A jury has found Harrah's Laughlin liable for the injuries and stress five bystanders suffered during an April 2002 brawl between rival motorcycle gangs that killed three people at the casino.
Attorney E. Brent Bryson, who represented the bystanders, said the verdict was announced in District Court late Wednesday.
Both sides on Thursday were attempting to reach a damage settlement. If no agreement is struck, the Las Vegas jury will consider damages on Monday.
Bryson said he believes this is the first time the Laughlin casino, which is owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc., has been held responsible for failing to protect bystanders.
"We believe the jury was able to determine what we were alleging all along -- that there was a corporate cover up regarding ... the security measures that were not taken," Bryson said.
The jury found that the deadly altercation was foreseeable, and the casino did not take "reasonable precautions," Bryson added.
Attorney Jim Olson responded, "We disagree with the finding of liability. This was tried two separate times with other plaintiffs, and the juries unanimously came in with no liability."
Olson said the casino had extra, "fully trained" security officers on hand when the violent fight broke out, and there were police and federal agents on the property, as well. He said his client may consider an appeal.
"This is the type of episode that really no security could prevent," Olson said. "This was a spontaneous melee between gangs."
The early morning brawl broke out on April 27, 2002, between the rival Hells Angels and Mongols during the Laughlin River Run, an annual rally that attracts tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the Southern Nevada town. Two Hells Angels and one Mongol were killed in the bloody disturbance.
One of the plaintiffs, Michael Bower, was in the casino about 2 a.m. when armed Hells Angels entered and "provoked a barbaric and ferocious melee" with the Mongols, Bryson said in court papers.
"Plaintiff was essentially caught in the crossfire, helpless and defenseless" and "was forced to dive off his gaming chair onto the floor to seek cover," Bryson wrote.
Bower is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Bryson said the casino altercation left his client with back injuries that required surgery and "severe mental and emotional trauma." The stress included combat flashbacks, along with uncontrollable shaking and breathing problems that resembled a heart attack.
Two couples in the casino at the time, Steven and Kathy Fuller and Andrea and Dean Daniels, also had to run for cover when the brawl broke out, Bryson wrote.
Both couples alleged in court papers that they were wrongly detained for some 10 hours, as police and hotel officials worked to restore order.
They contended Harrah's had been put on notice that the Hells Angels and Mongols were headed for a confrontation and failed to warn their guests of the "impending peril."
Their lawsuits have been languishing in the court system since 2004, once going up to the Nevada Supreme Court on appeal.
"I'm ecstatic for my clients who, after six years, are now being vindicated," Bryson said. "I'm happy that Harrah's has been held accountable."
Criminal charges stemming from the deaths were filed against members of both motorcycle gangs.
Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal. com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.