LOS ANGELES (CN) – Survivors of the mass shooting at an outdoor Las Vegas country music festival this past fall say a pre-emptive lawsuit filed against them by the hotel where the shooter set up is forcing them to relive the tragedy.
Fifty-eight people were killed and nearly 1,000 suffered injuries when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of MGM Resort’s Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, which looked out on the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Over the last week, MGM has sued victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, claiming it can’t be held liable for the massacre because its security provider Contemporary Services is approved by the Department of Homeland Security under the Safety Act. The obscure law, passed by Congress in 2002 after the 9/11 terror attacks, ensures that “the threat of liability” doesn’t stop potential antiterrorism technology manufacturers from creating their products and services.
But on Monday, survivors and family members of the victims gathered in Southern California and told reporters they felt like they were forced to relive the experience of losing their loved ones again when they learned of MGM’s lawsuit against 1,977 of them.
Jason McMillan, 36, of Riverside, California, was in the front row with his fiancée when the shooting started. He was shot in the torso and is now paralyzed from the waist down.
“There was blood pumping out of my chest onto my arm. I couldn’t breathe,” said McMillan, who was dragged by fiancée Fiorella Gaeta and then carried to the back of a pickup truck filled with other shooting victims.
“I’m a very independent person. I rarely ask for help. And I love helping other people,” he added as he began to cry. “I couldn’t help anybody.”
Brian Ahlers’ wife Hannah was shot and killed at the concert, despite his efforts to shield her. Later, on the drive home to his three children, he tried to make sense of how he would explain their mother’s death. Now, he says he’s struggling with MGM’s decision to sue him.
“I was recently told by friends that I’m being sued by MGM. To find out this huge company, MGM resorts, is suing me. How do you deal with that?” Ahlers said.
In its complaint, MGM says it has “no liability of any kind. Last week, the company said the sole purpose of its lawsuits is to “quickly, fairly, and efficiently” resolve the nearly 2,500 victim lawsuits by removing them to federal court.
“Years of drawn-out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing,” MGM Resorts spokeswoman Debra DeShong told Courthouse News.
In a statement Monday, DeShong added: “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.”
But victims at Monday’s press conference expressed doubts about MGM’s motives.
“What gives them the right to do this again? To put us all through that,” said Joyce Shipp, whose daughter Laura was killed at the concert.
Shipp’s 23-year-old grandson Corey – Laura’s son – asked MGM: “I have to live without the most important person in my life, and you’re going to sue me for that?”