MGM Resorts International has agreed to pay up to $800 million to the victims of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shooting on the Las Vegas Strip in October 2017 that claimed the lives of 58 and injured more than 800.
Under the proposed settlement agreement, the victims of the shooting have agreed to dismiss all pending litigation against MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay, where the killer Stephen Paddock rained down bullets from a hotel room on the 32nd floor and into the crowd of 22,000 below. MGM Resorts will pay between $735 million and $800 million depending on the number of victims who ultimately participate in the settlement.
Robert Eglet, one of the lawyers who represented the victims, said in a statement Thursday that the settlement marked a “milestone in the recovery process” for thousands of victims and their families. He said that the announcement represents “good corporate citizenship” by MGM Resorts, which took a significant public relations hit last year after taking the pre-emptive step of suing the victims in an attempt to shield itself from liability.
“We believe that the terms of this settlement represent the best outcome for our clients and will provide the greatest good for those impacted by these events,” Eglet said.
About 4,400 victims, represented by more than 60 law firms, are claimants in the litigation, Eglet said. How much of a payout they will receive remains to be seen.
The court is expected to appoint an independent claims administrator to evaluate each claim and allot settlements out of the fund — a process that likely won’t be completed until late 2020. The third-party claims administrator will determine a system for doling out the settlement funds, taking into consideration the circumstances of the victim, such as loss of a loved one, physical injury or emotional distress, Eglet said.
“While nothing will be able to bring back the lives lost or undo the horrors so many suffered on that day, this settlement will provide fair compensation for thousands of victims and their families,” he said.
The settlement also averts a protracted legal battle, which Eglet said could have dragged on for more than a decade. In reaching the settlement, MGM Resorts has admitted no liability.
Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts, called the agreement a “major step” and one the company had “hoped for a long time would be possible.
"We have always believed that prolonged litigation around these matters is in no one's best interest,” Murren said in a statement. “It is our sincere hope that this agreement means that scenario will be avoided."
The settlements will be funded by MGM Resorts’ insurers with a minimum of $735 million, but the resort has up to $751 million in coverage. MGM Resorts is expected to add any additional amounts needed to fund claims up to $800 million.
The gaming company was involved in negotiations with the law firms for nearly eight months.
Eglet, who harshly criticized MGM Resorts when the company tried to avoid liability by invoking the little-known federal law called the SAFETY Act, reversed course during a Thursday news conference. He lavished praise on MGM Resorts, the largest employer in Nevada, calling the company a “shining example of what corporations can do in America.”
Still, Eglet acknowledged he was skeptical of MGM Resorts’ insistence that it was trying to consolidate the lawsuits to avoid lengthy litigation.
“I was wrong,” he said Thursday. “They proved that to me in the first several weeks of this mediation.”
Co-counsel Kevin Boyle, who also represented victims involved in the litigation, said the outcome — a major corporation aiding victims of a mass shooting — could drive change by spurring the business world to advocate for common-sense laws that may prevent such tragedies.
“Those powerful companies can put pressure on the government to make real change in this country,” he said.
The settlement announcement comes two days after the two-year anniversary of the mass shooting and one day after nine Democratic presidential candidates participated in Las Vegas-based forum addressing gun violence.
Eglet waded into the ongoing debate, saying Congress should repeal federal legislation that grants firearm manufacturers immunity from civil liability.
“Why do the gun manufacturers get a free ride?” he said. “If you want to do something about the gun violence in this country, repeal that statute and let American juries decide if the risk of putting these type of weapons of mass murder on the street outweighs the benefit. I have a feeling the American juries would stop the sale and cause a lot of incentive to the gun manufacturers to stop making and selling these type of weapons in this country if they were subject to liability.”