“MGM resorts sues victims of Las Vegas massacre”: the headlines sound downright dystopian, and the social media reaction is pretty much what you would expect.
But in context, the company’s move makes sense.
MGM, owners of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, are being sued for their alleged negligence in inadvertently providing a shooter’s nest for Stephen Paddock, who massacred dozens of people at a country music festival last October. The company’s response is to seek a declaration in federal court that anti-terrorism legislation shields them from liability:
The company cites a 2002 federal act that extends liability protection to any company that uses “anti-terrorism” technology or services that can “help prevent and respond to mass violence.”
In this case, the company argues, the security vendor MGM hired for Route 91, Contemporary Services Corp., was protected from liability because its services had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security for “protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction.”
The lawsuits argue that this protection also extends to MGM, since MGM hired the security company.
They do not seek money from the victims but do ask that a judge decide if the 2002 act is applicable, and if so, determine that future civil lawsuits against the company are not viable.
Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts, released a statement about the litigation Monday.
According to the statement, “The Federal Court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution. Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”
Is the company correct? Beats me. That’s for a U.S. Federal Court to decide. But just because a company – even a company involved in the morally dubious business of gambling – is facing lawsuits from sympathetic defendants doesn’t meant they’re legally in the wrong.
It’s understandable if many Americans, who can’t seem to make any headway in fighting the gun lobby and curtailing their country’s firearms culture, want someone to be punished. And maybe MGM does indeed bear some liability. But they are entitled to press their case to the greatest extent allowed by law.