Once the shock wears off after another mass shooting, the families—and society collectively—find themselves wondering who is to blame. This is exactly what we did, again, after the shooting in Las Vegas.
Of course, in this case, one shooter was culpable for the deaths and wounds of so many; but that person is dead. The gunman—the source of so many’s rage—is no longer here to be held accountable, leaving many to wonder who else is partly responsible? Who can we hold accountable, so that hopefully, we learn a lesson from these horrifying incidents, change some things, and move on as a community of Americans.
After almost every major mass shooting, of which we have a lot in the US, lawsuits begin to be filed a few weeks after the incident. Lawsuits were filed after the Pulse massacre; after Newtown, after Aurora; and after Virginia Tech. Now, after the Las Vegas shooting, lawsuits have begun rolling into the courts as expected.
On October 1, 2017, a single gunman broke out the windows of his Las Vegas hotel room and began opening fire on the crowd of a country music festival below. His height advantage from the 32nd floor, as well as modifications to his weapons to allow a near automatic rate of fire, assisted the shooter in killing 58 people and wounding nearly 500.
The tragic event has led to a lawsuit being filed in a Clark County court, naming Mandalay Bay, MGM Resorts, Live Nation, and the maker of the gun modification devices known as bump stocks. Each defendant, according to the lawsuit, has some culpability in the event.
However, just because a suit has been filed, does not mean that anything will come of it. In fact, the plaintiff has a tall barrier to leap, as many state and federal laws protect manufacturers and property owners from events just like the Las Vegas shooting.
[Those interested can view the lawsuit paperwork by clicking the proceeding link: Paige Gasper Lawsuit against MGM Resorts International by Las Vegas Review-Journal].
Las Vegas Shooting Victim Files Suit
The lawsuit, filed by 21-year-old Paige Gasper who was shot during the incident, claims that MGM Resorts breached their duty of care by failing to keep the hotel safe and secure. The suit claims that the hotel failed to monitor or screen the people coming into the hotel, and did not respond quickly enough to a security guard who was shot some six minutes before the shooting into the crowd took place. According to the lawsuit, if Mandalay Bay or MGM had policies in place to screen visitors and to respond to a crisis like a shooting in one of their hallways, this incident may have been prevented.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the concert promoter, Live Nation, and the concert venue owner, which also happens to be MGM, did not design, build, or identify adequate emergency exits. The lawsuit also claims that they failed to properly train staff for emergency situations.
Additional Lawsuit over Shooting
There has also been a class-action lawsuit filed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence against Slide Fire Solutions LP, the manufacturer and seller of the bump stocks used in the shooting. The class-action lawsuit has been filed for all those “who tragically suffered emotional distress” as a result of the mass shooting, according the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The attachment in question—known as a bump stock—was added onto the semi-automatic weapon used in the shooting, increases its firing capacity to near automatic rates. Non-modified semi-automatic assault rifles are typically capable of firing 120 rounds per minute; bump stocks increase this to up to 800 rounds per minute. (Of course, this is dependent on a multitude of factors, but nonetheless, it’s much faster).
[Video below shows bump stock in action].
Claims from the class-action lawsuit include negligence, infliction of emotional distress, product liability, and public nuisance.
Democrats in Washington have recently proposed legislation that would ban the device (which basically circumvents bans on automatic rifles). As of this article, no ban on bump stocks is in place.
A successful claim against the maker of the bump stock will be extremely unlikely, according to past precedent. That’s because a federal law, signed in 2005 after successful lobbying from the NRA, protects gun manufacturers and sellers from civil claims brought by victims of gun violence.
However, there could be some question as to whether the bump stock is an accessory, not a gun component, which is not necessarily protected by the 2005 law.
Other Lawsuits after Mass Shootings
Even though lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers are generally not successful, other types of lawsuits regarding mass shootings have had some success; but it almost never lasts.
In 2012, a jury sided with the parents of two students killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech when they found the university negligent for waiting to inform the campus’ faculty and students about the gunman. The jurors awarded $4 million to each of the families of two women who were among the 33 killed in what has been dubbed the Virginia Tech Massacre. However, that ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court of Virginia the following year.
In 2014, nine families and a survivor of the Sandy Hook attack filed a lawsuit against Remington Arms Company who manufactured the gun used in the Newtown shooting. However, in 2016, a judge dismissed the lawsuit. The families are appealing to the Connecticut Supreme decision.
Additionally, a separate lawsuit has been filed by parents of Sandy Hook victims against the town of Newtown and the school district; they claim the school didn’t do enough to secure its classrooms or carry out its security protocol.
In Aurora, Colorado, a lawsuit was filed against Century Theaters and Cinemark who owned and operated the theater where a gunman opened fire during a screening of the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight”. They too claim that the movie theater was lax in its security. The lawsuit later failed, leading to the theater countersuing for legal costs. This counter claim has since been dropped by the company.
Unfortunately, mass shootings have become common in American society. Because of this, so too have lawsuits after the incident. These many lawsuits have shown that it’s extremely difficult for the families of these tragedies to gain any compensation from the third parties involved.
In the coming months, it will be interesting to see how the lawsuit against the manufactuerer of bump stocks plays out, since as we mentioned, it is unclear whether or not the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act covers gun accessories.
For now, let us hope that our leaders and lawmakers can find some solution to this problem, rather than just accepting this plight as our new norm.
Dolman Law Group is a personal injury firm in the Clearwater area who represents injured victims. If you need our help, feel free to email us or call us at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765
Information for this article was referenced from: “Lawsuits After Las Vegas Shooting May Be Uphill Battles.” New York Times, by Jennifer Medina and Jess Bidgood, 11 Oct. 2017.
Feature Image Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bump Stock Video Credit: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-a-bump-fire-stock-legal-does-it-do-2017-10
Statistics from Infographic: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/mass-shootings-in-america/