MGM is catching backlash yet again for a legal maneuver that isn’t netting positive PR.
In July, the company filed lawsuits against more than 1,900 people who were victims in the October 2017 mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas, one of the deadliest attacks in U.S. history.
MGM said it isn’t seeking money, but rather is trying to have a federal judge declare that the company has no liability for the attack, helping MGM avoid years of costly litigation. That didn’t stop the company from being slammed by survivors and victims’ families—or by social media users.
Now, MGM is again racking up bad press by offering charity donations to the survivors its suing.
The company said it would make a $500 charitable donation to each person who waives his or her right to be served papers or who authorizes an attorney to accept service on his or her behalf. Each donation will be made in the defendant’s name and given to the charity of his or her choice.
“This is not only standard practice, it also allows us the opportunity to take the money that would be spent on personal service and use it to support community organizations working to benefit the victims of the tragedy,” Debra DeShong, senior vice president of global corporate communications for MGM Resorts told NPR.
All of the defendants are victims of the shooting who were attending the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, and have threatened lawsuits against MGM Resorts or have brought lawsuits that have since been dismissed, DeShong explained.
An attorney for several of the defendants quickly struck back at the offer, calling it PR “spin.”
Attorney Robert Eglet, part of a group representing most of the victims, said the company is just trying to “spin” its attempt to save money on serving legal notices.
“It will cost the MGM significantly more than $250 to serve them,” Eglet said. “This is just more outrageous conduct by them.”
Serving defendants is a crucial step in a civil lawsuit. It informs a defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against him or her, provides the individual a copy of the complaint and starts running a 21-day deadline for the person to respond to the lawsuit.
Some reporters agreed.
The unusual move to short circuit the legal claims of those targeted in 2017 in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock, a Mandalay Bay hotel guest, isn’t good for publicity, and it probably won’t work, according to lawyers interviewed by Bloomberg Law.
Backlash has been rising on Twitter, with tweets such as the following:
This is insane. Mandalay Bay is suing mass shooting survivors to avoid liability, and now wants to get out of the messy process of serving notice on those survivors by offering to donate $500 to charity https://t.co/lkeFBMbTxg
— David Dayen (@ddayen) September 12, 2018
For some, the move itself isn’t bad—but it’s too little, too late.
Lisa Fine, president and co-founder of Route 91 Strong, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to survivors of the shooting and victim’s families, said the gesture is a long time coming.
“I wish they would have done this from the very beginning,” Fine told NPR. “Instead, they announced they were going to sue everyone, which was ridiculous and awful, but I’m glad they’re doing something to help people.”
What do you think about MGM’s offer, PR Daily readers?