NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Victims of a fatal mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival said Monday they were outraged when they learned they were being sued by the company that owns the hotel where the gunman opened fire.
Jason McMillan, a 36-year-old Riverside County sheriff’s deputy who was shot and paralyzed, said he can’t believe MGM officials would try to foist blame onto anyone but themselves.
“I just can’t believe the audacity,” McMillan said at a press conference in Southern California where survivors, victims’ relatives and attorneys railed against the decision to file lawsuits against hundreds of victims.
“I’m not just a victim from the concert. I’m a survivor, and they’re not going to get away with anything. We’ll keep this going as long as it takes,” McMillan said.
MGM Resorts International sued victims in at least seven states last week in a bid to get federal courts to declare the company has no liability for the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
In October, high-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds at the festival by firing onto the crowd from his room at the Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas. Paddock then killed himself.
MGM’s lawsuits — which target victims who have threatened to sue or who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims — argue that that the shooting qualifies as an act of terrorism and that federally certified security services were used at the concert venue, which is also owned by MGM.
After 9/11, the U.S. enacted a law giving companies a way to limit their liability if their federally certified products or services failed to prevent a terror attack.
The company’s decision to file the lawsuits stoked a public outcry. On Monday, MGM Resorts spokeswoman Debra DeShong said the company has faced dozens of lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions and resolving each case on its own would take years.
“We believe Congress determined these cases should be in federal court and that getting everyone in the same court is the best and fastest way to resolve these cases,” she said.
McMillan said he felt helpless at the concert when he fell to the ground and couldn’t feel his legs. His girlfriend helped drag his body over a fence and others helped load him onto the back of a pickup truck where he lay staring at the night sky, struggling to breathe, while the driver plowed over curbs and through bushes to rush him and other victims to the hospital.
When he woke, doctors told him he had a bullet in his spine. He was afraid his 4- and 7-year-old daughters would look at him differently in a wheelchair. He was afraid of what they might miss out on, he said, because of him.
It was insulting to learn he was being sued by MGM at the same time he was struggling to rebuild his life, McMillan said. And it brought him right back to feeling helpless again.
“It enrages me to think that this company can just try to skip out on their responsibilities and their liability for what happened,” he said.
Associated Press writer Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas contributed to this report.