Las Vegas Mass Shooting Survivors Sue Hotel and Concert Organizers, Claiming Negligence
At least two lawsuits have been filed by survivors of the mass shooting at a Las Vegas music concert earlier this month
At least two lawsuits have been filed by survivors of the mass shooting at a Las Vegas music concert earlier this month — signaling the possible start of other legal claims against the event organizers, the weapons’ manufacturers and the hotel where the gunman stayed.
In a suit filed Wednesday, 10 of the deadly rampage’s victims allege battery, assault and negligence, PEOPLE confirms.
They named as defendants MGM Resorts International, which owns the venue where the Route 91 Harvest festival was held, and its subsidiary Mandalay Corp., which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel where Stephen Paddock was staying when he fired down onto the event the night of Oct. 1.
The proposed class-action suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also named Live Nation Entertainment, which organized the festival, and the shooter’s estate.
In a separate claim, last week, 21-year-old Sonoma State University student Paige Gasper filed a suit echoing many of these claims against Mandalay Bay, MGM and Live Nation.
In addition, Gasper named Slide Fire Solutions, the maker of the bump-stock device the gunman used in his shooting, which allowed him to fire at a seemingly automatic rate.
In her suit, Gasper said she was struck by one of his bullets and later trampled by a crowd trying to flee the concert venue.
Authorities have said the gunman fired at the nearby crowd of some 22,000 people from his 32nd-floor hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay casino. He killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others, then shot himself before police arrived.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
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Among the plaintiffs in Wednesday’s suit are Stephen Sambrano, a 36-year-old refinery operator from Riverside, California, who said he was shot while covering his wife. Sabrano’s friend Miguel Guerrero, a California Highway Patrol officer, was also hit, according to the suit.
The victims’ attorney, Catherine Lombardo, says her clients believe that, in death, Paddock “should not be free to leave his wealth to the persons of his choosing, but instead that he should pay the victims’ families who were killed, the medical bills of those who were shot and the other damages that he caused to all of the 22,000 people who ran for their lives that night.”
The lawsuit claims MGM missed numerous red flags and should have done more to prevent Paddock from opening fire and kept closer tabs on his suspicious activity after he checked into the hotel.
According to the Wednesday suit, Paddock had installed two cameras in the hallway outside his room and had allegedly brought in at least 10 suitcases filled with 23 firearms, including AR-15 style and AK-47 style rifles, between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the day of the shooting.
The suit also contends that Mandalay Bay failed to respond in a timely manner to the shooting of one of its security guards outside Paddock’s suite and should have been better prepared for such an attack.
“In today’s world, it is reasonably predictable that a crazy gunman will open fire in a mass open-air concert,” Lombardo argues. “It is foreseeable that someone is going to bring a gun and shoot at a crowd. They have to step it up. They are required to provide extra security. They should have had a plan in place.”
The lawsuit also accuses the festival organizer, Live Nation, of being negligent and failing to provide an adequate exit plan and adequate security at the event.
“Twenty-two thousand people were there and nobody knew which way to go,” Lombardo says. “On Friday security was tight, on Saturday security was tight but by Sunday they were not wanded and they just walked in. The security got lax.”
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Live Nation said it was unable to comment to PEOPLE about the pending lawsuits.
But they said in a statement they “continue to be devastated by the tragedy at the Route 91 Festival, heartbroken for the victims, their families and the countless people forever impacted by this senseless act of violence and are cooperating fully with the active FBI investigation.”
In a statement of its own, MGM said that, “out of respect for the victims, we are not going to try this case in the public domain and we will give our response through the appropriate legal channels.”
The company described the mass shooting as “a meticulously planned, evil senseless act.”
“As our company and city work through the healing process, our primary focus and concern is taking actions to support the victims and their families, our guests and employees and cooperating with law enforcement,” MGM’s statement continued. “We are grateful for all who came to the victims’ aid that evening, including our employees, first responders, the police and citizens who acted in countless ways to assist.”
MGM said soon after the shooting that it would donate $3 million to the victims and their families and first-responder organizations.
Reached Wednesday, Gasper’s attorney did not immediately have a comment about her suit.
Messages seeking comment from Slide Fire Solutions were not returned. According to the New York Times, the Moran, Texas-based company has halted production following the shooting but has many local defenders.
“It’s being used as a scapegoat — they’re looking for somebody to blame,” one Moran politician told the Times. “Guns don’t kill people. Slide Fire stocks don’t kill people. … It could have been just as lethal, if not more so, with a good scope.”
Will These Suits Succeed? Experts Sound Off
How far these and other suits will make it in court remains unclear, legal experts tell PEOPLE.
“I don’t have the facts, but I can say if they [the concert attendees] were unable to find an exit to escape that suggests a problem and it is going to hinge on what the evidence shows,” says John Nockleby, a Loyola Law School professor.
Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, says plaintiffs will face an uphill battle.
“It is difficult to win cases proving that hotels are negligent for the criminal acts of someone,” he tells PEOPLE. “You are talking about gun violence and the criminal acts of a third party and the law is just not designed to provide a remedy for people who are victims of someone’s crime. When someone commits a crime, it is their fault not someone else’s.”
Winkler says a lot will depend on whether the venue complied with existing state safety laws.
“We don’t know what steps they could have taken or what steps they should have taken to alleviate the problem,” he explains. “We don’t know if they complied with existing state and federal laws. And presuming they did provide the necessary escape routes required, then it would be hard to prove they were negligent.”
It might also be difficult to prove that a venue should have expected such a rampage, Winkler says.
“The Las Vegas shooting was remarkable in part because it was so profoundly unusual,” he says. “The truth is we haven’t really seen anything quite like this. The plaintiff’s case depends upon showing that a reasonable person would have predicted this kind of hazard. Could anyone have really predicted this?”
Timothy D. Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University, says he predicts there will be more lawsuits to come — though how many “will depend on how these initial lawsuits fare.”
“If these lawsuits survive motions to dismiss and the courts suggests there are plausible claims here, I think you can see a lot more lawsuits generated after,” he says. “If these claims get dismissed relatively early, you are less likely to see that.”
Regardless, Nockleby says, these types of lawsuits against venues will become commonplace in the future.
“Anytime there is a mass disaster there will be a suit in this era,” he says. “In this world, with all the random shootings and people intent on doing harm against large groups, the venue operators will have to take it into account — and if they haven’t, they have to now.
“Any venue that has large numbers of people has to be thinking, What kind of security precautions [do] we need? They can’t just open the doors and take money. They are on notice they have to take precautions to protect their patrons.”