In a lawsuit that could have wide-ranging ramifications for the nightlife industry in Las Vegas, Business Insider reports, hundreds of victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting have joined class-action lawsuits against MGM Resorts International, owner of the Mandalay Bay resort and casino, where shooter Stephen Paddock fired on a crowd of 20,000 country music fans from his perch in a 32nd floor hotel suite in what became the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Several lawsuits – the largest of which was filed on behalf of 450 people – attempt to hold MGM legally liable for not doing more to prevent the attack. Victims are additionally suing the shooter Stephen Paddock's estate and the concert organizer Live Nation Entertainment Inc. as well as, in some cases, the manufacturer of the bump stocks that allowed Paddock to fire as if he were using automatic weapons.
The shooting left nearly 60 people dead, and more than 400 injured.
Unfortunately for MGM, Nevada legal precedent suggests the company could be held liable for Paddock’s rampage. In October, the Nevada Supreme Court found that MGM could be held liable in a 2010 assault on a California couple at one of the company's hotels, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The court ruled that the attack was “foreseeable” because there had been similar cases of violence at the hotel. The question of whether the Las Vegas shooting was foreseeable will be central to the plaintiff’s case.
Furthermore, with several high-profile mass shootings having taken place in the US before the Las Vegas shooting, attorneys representing the victims can argue that hotels and other venues should have known to expand measures to try to prevent them. The fact that Paddock was able to smuggle nearly two dozen firearms into his room undetected could create serious problems for the defense.
"Foreseeability is one of the key components of liability," said Dick Hudak, a managing partner of Resort Security Consulting.
Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School, told Business Insider it’s "entirely feasible" that an attorney would make this argument based on the fact that mass shootings have taken place at other entertainment venues.
"If Congress isn't regulating gun ownership, it is going to be private parties … who end up regulating their own premises," Feldman said.
The hotel industry has no national standards for security, and hotels aren't typically held accountable for guests' behavior. But if any of the hundreds of victims suing Mandalay Bay win their case, it could set a new precedent for the way hotels handle security.
But more importantly, it could shed some new light on what happened that day, as police have repeatedly changed their timeline of events, and MGM has done everything in its power to prevent employees who were involved in its response effort from speaking publicly. The company even reportedly arranged for Jesus Campos, the security guard whom Paddock shot in the leg, and who was the first to discover Paddock’s location, to do his first national media interview with Ellen Degeneres, because the company believed she wouldn’t try and ask too many “gotcha” questions. The New York Times even independently published a theoretical timeline that differed from the latest version released by the LVPD.
Finally, the public might learn the answers to several pressing questions related to the shooting as lawyers begin the process of discovery: how was Paddock, a 64-year-old-man, able to plan and execute the attack by himself? When, exactly, did Paddock’s rampage begin, and when did he shoot Campos? After Campos made the call, how long did it take for the SWAT team to reach Paddock’s room? Did the hotel staff promptly report the incident?
Investigators still haven’t found a definitive motive, but they several leaks about Paddock seeking treatment for depression, as well as reports that he lost millions of dollars gambling in the year before the attack, could be potentially useful trial balloons.