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The company that owns the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and the Route 91 Harvest festival venue in Las Vegas where dozens were killed and hundreds of others injured in a mass shooting has taken legal action — against the victims.
MGM Resorts International filed complaints in Nevada and California federal courts last Friday. The company does not seek compensation from survivors of the October 2017 rampage; instead, they insist MGM was not at fault for the massacre in the first place, citing a 2002 federal act.
That legislation, the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies, or Safety Act, protects corporations in the event of mass attacks committed on U.S. soil, provided services certified by the Department of Homeland Security were deployed.
In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, gunman Stephen Paddock fired shot after shot from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort down on a crowd of about 22,000. All told, 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, making it the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
But because MGM had hired Contemporary Services Corporation, a security vendor for the concert whose services had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security, it claims it followed the requirements of the Safety Act.
As a result, MGM wants the cases moved from state court to federal court, where it can make its case under the liability protection of the Safety Act.
The request is both a way of streamlining the more than 2,000 individuals who have brought lawsuits or threatened to bring lawsuits against MGM, and also an attempt to prove to a judge that it followed the letter of the law and shouldn't be held responsible.
Attorney Robert Eglet, whose Las Vegas firm represents multiple victims of the shooting, called MGM's move "reprehensible."
"They didn't have to take this overly aggressive outrageous situation where they're victimizing these people now twice," he said.
MGM's tactic, he added, is unusual.
"This is the first time that we're aware of that anyone has raised the Safety Act and tried to basically get out of responsibility for their negligence by trying to use the Safety Act," Eglet said.
The complaints mention hundreds of victims by name who have filed suits against MGM, and refers to at least 1,000 others who have filed their intention to sue.
In a statement, MGM said the move was in the best interest of the victims.
"Congress provided that the federal courts were the correct place for such litigation relating to incidents of mass violence like this one where security services approved by the Department of Homeland Security were provided," said Debra DeShong, spokesperson for MGM Resorts.
"The federal court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution," she said. "Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”
"I know people are going to take this personally, like a slap to the face."
Mike Cronk, a retired teacher from Alaska who was at the concert when the shooting began but wasn't hit, said he hoped the odd legal twist wouldn't make life more difficult for survivors.
"This doesn't leave your life. It's something that I'm sure has changed all of us," said Cronk, whose best friend, Rob McIntosh, was shot while standing inches away. McIntosh survived thanks in part to Cronk, who shuttled him and other victims to triage areas in the chaotic aftermath.
Cronk isn't suing and said he doesn't feel that MGM was to blame.
"I felt the shooter was at fault for the shooting," he said.
Still, he added, he could see how such a legal move might feel like a blow for survivors who did sue.
"I know people are going to take this personally, like a slap to the face," Cronk said.