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Las Vegas shooting victims face ‘uphill battle’ in legal cases

Updated October 6, 2017 - 6:12 pm

The victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas will likely struggle to win compensation from Mandalay Bay for physical and psychological damage, a lawyer who represented the victims in the 1999 Columbine massacre said.

Lawyer Stephen Walburg said that plaintiffs in any legal case arising from the Las Vegas shooting will have to prove that the attack was a “foreseeable event.”

Walburg added that the massacre has many of the hallmarks of the shooting inside the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012.

Much like Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, Aurora shooter James Holmes planned his midnight attack well in advance, slipping well-armed back into the theater through an exit door he propped open.

In the Aurora shooting case, a jury ruled in favor of the theater, deciding that the attack could not have been foreseen. The defense hired expert witnesses who said methodical, lone wolf shooters are the toughest to predict.

“This is not a case that I would want to take. It is going to be an uphill battle,” Walburg said.

In the April 20, 1999, attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher.

Walburg was able to win compensation for Columbine victims from the parents of the teenage shooters by proving they were negligent in allowing their underage sons to amass weapons.

Paddock brought 10 bags filled with guns and ammunition into his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay during his three-day stay. He kept a ‘do not disturb” sign on his door and installed cameras in the hallway to monitor employees.

A lawsuit by victims would most likely center on the failure of Mandalay Bay’s security and housekeeping to call into question the large number of bags and door sign, said Adam Kutner, a Las Vegas attorney specializing in personal injury.

MGM Resorts International, the owner of Mandalay Bay, did not respond to a request for comment.

Casinos have an extensive array of surveillance cameras both inside and outside their properties. They also keep detailed information about the habits of their top clients. The hotel should have been able to detect whether Paddock was acting unusually, Kutner said.

“There are tons of questions that still need to be answered,” Kutner said on Friday. “We have to see the video — it will be really interesting to see his interactions with employees.”

Neither police nor Mandalay Bay have made videos available of how those bags were brought into Paddock’s room nor have they said whether his habits differed.

The manufacturers of the bump stock that allowed Paddock to turn his guns into automatic weapons might also be liable, Kutner said.

Las Vegas police on Monday afternoon revealed that a Mandalay Bay security officer was shot by Paddock six minutes before he fired onto the crowd. That damages the hotel’s case that the shooting was unforeseeable, said Robert Murdock, an attorney at Murdock & Associates in Las Vegas.

Murdock said it will be very important to know when the security guard alerted central command and what was said.

“This (news) is a big deal,” said Murdock. “The evidence is starting to point to Mandalay Bay knowing that something was going to happen.”

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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