Lawsuits seem to follow any tragedy. And when the person most directly responsible for the tragedy is no longer alive — as is the case in so many mass shootings — victims look for someone to hold legally accountable. Schools and movie theaters have been targeted with lawsuits after shootings before, so it’s only natural to wonder whether the hotel from which Stephen Paddock killed 58 and wounded almost 500 more, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, could be liable for the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Here’s a look at the hotel’s potential legal liability following the shooting.
Everyone Suing Everyone
According to attorney Adam Sack, the possibilities for legal action after the Las Vegas shooting are limitless. “I’m telling you right now, this is going to be — once the drama dies down — it’s going to be lawsuits after lawsuits,” Sack told Radar Online. “Everyone will sue everyone. The hotel will sue the city because there wasn’t property development of the road, they can sue the one who designed the hotel — you can dream up all kinds of lawsuits that prove this attack could’ve been prevented.”
While we’re not convinced quite so many lawsuits will fly, there are bound to be lawsuits claiming Mandalay Bay was negligent in either preventing the shooting or its response.
Negligence in Nevada
Negligence liability will generally rest on whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care, and, in this case, whether the Mandalay Bay had a duty to protect concertgoers from a mass murderer. While the hotel certainly has a duty to protect its guests and anyone else on its property from reasonably foreseeable hazards and dangers, what would be up for debate is whether it owed the same duty to the general public and whether a guest carrying an arsenal of weapons to his room and opening fire on a crowd below was reasonably foreseeable.
If plaintiffs can establish Mandalay Bay did have that duty, the question would be whether it breached that duty. Over three days prior to the shooting, Paddock amassed 23 guns, including AR-15-style and AK-47-style rifles, in his hotel room, allegedly carrying them up in 10 suitcases. A court could look at whether hotel staff should’ve spotted him making so many trips, should’ve seen the surveillance cameras Paddock brought and installed in the hallway, or found it suspicious he had a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his room for three straight days.
And jurors could wonder whether the hotel should’ve installed bulletproof glass or responded to the shooting more quickly. By all accounts, Paddock only fired on the crowd for about ten minutes until a hotel security guard arrived; Paddock fired 200 rounds through his door, wounding the guard, and police breached the door and found Paddock dead an hour later after clearing other guests of the floor.
Finally, a successful suit against Mandalay Bay would need to demonstrate that it was the hotel’s breach, and not some intervening act, that caused the victims’ injuries or death. This can be especially difficult in mass shootings where courts and juries are more likely to find the shooter responsible.
Lawsuits are also expected against the concert promoters and organizers. “They put in a fence around the area so there was only one way in and one way out — people were basically trapped in,” according to Sack. “They could easily sue the promoter; it was dangerous; they didn’t have an emergency exit.” It will be far easier for the concertgoers to establish that organizers owed them a duty of care. Instead, the main issue will be whether the mass shooting was foreseeable and whether more exits could’ve saved more lives.
Las Vegas Litigation
There’s no doubt lawsuits will be filed in the wake of the shooting, against the hotel and the concert organizers. Whether those suits will be successful remains to be seen.