Arguments heard in River Run case

CARSON CITY -- A Las Vegas lawyer argued Monday that his clients were innocent bystanders who should be allowed to sue Harrah's Laughlin because the casino had a duty to protect them during a motorcycle rally that erupted into a melee between the Hells Angels and Mongols gangs.

Lawyer E. Brent Bryson told the Nevada Supreme Court that Harrah's should have realized the 2002 River Run in Laughlin would end in violence in which casino patrons such as his clients would suffer injuries.

Two Hells Angels and one Mongol died during a fight inside the casino.

Bryson said his five male and two female clients were "innocents" who suffered back and other injuries by being trampled during the fight. He asked the court to throw out a District Court summary judgment that dismissed the lawsuit he filed against Harrah's over their injuries.

While his clients are motorcyclists, he said they belonged to no gangs and were in Laughlin like thousands of others just to participate in the motorcycle rally.

Michael Brower, one of his clients, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran whose exploits were featured in the movie "Hamburger Hill," Bryson said in an interview.

Supreme Court justices are not expected to give a decision for several months. None of the justices made any comments Monday as to his or her leanings.

Not only was his case thrown out at both the district court and federal court levels, but Bryson's clients were ordered to pay Harrah's more than $30,000 in attorney's fees, he said.

Harrah's lawyer James Olson said Harrah's could not have predicted that the river rally would end in violence.

To prove Harrah's was negligent, Bryson had to prove "this melee was foreseeable," Olson said.

He said the issues raised by Bryson were "fully litigated" in previous court cases.

He said Bryson keeps looking for a judge who finally will give him the result he wants.

But Bryson argued that judges misapplied state laws in ruling for Harrah's.

That the rally would end up in violence was foreseeable, according to Bryson, because Harrah's knew of the feud between the gangs, and police had reports of gang members carrying concealed weapons and claw hammers.

"It was not only foreseeable, it was probable," he told the court.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.