MGM Resorts International is arguing that the company was not responsible for the October 1, 2017 massacre in Las Vegas. The American entertainment company has filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 shooting victims in federal courts in Nevada and California. MGM is asking a judge to dismiss any civil lawsuits filed against the company.
58 people were killed and more than 850 others were injured on October 1 when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at a country music festival. He took aim from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, before turning the gun on himself. Investigators determined he acted alone.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. MGM Claims It is Protected Under a Federal Anti-Terrorism Law
MGM Resorts International is claiming that any civil lawsuits filed against the company should be immediately dismissed. Their argument is that Mandalay Bay and the Route 91 Harvest festival venue cannot be held liable for the massacre because the corporation should be protected under a 2002 federal anti-terrorism law.
The law the MGM attorneys are referencing is called Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technology Act of 2002, or SAFETY. It was put in place in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The purpose of the law was to protect manufacturers developing technologies that could help guard against future terror attacks. The law also applies to companies that provide services to defend against and respond to threats.
MGM hired the Contemporary Services Corporation to provide security for the October concert. That company is certified by the Department of Homeland Security and therefore shielded from liability in the case of an attack. The new lawsuits argue that protection extends to MGM because MGM hired Contemporary Services.
2. The FBI Never Called the Las Vegas Massacre an Act of Terrorism, But MGM Argues That Does Not Matter in This Case
The SAFETY Act was designed to encourage manufacturers and service providers to help in the fight against terrorism. The FBI has never designated the Las Vegas massacre as an act of terrorism. That’s because Stephen Paddock never expressed “extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial or environmental nature.”
But the lawsuit filed July 13th in United States District Court in Nevada, which you can read in its entirety below, claims that the SAFETY Act is applicable in this case anyway. You have to scroll down to page 48 to find the reasoning, because the first few dozen pages are dedicated to listing the names of the plaintiffs. Their argument is that Stephen Paddock’s motive is irrelevant.
The suit states, “The SAFETY Act applies to claims “arising out of, relating to, or resulting from an act of terrorism.” 279. The SAFETY Act defines an act of terrorism: An act meets the requirements if the act is (i) “unlawful” (ii) “causes harm to a person … in the United States,” and (iii) “uses or attempts to use … weapons … designed or intended to cause mass … injury.” 6 U.S.C. § 444(2)(B). There is no requirement in the statute or regulations of an ideological motive or objective for the attack for it to meet the requirements of the SAFETY Act.”
It goes on, “Public statements by the Secretary of Homeland Security concerning the attack make clear that the attack meets the requirements of the SAFETY Act; indeed, based on the plain language of the statute, the regulations, and the facts, no other determination could be possible.”
“No MGM Party attempted to commit, knowingly participated in, aided, abetted, committed, or participated in any conspiracy to commit any act of terrorism of criminal act related to mass attack perpetrated by Stephen Paddock at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 1, 2017.”
3. Lawyers Representing the Shooting Victims Accuse MGM of “Judge Shopping” and Call the Move Unethical
Attorney Robert Eglet is representing some of the injured victims. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “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.”
He argues that the cases filed against Mandalay Bay and MGM Resorts International belong in a Nevada courtroom. That is where the attack happened and where MGM has its headquarters. Eglet calls MGM’s rationale “obscure” and that the litigation “quite frankly verges on unethical.”
Attorney Craig Eiland agrees with Eglet. Eiland is representing several victims from Texas. He told Las Vegas TV station 8 News Now that “MGM is trying to beat these people to the courthouse and declare that they have no rights…The proper venue for this is Nevada State Court, plain and simple, under the law.”
4. MGM Spokesperson Argues Federal Court is the Proper Place to Handle “Incidents of Mass Violence”
MGM Resorts International is arguing that the case belongs in a federal court because of the nature of the violence. Spokesperson Debra DeShong issued a statement Monday on behalf of the company. She does not mention the SAFETY Act by name, hints at it by referencing the Department of Homeland Security.
The statement reads, “The unforeseeable events of October 1st affected thousands of people in Las Vegas and throughout North America. From the day of this tragedy, we have focused on the recovery of those impacted by the despicable act of one evil individual. While we expected the litigation that followed, we also feel strongly that victims and the community should be able to recover and find resolution in a timely manner.
Congress provided that the Federal Courts were the correct place for such litigation relating to incidents of mass violence like this one where security services approved by the Department of Homeland Security were provided. 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.”
5. Outage Against MGM Has Been Swift on Social Media
The public has been expressing dismay on social media, with some posters calling for a boycott of MGM Resorts.