- REUTERS/Chris Wattie
- A 21-year-old victim of the Las Vegas shooting has filed a lawsuit against the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the staging point for the deadliest shooting in modern US history. Legal experts say it’s almost certain that other victims of the Las Vegas shooting will attempt to hold the hotel liable in court. Even if hotel employees couldn’t have prevented the shooting, it could be used to argue that hotels need to take stronger measures to prevent mass shootings.
A victim of the Las Vegas shooting has filed a lawsuit against the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
She is unlikely to be the only one to do so.
On Monday, Paige Gasper filed a lawsuit against the Mandalay Bay and MGM Resorts International, the hotel’s parent company. The 21-year-old was shot in the chest when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the hotel on 22,000 people attending a music festival in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.
Paddock stockpiled weapons in his hotel room before firing from the windows of his 32nd-floor suite into the crowd of people across the street, leaving 58 people dead and more than 500 others wounded before Paddock killed himself as security forces closed in.
Before Gasper filed the case, legal experts told Business Insider that victims of the shooting were likely to bring lawsuits against MGM Resorts and the Mandalay Bay. Plaintiffs will most likely seek damages for things like medical expenses or disabilities resulting from the shooting.
“The tragic incident that took place on October 1st was a meticulously planned, evil senseless act,” MGM Resorts spokesperson, Debra DeShong, said in a statment to Business Insider. “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.”
“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,” DeShong continued.
Gasper’s case provides an early glimpse at arguments other victims may make against the hotel.
‘Negligent’ preventative measures
- Paige Gasper
The crux of Gasper’s argument is that the company failed to “maintain the Mandalay Bay premises in a reasonably safe condition.”
First, there’s an apparent lack of surveillance. The plaintiff claims that the Mandalay Bay failed to properly surveil guests and failed to monitor premises using security cameras. Additionally, it argues that the Mandalay Bay “failed to adequately train and supervise employees on the reporting and discovery of suspicious individuals and/or person and/or activity.”
Employees at major hotel chains are trained to report suspicious behavior from guests, said Dick Hudak, a managing partner of Resort Security Consulting. In Paddock’s case, however, they seemed to miss a few potential red flags.
In the three days between when Paddock checked into the hotel and when he carried out the shooting, he brought at least 10 suitcases filled with firearms into his room. Police officials said Paddock also constructed an elaborate surveillance system in the hotel, placing two cameras in the hallway outside his suite – one on a service cart – as well as a camera in his door’s peephole.
The complaint highlights the Mandalay Bay’s failure to notice or prevent Paddock’s weapon stockpiling and surveillance cameras as two failures for which the hotel should be held legally liable.
“He gave us a clue there that something bad was going to happen,” Hudak, a former FBI agent who was previously the director of security at Sheraton and is not involved in the investigation, said of the cameras.
Finally, the complaint cites statements from law-enforcement officers in saying that a Mandalay Bay security officer was shot by Paddock before Paddock began shooting into the crowd. The complaint therefore accuses the Mandalay Bay of failing to “timely respond or otherwise act” in response to the officer’s shooting.
“As evidenced by law-enforcement briefings over the past week, many facts are still unverified and continue to change as events are under review,” DeShong said Tuesday night in a statement. “We cannot be certain about the most recent timeline that has been communicated publicly, and we believe what is currently being expressed may not be accurate.”
Setting a precedent
- David Becker/Getty Images
If Gasper and other victims win their cases, it could help set a precedent for what hotels are legally responsible to do to ensure guests’ safety.
As more mass shootings take place in the US, it’s increasingly likely that attorneys will argue that hotels and other venues should see the potential for such a crime and make changes to prevent it.
“Foreseeability is one of the key components of liability,” Hudak said.
The industry today has no national standards for security, and hotels aren’t typically held accountable for guests’ behavior.
Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School, says it’s “entirely feasible” that an attorney would make this argument based on the fact that mass shootings have taken place at other entertainment venues.
“If Congress isn’t regulating gun ownership, it is going to be private parties … who end up regulating their own premises,” Feldman said.