Another mass shooting has left nearly 60 families to grieve the unexpected loss of a loved one. There is no doubt that these deaths were tragic and will cause families to suffer extraordinary pain. It is very likely that these families will turn to the legal system to achieve some kind of justice. Wrongful death lawsuits are generally a popular tool for families who have lost loved ones in mass shooting attacks. Families turn to wrongful death attorneys to help them hold negligent parties responsible.
Determining liability after a mass shooting can be difficult, especially in situations like the one in Las Vegas. Details of the massacre are still emerging, but it appears as though one man who was armed with dozens of assault weapons opened fire on a concert music festival from the comfort of his Las Vegas hotel suite. The shooter is now deceased, and the reason why he committed such a brutal and violent crime has yet to be determined. If families of the Las Vegas shooting victims want justice and compensation for their suffering, who can they hold accountable? There is no seemingly obvious answer.
Gun laws in America make it difficult for victims of gun violence to get the justice they deserve. Manufacturers and dealers are generally immune from liability for crimes that are committed with the weapons they make and sell. There are also very few restrictions and regulations about purchasing weapons. The restrictions and laws that are in place are also fairly easy to circumvent.
This means that it is easy to buy guns and hard to hold anyone other than the user accountable.
Here, the shooter is no longer alive. He was either killed by police or took his own life just before police arrived on the scene (details are still unclear). Reports indicate that he had at least 23 guns in his Las Vegas hotel room, many of which were assault-style weapons. It is also reported that he purchased 33 guns in the past year. Laws in America protect the people who manufactured the weapons used in this massacre.
While some blame the guns and our country’s lax gun laws for this devastating event, others blame the hotel for their lack of security measures. Can the victims’ families hold the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino responsible (at least in part) for their loss? Was the hotel negligent in this case?
Generally, businesses have a duty to protect their patrons against foreseeable criminal acts. This duty is usually upheld by establishing and maintaining a security presence. When businesses fail to provide adequate security, they could potentially be responsible for injuries that occur as a result. Las Vegas hotels and casinos are not exempt from this duty. However, determining just how far hotels must go to provide security and establish a safe environment is difficult.
Hotels are required to establish security to prevent foreseeable criminal activity and harm. In most cases, hotels will not be liable for injuries that occur when a third party commits a criminal act that is not foreseeable. When is a criminal act foreseeable? Can a lack of security, which is argued in the Las Vegas mass shooting, actually create an environment where criminality could be foreseeable? According to a Las Vegas court, yes.
The court in Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp. found that a hotel could be liable for crime-related injuries on their property because their lack of security “provide[d] a fertile environment for criminal conduct such as robbery and assault.” Specifically, the hotel’s “negligence in failing to provide adequate security created a favorable environment for criminal activity.” The court believed that a jury could draw the conclusion that the hotel’s lack of security essentially created a foreseeable risk of harm.
So a hotel’s negligent security could essentially create an environment that is conducive to criminal activity. Can the families of the Las Vegas massacre victims use this argument as a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel? It may be difficult to use this argument successfully since the victims were not actually patrons or guests of the hotel. A skilled wrongful death attorney would have to establish that the hotel owed the victims some duty. Absent this duty, there can be no negligence.
The Las Vegas shooting victims’ families are all suffering incomprehensible pain and grief in the wake of this tragedy. Families who lose loved ones in accidents are generally offered some sort of reprieve when they file wrongful death lawsuits. Finding someone who is responsible and holding them accountable may not bring their family member back, but it can offer some financial and emotional relief. In situations like these, it can be difficult to find an appropriate defendant.
Richard Morse is the co-partner of Injury Trial Lawyers, APC. As a leading San Diego, California personal injury firm, ITL has recovered millions for those injured due to someone else’s negligence. Call today for a free consultation.