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LAS VEGAS — Victims of the Las Vegas massacre agreed to settle their lawsuits, for $735 million to $800 million, against the hotel where America's deadliest mass shooting happened, lawyers said Thursday.
MGM Resorts International and attorneys for about 4,440 plaintiffs, said the final amount of money awarded will depend on the number of plaintiffs who choose to take part in the settlement.
“While nothing will be able to bring back the lives lost or the undo the horrors so many suffered on this day, this settlement will provide fair compensation for thousands of victims and their families,” Robert Eglet, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, told reporters in Las Vegas on Thursday.
The court will appoint independent claims administrators, who will create procedures for allocating settlements to claimants, according to Eglet.
The process will be long and settlement payouts could take as long as the end of next year, Eglet said.
Nonetheless, Eglet, whose firm is based in Las Vegas, called the settlement a "milestone in the recovery process for the victims of the horrifying events" of Oct. 1, 2017. Eglet and lawyers from two California firms represent about 2,500 plaintiffs.
"Our goal has always been to resolve these matters so our community and the victims and their families can move forward in the healing process,” MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in a statement.
“We have always believed that prolonged litigation around these matters is in no one’s best interest. It is our sincere hope that this agreement means that scenario will be avoided.”
Eglet stressed Thursday that the settlement was not an admission of liability by MGM, in a stark reversal from his harsh words about the company last summer.
In July 2018, MGM filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 victims in a legal maneuver aimed at avoiding liability. In its civil actions, MGM claimed it did not have to pay damages to shooting victims because the company was protected by 2002 legislation, the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies, or Safety Act.
It protects corporations in the event of mass attacks committed on U.S. soil, provided services certified by the Department of Homeland Security were deployed.
At the time, Eglet criticized MGM, calling the company lawsuits “outrageous” accusing the company of using the legal maneuver to “judge shop.”
But by Thursday morning, Eglet changed his tune, praising MGM for the way it handled eight months of mediation. He said MGM had acted with the highest standard of “corporate citizenship” he’d seen in his career.
“It became very clear to me within just a few weeks of starting this mediation that MGM desired was to help our community and help these victims,” he said.
The mass shooting occurred at an event space owned by the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds of others at an outdoor country music festival.
The shooter gunned down the concertgoers from his perch, from inside his 32nd floor hotel room. He fatally shot himself as police closed in.
Attorney James Frantz, who represents 199 plaintiffs, preemptively answered any critics who might accuse his clients of a money grab.
"I asked someone earlier today, 'Would you take $100 million, $500 million to lose your eye or have shrapnel in your brain? Fifty-eight people killed? No," Frantz told reporters in San Diego.
"The money is more of an example of a corporation trying to do the right thing that will help folks who are disabled go forward with their lives."
Frantz spoke sitting next to one of his clients, single mother Chelsea Romo, 30, whose left eye was shattered in the shooting.
"Life has been really hard the last couple of years," said Romo, who sweeps bangs over her left eye. "The recovery process is never-ending."
Romo, who was once told she'd be blind and has endured seven surgeries since the shooting, told reporters she vividly recalled a glorious moment this past week.
"When I woke up and I got to see my kids' face and see the sun," she recalled. "I just couldn't help but to smile because I'm thankful for the things I do have because it was not easy getting here at all."
Hassan reported from Las Vegas and Li from New York.