Public Shootings and Civil Suits: Who is Accountable for Survivor Injuries?
From a vantage point 32 stories high inside the Mandalay Bay hotel, Stephen Paddock took 58 innocent lives and injured 527 in an act of domestic terrorism the level of which our country had never experienced. He needed 72 minutes to accomplish this unspeakable act, after which he ended his own life. How he managed to casually stroll into the massive MGM hotel with an arsenal of firearms, and what motive he possibly had in choosing a Jason Aldean concert, are open for speculation.
To further insult surviving family members and those injured, MGM decided to sue the victims.
As millions reflect on this tragedy and why the entertainment giant felt inclined to take such preemptive measures, let us discuss negligent security and who is actually liable for injuries sustained in public shootings.
Property Owner and Venue Security
Short of declaring martial law during every concert or public celebration, knowing when mass shootings will occur, or when paint-can-bombs will explode is difficult, if not impossible. However, one controllable element of public festivals such as the Route 91 Harvest is security, an element that both the property owner and Mandalay Bay failed to adequately provide. An epic premises liability fail.
Mr. Paddock accounted for the only death at the MGM property itself. Both MGM International and Live Nation Entertainment are listed as founders and promoters of this annual event. The question is: who owns the 16-acre lot located at 3901 S. Las Vegas Boulevard in Paradise, Nevada where the annual concert and mass tragedy took place.
The answer, according to Clark County Tax Assessor Office, is MGM Resorts Festival Grounds LLC. So not only did MGM indirectly provide the vehicle for an unhinged ex-real estate maven to perpetrate acts of mass violence, but they own the venue, property, and therefore own the responsibility to protect people attending their concert. The laws of Georgia agree.
Given the information above, venue security and the responsibility to protect concert goers went afoul.
Establishing Reasonably Foreseeable Danger
22,000 concert goers were exposed to Mr. Paddock’s attack. Could any reasonably intelligent individual predict such tragedy and help avert it prior to its commencement? Probably not. But an element of law exists where MGM should have known an attack like this was possible.
In Georgia, property owners must protect invited guests from predictable danger. Because mass shootings are unpredictable but are always within the realm of possibility, they would be covered. MGM can argue that few could predict such tragedy was foreseeable, yet an intelligent premises liability attorney will remind them of:
- The 2016 Orlando shooting that killed 49 at the Pulse nightclub;
- The 2015 Paris concert shooting that killed 130;
- The many school shootings in modern history.
None of the above were predictable, and all were possible at any time.
Regardless of another’s wrongdoing, large gatherings should always have ample security. Casinos, hotels, and similar businesses should have some means of scanning people and luggage for firearms. MGM failed to have ample security measures both at Mandalay Bay and on the property where Jason Aldean was to entertain.
Their response to an obvious screw-up? Let’s sue the innocent, and they will back off.
Injuries to Patrons Fall Under Premises Liability Law
Once fault in similar cases to MGM’s is established, civil claims are born. They can be pursued under premises liability law, which tends to carry much larger monetary awards, not to mention significant potential pain and suffering awards. Mass shootings are an area of law not frequently covered, mainly due to arguments presented above. But make no mistake – venue owners will be held accountable, some sooner than others.
The elements needed to establish culpability include:
- Proving an entity was responsible for your safety;
- Then, by breaching their duty, the entity risked your safety;
- And, there is an established relationship between the injured and the property owner;
- As a result of negligence or lack of security, there is obvious injury.
Cases may have all required elements, but each must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (50.1% or more). In mass shootings, these elements are sometimes obscured by witnesses, negligent parties, and the media.
In school shootings like Parkland, where police panicked, the lack of resource officers posted at entrances could be seen as deliberate negligence by the school corporation. In club massacres like in Orlando, clearly the door security failed to protect the patrons from harm. In the Las Vegas incident, MGM’s lack of security screening allowed an unwarranted attack on 20,000 people that lasted 72 minutes.
The Responsible Party is Not the Victim
We visited several troubling mass shootings in today’s article, exploring information regarding venue, fault, Georgia law, and what rights victims are afforded.
Regardless what the media portrays, or what MGM and similar corporations try to accomplish, public shootings are not the fault of the injured. Paying for live entertainment or cover charges at clubs does not waive the premises or venue owner’s obligation to keep patrons safe.
Premises owners are liable for mass shootings, regardless if such activity is foreseen or not.
Georgia Trial Attorneys fights diligently for those injured on another’s premises. Public massacres are horrific events to endure, and as compassionate attorneys, we would love the opportunity to fight for justice. Contact our firm by phone, email, or drop by our Norcross office.