the 32nd floor of the hotel onto thousands of people enjoying the tail end of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, a three-day concert in Las Vegas that had been held annually since 2014 and was attended by thousands of people. The tragic shooting left 59 dead, including the gunman, and injured approximately 500 others, many of whom were trampled while attempting to escape. In the aftermath of the shooting, hundreds of survivors filed separate claims against MGM, which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel, alleging that the company failed to employ adequate security measures and properly monitor Paddock’s suspicious activities.
MGM Sues Victims to Avoid Liability
Faced with hundreds of potential lawsuits, MGM opted for an aggressive defense strategy and filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 victims in July 2018, nearly one year after the massacre, in an attempt to avoid liability claims. MGM argued that the victims’ claims should be dismissed, citing a federal law passed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks that extends liability protection to any company that uses antiterrorism services or technology to “help prevent and respond to mass violence.” The security company MGM hired for the festival was certified by the Department of Homeland Security to “protect against and respond to acts of mass injury and destruction.” Therefore, MGM claimed that it should be immune from liability and sought to bar victims of the massacre from recovering any money. The question of whether the federal law actually did shield MGM from liability was never decided. But by February 2019, the two sides were already in mediation and by May, a rough outline of the settlement deal had been established.
Majority of Settlement Money Will Come from Insurers
Depending on the final cost of the settlement, which will be determined by the number of claimants who seek settlement money from MGM, all or nearly all of the money the victims receive will come from MGM’s insurers, which is likely one of the main reasons the company ultimately decided to settle. According to reports, the coverage limit for this case was $751 million, so if the total settlement reaches the maximum payment amount of $800 million, the most MGM will have to pay is $49 million. The amount of money each claimant receives will be determined by an independent claims administrator, who will review claimants’ medical bills and other expenses and determine the appropriate payment.
In a statement following the settlement announcement, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said, “Our goal has always been to resolve these matters so our community and the victims and their families can move forward in the healing process. We have always believed that prolonged litigation around these matters is in no one’s best interest. It is our sincere hope that this agreement means that scenario will be avoided.” One of the lead attorneys for the claimants agreed that the settlement deal with MGM was fair, saying, “While nothing will be able to bring back the lives lost or undo the horrors so many suffered on that day, this settlement will provide fair compensation for thousands of victims and their families. We believe that the terms of this settlement represent the best outcome for our clients and will provide the greatest good for those impacted by these events.”
Determining Liability in Mass Shootings
The multimillion-dollar settlement was announced just two days after the two-year anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and is expected to resolve up to 4,500 lawsuits alleging everything from wrongful death to PTSD. The settlement also effectively brings to an end what has been a closely watched case about the complicated question of liability in mass-casualty attacks, including whether large companies and property owners are culpable for such attacks. In the past several years alone, there have been more than 300 mass shootings and this type of incident has become almost predictable for venue owners, large companies and event promoters expecting large crowds of people to congregate at their events. According to the lawsuits against MGM, previous incidents at the Mandalay Bay hotel and around the world made the Las Vegas shooting a reasonably foreseeable and therefore preventable incident.