The owner of the Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas, from where a man fired on festival goers last year in the deadliest mass shooting in US history, has sued hundreds of the gunman’s victims.
MGM Resorts International argued in lawsuits filed Friday local time in Nevada and California that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more, before taking his own life, in October 2017 when he barricaded himself in his room at the Mandalay Bay and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival.
The MGM lawsuits, first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal late Tuesday local time, targeted victims who had sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims, or have threatened to sue over the shooting.
Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim, the Associated Press reported.
“No MGM Party attempted to commit, knowingly participated in, aided, abetted, committed, or participated in any conspiracy to commit any act of terrorism,” the lawsuits assert.
More than 800 California residents and more than 200 in Nevada have been served.
MGM said a 2002 law limits liabilities when a company or a group uses services certified by the US Department of Homeland Security and mass attacks occur, according to the AP.
The company says it is not liable because its security provider for the concert, Contemporary Services Corp, was federally certified at the time of the shooting.
MGM claims the victims – through actual and threatened lawsuits – have implicated CSC’s services because they involve concert security, including training, emergency response and evacuation.
“If defendants were injured by Paddock’s assault, as they allege, they were inevitably injured both because Paddock fired from his window and because they remained in the line of fire at the concert. Such claims inevitably implicate security at the concert — and may result in loss to CSC,” the MGM lawsuits say.
MGM wants a court to declare that the U.S. law “precludes any finding of liability” against the company “for any claim for injuries arising out of or related to Paddock’s mass attack”.
Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts, told National Public Radio that federal court was “an appropriate venue” for the cases, given the federal law.
Route91Strong, a nonprofit organisation started by survivors of the shooting, issued a statement saying its leaders were “deeply saddened” by news of the lawsuit.
“Rather than supporting victims, MGM is re-victimising them,” the group said.
This is not helping survivors heal, and it is not helping Las Vegas heal.”
Brian Claypool, a lawyer who was at the music festival during the shooting and a Route91Strong co-foiunder, said the lawsuits were a “hypocritical manoeuvre” that will turn into a “public relations nightmare for MGM”.
“We collectively view this as a bullying tactic to intimidate the survivors who are rightfully seeking social change and redress through the litigation process,” Mr Claypool said in a statement.
Attorney Robert Eglet, who represents victims in a lawsuit pending in federal court in Nevada, also slammed MGM’s move.
“MGM has done something that in over 30 years of practice is the most outrageous thing I have ever seen,” Mr Eglet was quoted as saying by the AP.
“They have sued the families of victims while they’re still grieving over their loved ones,” he said.