MGM Resort International (“MGM”) has filed for declaratory judgment in U.S. District Courts for the Central District of California and District of Nevada in an effort to avoid or limit liability related to the mass shooting that happened on October 1, 2017 that killed 58 and injured close to 500. The attorney representing the Las Vegas shooting victims calls the move “outrageous,” according to a news report issued by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
A Horrible Day
On that fatal October 1, 2017 night, the shooter — later identified as Stephen Paddock — fired into a large crowd of concertgoers from a hotel room located on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, which MGM owns. Since the fatal shooting occurred, hundreds of victims of the event have sued the resort in state courts in California and Nevada. Before police stormed his hotel room, Paddock killed himself. MGM has stated that since the October 1, 2017 mass shooting, more than 2,500 individuals have filed lawsuits or threatened to do so against MGM Resorts International and the company’s subsidiaries. The lawsuits filed by MGM in California and Nevada name more than 1,000 victims, whose lawsuits were voluntarily dismissed with an apparent intent to refile later.
In its lawsuit, MGM alleges that a federal law referred to as the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002 insulates it from liability. SAFETY is a federal law that was created after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. MGM has argued this position in four separate proceedings. The purpose of the SAFETY Act was to insulate manufacturers of security equipment — for example, metal detectors and airplane doors — under the cloak of sovereign immunity. The SAFETY Act also potentially caps the amount of damages available to those seeking monetary compensation.
MGM argues in the complaint that the SAFETY Act applies because it hired a third-party security vendor that has SAFETY Act certification. It also argues that the October 1, 2017 shooting was an act of mass violence, which is not a legal term. Under the SAFETY Act, a service provider or company may be insulated from certain kinds of liability that arise from an act of terrorism. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has not officially designated the Las Vegas mass shooting as an act of terrorism, however. If the courts apply the SAFETY Act, all related claims would fall exclusively under federal jurisdiction.