Redress Risk Management (post until May 31/19)
Personal Injury

Who’s liable in the Las Vegas shooting?

While lawsuits examine the liability of a hotel and concert organizer in the wake of the deadly Las Vegas shooting, Toronto personal injury lawyer David Derfel says what needs to be considered is how prepared both were for an emergency.

"It would have been impossible to anticipate the particular mechanism of the shooting, but the parties should have had a system in place in the event of any shooting — or a fire or other emergency situation — which could have led to a riot or stampede," says Derfel, principal of Derfel Injury Lawyers.

“It was almost impossible to anticipate that a madman was going to fill a hotel room with guns and start shooting people. An important part of liability deals with how the aftermath was handled,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. "When a tragic event like this happens, what is done next is key."

The gunman fired into the crowd at a music festival from a 32nd-floor hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. The massacre left 58 dead and wounded about 500.

Reuters reports that hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against hotel operator MGM Resorts International and Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the festival organizer.

Derfel notes that no amount of security could have protected people from bullets raining down from the sky, but what lawyers can investigate on behalf of their clients is what emergency protocols were in place.

He says lawyers will also be looking at the gun manufacturers’ liability and at the maker of a device the shooter purchased to allow his semi-automatic rifle to fire at a near-automatic rate.

“There are many other aspects of liability as opposed to just the incident itself,” says Derfel.

“Consider a scenario in which a piece of a concert venue's roof falls. What procedures are in place to get the people out safely? When the chaos starts, how is it handled?”

Derfel says when exploring liability, one factor is foreseeability.

“It gets into an interesting area. Were organizers liable because there was a possibility that an attack could have happened? Should they have moved the location? What’s next? Do we now need to have these events in places that are so remote it would be very difficult for somebody to cause mayhem?” he wonders.

Under Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act, the public has a reasonable expectation that they will be safe when in the occupier’s premises, Derfel says.  

“But there are some situations where there is no way to control that. The best an organizer or hotel can do is to try to ensure they have appropriate security protocols in place,” he says.

“The hotel maybe couldn’t have stopped the shooter, but did its steps thereafter make it worse than what it would have been?”

In Ontario, the Negligence Act permits joint and several liability, meaning you can sue three people, for example, but get all the damages from one defendant, Derfel says.

He says that means lawyers can cast a wide net in this case and see who, if any, are liable.

“I think the predominant aspects of negligence will apply to the reaction to the event, more so than the event itself,” he says.

“When it comes to lawsuits against Live Nation, lawyers will be asking, were the exits all open? Was there a security plan in place?”

According to the Reuters story, victims allege Live Nation was negligent for failing to provide adequate exits and properly trained staff for an emergency.

The lawsuit also claims the hotel operator failed to properly monitor the gunman’s activities, train staff members and employ adequate security measures.

Derfel isn’t surprised at the legal action being taken, "given the seriousness of what happened and the horrific losses sustained by so many." 

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