Posted by Suraj A. Vyas | 3 minute read
Yes, but it's not that plain and simple.
October 1, 2017: There was a mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The shooter was in Mandalay Bay (owned by MGM Resorts International™) and according to MGM, "More than 2,500 people have filed or threatened to file lawsuits against MGM." MGM is suing victims in an effort to avoid liability.
So, how does MGM avoid liability?
MGM points to the SAFETY Act*, which stands for Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002. The SAFETY Act was put in place shortly after 9/11 and allows for companies who provide services to help prevent and respond to situations like the mass shooting to apply for certification by the Department of Homeland Security. Certification allows the company to be immune from liability claims in federal court. MGM hired Contemporary Services Corporation, a company whose services have been certified by the Department of Homeland Security under the SAFETY Act. MGM believes that because they paid for these certified services, they should be immune to civil liability claims as well. Of course, this liability protection only applies to federal court so attorneys for the victims and MGM are arguing where the case is allowed to be heard. To answer that properly would really require a course on Constitutional law that this blog post can't get into at the moment.
However, this case does have another interesting angle to it. The SAFETY Act basically defines "act of terrorism" as any act that the Secretary determines unlawfully causes harm to a person, property, or entity, in the United States AND uses or attempts to use instrumentalities, weapons or other methods designed or intended to cause mass destruction, injury or other loss to citizens or institutions of the United States. The reason this definition is so important is because the FBI (and many international agencies) require an ideological motive or objective for an attack to be labeled as terrorism. The shooter did not indicate any sort of political, religious, social, racial, or environmental motivations. However, the SAFETY Act does not require any sort of these ideologies in order for an act to be labeled as terrorism. This opens the door for attacks that may now qualify as an "act of terrorism" and invoke that immunity from liability in federal court under the SAFETY Act.
With thousands of potential lawsuits, MGM is trying to beat the victims to the punch and get a judgment saying the victims have no right to sue them. However, it's not necessarily an attack that many headlines (including, quite frankly, the one for this blog post) make it out to be. They aren't suing for any sort of monetary award or even attorney's fees. Regardless, the ever-dangerous court of public opinion has made its ruling with #BoycottMGM gaining traction over the last week. It'll be interesting to see how this develops as it could lead to significant developments for major corporations in the future.
*This is the HOMELAND SECURITY ACT OF 2002, PL 107–296, November 25, 2002, 116 Stat 2135 (6 USCA §§ 441-444) for you attorneys out there.
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