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MGM shouldn’t be held liable for the Las Vegas Strip shooting

The only thing as predictable as the left’s reflexive calls for gun control after the Las Vegas shooting was that trial lawyers would be circling MGM like vultures.

On Oct. 1, a human scumbag used a hammer to break two 32nd-story windows at the MGM-owned Mandalay Bay. From that vantage point, he fired across the street at 22,000 concertgoers enjoying a country music festival. He killed 58 and wounded more than 500.

Less than two months later, the avalanche of lawsuits has begun. Last week, hundreds of shooting victims filed five lawsuits in California. Lawyers filed four lawsuits on behalf of the families of four individuals whom the shooter killed or severely wounded. The fifth lawsuit has 450 plaintiffs, all people who were injured in or witnessed the shooting.

More lawsuits are coming. Google “MGM shooting lawsuit,” and you’ll be greeted by ads from personal injury lawyers seeking clients.

The lawyers are suing the shooter’s estate, which is justified. The shooter committed a horrendous crime and what’s left of his estate should split among the shooting victims.

But they’re also suing MGM for negligence. It makes financial sense because MGM is a multibillion-dollar corporation. But it’s unjust. People and corporations should be responsible for their own actions. They shouldn’t be responsible for the acts of a criminal who vandalized their property to commit his crime.

Imagine you have a rental home and a guy uses Airbnb to rent a room. He then proceeds to break your window and shoot at cars driving by. Your security system alerts you to a problem, and you call the police. You then rush home, but not before he’s killed and injured a dozen people in the neighborhood.

Should you be liable for the criminal’s activity? Of course not. The person who’s responsible is the criminal. You shouldn’t be held liable for someone else’s intentional and illegal misuse of your property. The same thing holds true even though MGM is an international corporation worth $18.9 billion.

Abandon this principle, and it’s not just MGM that should be worried. The shooter used luggage to haul his weapons up to his room. Without that luggage, he couldn’t have assembled an arsenal. Sue the luggage manufacturer. The shooter drove to Mandalay Bay. He couldn’t have committed that atrocity without transportation. Sue the car manufacturer. Sue the dealer he bought it from. Sue any mechanic who worked on it.

My favorite. Sue the personal injury lawyer who lost the shooter’s lawsuit against the Cosmopolitan, where he claimed he slipped and hurt himself in 2011. If he’d won that lawsuit, you could argue, he wouldn’t have committed this hideous crime.

The lawsuit possibilities are endless but also stupid. You shouldn’t be held liable for someone’s misuse of your product or service.

The most logical organization to sue would be Metro police. After all, the police exist to protect people and maintain law and order, right? Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2005, the high court found that police don’t have a constitutional obligation to protect people. In that case, the woman suing had a court-issued protective order against her violent husband. The court’s findings built upon precedent established in a 1989 case.

Of course, what’s right and what a court decides are often two different things. MGM officials have hundreds of millions of reasons to be worried about the lawsuits, but they shouldn’t have to be.

MGM isn’t responsible for not stopping the Strip shooter.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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