Law Vegas Shooting Victims Sued by MGM
Outrageous. Callous. Despicable. These are just some of the words that may come to mind when you hear that MGM, owner of the Mandalay Bay, is suing the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas last fall. Yes, you heard that right – the victims are being sued. Comments of outrage are spreading throughout social media. One Twitter user writes, “@MGMGrand, please remove me from your players list. I won’t be playing at any MGM casino going forward. Your lawsuit against victims of a mass shooting is disgusting!! How dare you say it’s in their best interest. You pompous, arrogant, heartless jackholes. #BoycottMGM.” But the sad truth is, under Maritime Law, the victim is almost always sued. When I heard about MGM’s lawsuit, I thought, “welcome to my world.”
It’s important to note, the victims aren’t being sued for money. In the case of MGM and the Las Vegas shooting victims, MGM’s lawsuit is a preemptive strike. It’s intent is to keep the more than 1,000 victims from seeking any damages (money) from the hotel company by absolving itself of any liability. MGM’s lawsuit is based on a federal law that was passed after the 9/11 terror attacks, known as the Support Antiterrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies, or SAFETY Act. The intention is to shield federally certified manufacturers of security equipment and providers of security services from liability should they fail to prevent a terrorist attack. The security company that was hired for the country music festival had a certification from the Department of Homeland Security.
According to MGM’s lawyer, this is the first lawsuit citing the SAFETY Act, which means there aren’t any court opinions to rely on to help interpret the statue. It may be interesting for them to learn about The Limitations of Liabilities Act under General Maritime Law, which has been used to by vessel owners to evade liability and “stick it to” victims of tragic events since 1851.
Duck boat victims will likely face similar lawsuit as a Limitation of Liability Claim under Maritime Law
While this sort of legal attack on the victims of tragedy may be new to some, it is old news to victims of maritime disasters. The Limitation of Liabilities Act was passed by congress more than 160 years ago. It’s intention was to promote the development of the American merchant marine and to put American shipowners on footing equal to shipowners hailing from other commercial seafaring nations. It has become the first line of defense for vessel owners in catastrophic maritime events and casualties, including the sinking of the RMS TITANIC (1912) and the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill (2010).
Just last week, a duck boat in Branson, Missouri capsized and sank into the Missouri River claiming 17 lives, including nine members of one family. Early news reports are highlighting potential examples of negligence by the vessel owners and crew, and unseaworthiness of the vessel itself – including ignoring weather reports, mechanical problems and lack of safety drills. The survivors and family members of this tragedy should prepare themselves to be served with a Limitation of Liabilities lawsuit by the vessel owners. It’s callous and cruel, but as a Admiralty and Maritime attorney, it’s a tactic I fight every day.
Changing the Limitation of Liability Act Takes a Literal Act of Congress
The Limitation of Liability Act is a clear statement from our government that the economic interests of big corporations are more important than the rights of victims. If this outrages you as much as it does us, contact your representatives in Congress.