In the wake of the October 1st shooting, which claimed the lives of 58 individuals, surviving victims and the families of the deceased have filed five lawsuits. The suits, some naming hundreds of plaintiffs, have been filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against the estate of the shooter, Stephen Paddock, Live Nation, and MGM Resorts International, owner of the Mandalay Bay resort from which the shooting took place. The California-based suits allege negligence on behalf of both Mandalay Bay security and Live Nation’s event planning, as well as assault, battery, and emotional damages to Paddock’s estate. Another 14 suits have also been filed in Nevada alleging similar damages.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci, representative counsel for the plaintiffs in California, aims to draw attention to policies which may have allowed the tragedy to occur in the first place: “The evidence we’ve seen thus far clearly indicates that the defendants were culpable in contributing to the 58 victims who lost their lives and the thousands more still suffering from severe injuries that will take years to overcome, if ever” (via NPR).
Previous lawsuits filed in response to mass shooting incidents have been largely unsuccessful, perhaps due to the fact that assigning liability to a venue for the actions of an individual can be difficult to prove. Surviving victims of the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado learned this the hard way after filing suit against Cinemark and losing, becoming responsible for Cinemark’s legal fees. Victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting who filed suit against shooter Omar Mateen’s employer, his wife, and even some social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which allegedly gave Mateen access to radical propaganda which may have influenced his thinking in the months leading up to the shooting, were threatened with case dismissal when it was first brought before an Orlando judge in March of 2017. Plaintiffs in a suit against the gun manufacturer who produced the rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting were also unsuccessful in assigning liability, and had their case dismissed by a Connecticut judge in 2016.
Another issue facing families and surviving victims when filing suit stems from the number of plaintiffs–the largest California-based lawsuit in response to the Las Vegas shooting names 450 plaintiffs, which means that even if MGM, Live Nation, or Paddock’s estate are made to pay damages to those plaintiffs, the number of parties involved significantly diminishes any potential individual payoff.
Only time will tell if the Vegas plaintiffs can break the streak of previous litigation in response to mass shooting events.