MGM Resorts International made the decision last week to sue hundreds of victims in an attempt to avoid liability for the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
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The company's unprecedented move uses an obscure U.S. law that has never been tested in court. It has been framed by the casino-operator as an effort to avoid years of costly litigation.
Last October, Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds by firing onto a crowd attending a country music concert from his room at MGM's Mandalay Bay casino-resort.
MGM is not seeking money in the lawsuits filed in at least seven states. Instead, it wants federal courts to declare that it has no liability to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
MGM argues that the Oct. 1 shooting met two conditions of the law: it qualifies as an act of terrorism and federally certified security services were used at the venue where 22,000 concertgoers were gathered as gunfire rained down from the company's Mandalay Bay casino-resort.
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The company says it is suing only people who have already sued MGM or have given notice that they intend to sue. Some of those individuals attended Monday's press conference, saying they felt victimized all over again.
"To hear that MGM was suing my family, it forces me to relive all the pain and suffering all over again," said Wayne Myer, whose son died in the massacre. "It makes me mad. I'm disgusted...I've already lost my son and now they want to sue me. They want to take whatever little I have left."
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Last week, MGM tweeted, in part, "We are not asking for money or attorney's fees. We only want to resolve these cases quickly, fairly and efficiently."
We have filed what is known as an action for declaratory relief. All we are doing, in effect, is asking for a change in venue from state to federal court. We are not asking for money or attorney’s fees. We only want to resolve these cases quickly, fairly and efficiently. pic.twitter.com/vecZkE7Aap— MGM Resorts (@MGMResortsIntl) July 18, 2018
Also in attendance at Monday's press conference was Jason McMillan, a 36-year-old Riverside County sheriff's deputy who was shot and paralyzed. He said he can't believe that MGM officials would try to foist blame onto anyone but themselves.
McMillan and his now-fiancee Fiorella Gaeta were up close to the front row when Jason Aldean took the stage that night, McMillan recalled. When the shooting began, McMillan said it took him a moment to "snap into work mode" because he didn't expect to hear the sound of a gun at the concert.
"My mind was trying to process what was happening. I'm watching people in a row in front of me all get shot...I'm seeing people hit the ground, I'm seeing people get shot. I wasn't expecting it. It's not something I was ready for at that moment," McMillan said.
He said he was in front of Gaeta, protecting her with his arms as he moved forward through the crowd. Then all of a sudden he said he couldn't feel his legs. He turned around and realized there was blood pumping out of his chest - he had been shot.
"I'm a very independent person and I rarely ask for help. And I love helping other people. I couldn't help anybody," he said, fighting through his tears.
McMillan said Gaeta saved his life.
"She saved me that night. When all the bullets were landing all around us and hitting everything around us, she didn't hesitate. She did everything that I would have done and more. She shielded me with her body," he said. "There is a bullet lodged in my spine right at T9 and I'm a paraplegic now."
McMillan said he can't believe MGM is suing him. He said he feels insulted and angry.
"It brings it all up again and it takes me right back to being helpless, and I just want them to know that I'm not just a victim from the concert. I'm a survivor, and they're not going to get away with anything. We'll keep this going, as long as it takes," he said.
Mark Robinson, an attorney for some of the victims at the press conference claimed that MGM knew that an incident like the massacre in October could actually happen. Robinson said in 2014, a man named Kye Aaron Dunbar was arrested after he was found with guns and ammunition in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. Robinson said MGM should have known that such a massacre could have happened.
Following Monday's news conference, Debra DeShong, spokesperson for MGM Resorts, released the following statement to Eyewitness News:
"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.
Regarding the Dunbar case, our employees did the right thing. They saw weapons and we immediately called the authorities. Stephen Paddock went to great lengths to hide his guns and ammunition. The judge, when sentencing Dunbar openly said he did not believe he planned to use them to commit a violent crime, unlike Paddock who actually committed a horrendous crime. There is no comparison."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.