Suing the victims of a mass shooting seems bad enough, but an attorney for MGM Resorts asserts that it’s for their own good.
After one of the deadliest attacks in U.S. history during an October 2017 country music concert in Las Vegas, the company that operated the show (and owned the building where the gunman fired from) is looking to decrease its liability.
MGM Resorts International, which is facing a barrage of lawsuits over the shooting, responded Friday by naming more than 1,000 of the shooting victims as defendants in two lawsuits of its own. The entertainment giant is not seeking monetary damages but, citing a federal law, asks the courts to protect it from legal actions filed by the victims.
In a statement to CNN, MGM Resorts called the shooting “the despicable act of one evil individual” and said its lawsuits, filed Friday in US District Courts for Nevada and Central California, are intended to benefit the victims and help them heal.
“The Federal Court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution,” said Debra DeShong, spokeswoman for MGM Resorts. “Years of drawn-out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”
Victims and families spoke out during a press conference, sharing their grief and the shock that the countersuit has created for survivors.
“It brings it all up again, and takes me right back to being helpless,” said Jason McMillan, who was paralyzed from the waist down in the attack.
“Hearing that I’m being sued — it’s not only insulting, it enrages me to think that this company can just try to skip out on their responsibilities and their liability for what happened.”
McMillan vowed not to back down in the fight against the company.
Families that lost loved ones call the move “outrageous.”
Joyce Shipp, 72, whose 50-year-old daughter Laura Shipp was killed in the shooting, said she was still learning to cope with the aftermath.
“I wasn’t at the concert but I live it every day. Every time we go outside we see Mandalay Bay. It’s hard to get that out of your head,” she said.
“The fact that [MGM is] trying to sue us — it’s outrageous,” she added. “That they would have the audacity to put me through that again — It’s like being kicked again to the ground.”
MGM responded to the outcry with a statement defending its legal strategy while offering sympathy for victims.
In response to the press conference, MGM spokesperson Debra DeShong provided the following statement:
“It is heartbreaking to hear these personal accounts of an unspeakable tragedy. We grieve with all of the victims. No one wins from endless litigation and it will not change the fact that one person is responsible for this horrendous act of violence and he took his own life rather than face justice.
“Plaintiffs lawyers have filed and refiled dozens of lawsuits, in multiple jurisdictions, in state and federal court. Resolving each case individually would require years of testimony from victims, first responders and employees. We believe Congress determined these cases should be in federal court and that getting everyone in the same court, is the best and fastest way to resolve these cases. As we have said from the beginning, we filed actions involving individuals who have retained attorneys and either have sued or threatened to sue.”
On Twitter, users were disgusted by MGM’s legal action.
@MGMGrand, please remove me from your players list. I wont be playing at any MGM casino going forward. Your lawsuit against victims of a mass shooting is digusting!! How dare you say its in their best interest. You pompous, arrogant, heartless jackholes. #BoycottMGM
— Bmc (@bmconway24) July 17, 2018
Many pledged never to patronize the casino again:
I will protest this the only way I can: I won’t EVER stay or place another bet, or eat at, any MGM hotel in #LasVegas again, unless the lawsuit against these parties are dismissed.
— Man Damus â (@Litig8rHam) July 23, 2018
Others took a more complex view of the lawsuit, pointing out that MGM isn’t seeking money but rather a release from liability:
Just so we’re clear:
MGM Resorts hasn’t sued the victims. There was a lawsuit against MGM, so they filed a complaint claiming no liability + asking for the charges against them to be dismissed.
They filed a countersuit/counterclaim. This is not equivalent to suing the victims. https://t.co/sYjZacHIOf
— not aiza (@crosswordaiza) July 18, 2018
However, the action has engendered a PR nightmare.
An audio interview from @KNPRnews featuring @bhreber, @DickYarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication, talking about the lawsuit MGM is filing denying liability in the #vegasshooting. Reber’s comments start around 6:45: https://t.co/t2hC1Y86mR #GradyExperts @AdPR_UGA pic.twitter.com/omc72YDTxk
— UGA Grady College (@UGAGrady) July 19, 2018
What do you think, PR Daily readers? How might MGM Resorts protect its reputation as it protects itself from litigation?