MGM lost its bid to send lawsuits over last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas to a single federal judge.
In an order on Wednesday, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation refused to coordinate four lawsuits filed against MGM over the shooting and nine cases that MGM filed against the victims seeking declaratory relief that it wasn’t liable for injuries or deaths. MGM’s lawsuits struck an immediate backlash, both on social media for targeting the shooting’s victims and from plaintiffs lawyers who accused the company of forum shopping.
The panel also noted that, although MGM predicted as many as 22,000 victims could sue, there are just three federal lawsuits in California and one in Nevada.
“There also is significant overlap among counsel in these actions,” wrote MDL Panel Chairwoman Sarah Vance in the order. “At this point, voluntary cooperation and coordination among the small number of parties and involved courts appears feasible. We encourage the parties to employ various alternatives to transfer which may minimize the potential for duplicative discovery and inconsistent pretrial rulings in this litigation.”
Additionally, the panel said the plaintiffs planned to pursue their cases in Nevada state court, rendering any MDL moot.
Plaintiffs lawyers Robert Eglet of Las Vegas-based Eglet Prince, who argued against an MDL at last week’s oral arguments in San Francisco, noted that the panel took just three days to make its decision.
“That’s a very significant message being sent to MGM and their lawyers that this attempt at forming an MDL was a rouse and a fraud, and the court saw right through it, and that’s why they denied their motion,” he said.
MGM spokesman Brian Ahern wrote in an email: “We respect the panel’s decision and will continue to litigate our motions in the courts where the actions are pending.”
A representative for concert promoter Live Nation, which joined MGM’s coordination motion, did not respond to a request for comment.
On Oct. 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock was a guest on the 32nd floor of the MGM’s Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel, where he stockpiled an arsenal of weapons used to fire at concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. He killed 58 people and injured hundreds.
In addition to the cases before the MDL panel, other lawsuits are pending in state courts, primarily in Nevada. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, along with Eglet, also filed a class action against bump stock manufacturer Slide Fire Solutions. Slide Fire makes devices that Paddock used to convert his rifles into fully automatic weapons. On Sept. 17, Nevada Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro granted Slide Fire’s dismissal of that case, concluding that it sold a “component part,” and not just an “accessory,” as defined under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields firearm manufacturers from liability.
“We’re evaluating what we’re going to do,” Eglet said. “We’re going to file an amended complaint, but we’re also considering an appeal of the court’s order.”
In July, MGM’s lawyers, Brad Brian and Michael Doyen of Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, filed its suits in Nevada, California, Texas, New York, Florida, Arizona, Utah and Alaska. The suits are declaratory actions against 1,977 victims who sued or threatened to sue MGM for failing to provide security that would have prevented the shooting.
In what many experts called a novel move, MGM cited the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, or SAFETY Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to encourage development of security technologies certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
MGM insisted that the SAFETY Act warranted coordinating all the cases in federal court.
The MDL panel said that wasn’t enough.
“The declaratory judgment actions do not, on their own, present sufficiently numerous or complex common questions of fact to merit centralization,” Vance wrote.
On Wednesday, the MDL panel granted transfer requests in other cases, including:
- 140 lawsuits that Denmark’s taxing authority, the Customs and Tax Administration of the Kingdom of Denmark, or SKAT, filed against various pension funds to recoup $2.1 billion in an alleged tax fraud scheme. The panel sent the cases to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Southern District of New York. Kaplan, who was SKAT’s top pick, is one of seven judges on the MDL panel. The order says he took no part in the decision.
- 28 lawsuits brought over alleged defects in Zimmer M/L Taper hip implants. The panel sent the cases to U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over one of the first cases. The panel noted that the “representations made by counsel at oral argument left us with considerable doubt concerning the parties’ cooperative efforts to date.”
- A dozen price-fixing lawsuits filed against various makers of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate, including Bayer Corp. and The Dow Chemical Co. Both are compounds used in polyurethane products such as mattresses, insulation, clothing and paint. The panel sent those cases to U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
- 17 lawsuits filed by personal injury law firms and other businesses alleging Tribune Media Company, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and major broadcasters conspired to fix prices for TV advertising. The panel sent those cases to U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall in the Northern District of Illinois.