Was Vegas Shooting Foreseeable?
If a particular type of crime regularly occurs on certain business premises, could other businesses in that industry be held liable if they fail to take preventative measures against similar instances in the future?
The mass shooting at MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on October 1 resulted in the deaths of 58 people and injuries to more than 500 others.
According to experts interviewed by Business Insider, it is very likely that victims of the shooting and their families will file lawsuits against MGM Resorts and Mandalay Bay for medical expenses, disability, wrongful death — especially by children of parents who died — and possibly punitive damages, among other causes of action.
Dick Hudak, a former FBI agent and security director at Sheraton and managing partner of Resort Security Consulting, told Business Insider that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, gave the hotel “a clue that something bad was going to happen” when he placed a “do not disturb” sign on his door for three days, preventing housekeeping staff members from entering the room. Hotel employees should have been very suspicious, he said.
Also, there is the question of how Paddock could have stockpiled 23 guns in his room unnoticed by the doorman and other staff. Paddock also placed cameras outside his room. Why did the security staff fail to report this?
Adam Kutner, a Las Vegas attorney specializing in personal injury, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that “casinos have an extensive array of surveillance cameras both inside and outside their properties. They also keep detailed information about the habits of their top clients. The hotel should have been able to detect whether Paddock was acting unusually.”
Still, the circumstances, which were red flags in retrospect, would not seem to have suggested a foreseeable danger.
Higher Standard of Care in the Future?
Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School, told Business Insider that as more mass shootings take place in the US, “It becomes more and more foreseeable if you operate certain types of venues, those venues will be seen as opportunities for mass shootings.”
Feldman thinks hotels and other entertainment venues need to appreciate the potential for mass murder crime and start taking stricter measures to protect the public.
According to Feldman, “If a certain type of crime is established as regularly occurring on certain premises, then any player in the industry could be held legally liable if it didn’t take preventative measures.” As an example of this, she says fear of this type of lawsuit has helped persuade some hotels to put up signs telling guests to store valuable items in safes, and some malls to put security guards in parking lots after dark.
After the shooting, some Las Vegas hotels such as The Wynn Resort added new security measures, such as scanning guests with metal detectors and putting bags through X-ray machines. Other upgrades will probably include retraining employees to conduct random background checks on guests, paying closer attention to unusual guest behavior and making customers agree not to bring weapons on the premises.
Probably Not a Foreseeable Event
Las Vegas lawyer Stephen Walburg expressed doubt to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that victims of the massacre and their families would be able to prove that the attack was a “foreseeable event.” He compared the massacre to the shooting inside the Century16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012.
Like Paddock, “Aurora shooter James Holmes planned his midnight attack well in advance, slipping well-armed back into the theater through an exit door he propped open.” The jury ruled in favor of the theater, deciding that the attack could not have been foreseen. Witnesses for the defense testified that methodical, lone wolf shooters like Holmes [and Paddock?] are “the toughest to predict.”
“This is not a case that I would want to take. It is going to be an uphill battle,” said Walburg.
If a suit is filed against the hotel, it would probably settle out of court, according to Feldman. MGM Resorts doesn’t want to give the matter more publicity and they “certainly don’t want to be seen as heartless in their treatment of victims,” she said.
[return to top]
In this issue:
This Just In...
Five Lessons from Recent Hurricane Losses
Was Vegas Shooting Foreseeable?
Avoiding Winter Storm Damage
Ways to Fill Winter Storm Insurance Gaps