As more details emerge about the chaotic scene at MGM Resorts International’s Mandalay Bay Hotel earlier this month, the casino conglomerate is bracing for lawsuits from victims accusing the company of negligence in the way it handled the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Attorney Richard Patterson, who represents several victims of the shooting, says the hotel, which also owns the site where the outdoor concert took place, failed to adequately protect its patrons and made decisions that may have contributed to the number of casualties and the scale of the tragedy.
“Where is the system?” Patterson, a partner at law firm Owen Patterson & Owen, told TheWrap. “It broke down. This is negligence — they could have stopped the whole thing. As a land owner you have an obligation to ensure the safety of people on that land. They owned the venue and they owned the hotel — good luck.”
Stephen Paddock’s shooting rampage on Oct. 1 left 58 people dead and 489 injured. He fired from a 32nd floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a lot below, site of the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
Paterson’s clients include Travis Phippen, who watched his father being fatally shot as they helped other victims during the shooting.
Patterson argues that concert staffers used poor judgment when turning on the flood-lights as the shooting began, allowing the shooter a clear view of his intended targets. Patterson also contends that Live Nation, the concert promoter, failed to adequately train its security staff.
“If anyone has any experience in risk management or terrorism expertise, the first thing they teach you is: turn off the light, pull down the blinds and find cover, period,” he said.
MGM Resorts spokeswoman Debra DeShong told TheWrap: “Security has been and continues to be a top priority at all of MGM Resorts. … MGM Resorts’ security procedures are always improving and evolving, leveraging the benefits we are able to utilize as part of a large organization with a broad reach.” (Read the full statement below).
Live Nation did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
But according to Patterson, security at Mandalay Bay was also lacking. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Monday, that Paddock shot MGM security guard Jesus Campos before the mass assault began — which raised questions about whether Campos was armed. It is also unclear when the hotel knew there was an active shooter on site.
MGM did not respond to questions about whether the hotel had an emergency plan that included a mass-shooting scenario, or whether Campos had a gun.
Patterson isn’t the only attorney looking into MGM’s potential legal liability. Famed civil rights attorney Gloria Allred told TheWrap that she’s also been in contact with victims of the shooting.
“This is a unique situation and the claims and theories need to be carefully reviewed,” Allred, who sued Hilton Worldwide in 2015 after her client accused a clerk of giving her room key to a man who raped her, told TheWrap. “I have been contacted by victims of the shooting and am in contact with lawyers in Las Vegas to review their claims and any rights which they or family members may have. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.”
“Security is always an issue that needs to be reviewed,” she added.
But the hotel can obviously raise the defense that Paddock is the sole person responsible.
Mike Cahn, a security expert and retired New Orleans Police Department SWAT commander, told TheWrap that even if the hotel staff responded slowly, they may have been following instructions from police.
“It depends what the police allowed the hotel to do,” he said. “In these types of situations, police command takes over until the threat is neutralized. I would have been very reluctant to tell the guests what we were doing in case there were accomplices still out there.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Casinos are known for their cautious approach when it comes to visible security measures. But the shooting could change all that.
Wynn Resort has instructed its guards to scan guests with metal detecting wands and inspect bags. The new security protocol is “likely to become the norm on the Strip and possibly beyond,” according to Bloomberg.
Investigators found 23 firearms in the shooter’s room, which they believe he brought to his suite over a three-day period in at least 10 suitcases. Police also said that the shooter assembled a surveillance system that included two cameras in the hallway outside his room, as well as a camera in his door’s peephole.
In a city known for its sophisticated surveillance systems, where counting cards can get you kicked out in a matter of minutes, how is it possible that no one noticed the shooter carrying bags of weapons?
“The killer was well known to the hotel and was considered to be a suspicious person regarding his financial dealings,” Patterson said. “He was clearly a high roller and a VIP. The fact that he booked a stay for two days and refused valet service but carried at least 10 bags up to the 32nd floor should have attracted some attention.”
Read MGM’s full statement below.
“Security has been and continues to be a top priority at all of MGM Resorts. MGM Resorts works consistently with local and national law enforcement, first responder and emergency operations agencies, as well as intelligence services, private security consultants and professional security associations, to reassess security across the Company and all of our properties to keep procedures at our resorts up to date.
MGM Resorts’ security procedures are always improving and evolving, leveraging the benefits we are able to utilize as part of a large organization with a broad reach. We continue our close working relationships with security experts now during the ongoing investigation into this tragic incident.
As our Security team is working tirelessly to protect the safety of our guests and facilities, MGM Resorts has elevated its level of security to add to the level of comfort and safety of our guests and employees.”
Susan Seager contributed reporting to this article.