Negligent Security, Part A
This article is not intended as advice for your specific matter. Rather, it is a general article about Nevada law. If you have questions about your particular case, please call Hinds Injury Law Las Vegas immediately at (702) 940-1234. This information is valid as of August 25, 2017.
On October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people attending a country music festival hosting 22,000 attendees. The gunman, Stephen Paddock, fired his weapon from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where he had an arsenal of firearms and ammunition. The tragedy unfolded over the course of 10-15 minutes of sustained gunfire and when it was over hundreds of people were injured and 58 victims were killed. It was one of the worst massacres in the history of the United States and has been reported globally here, here and here.
As the story unfolds, many questions are left unanswered. Why did he do this? How did he get all these weapons up to his hotel room without being noticed? It is being reported that he was prescribed diazepam on June 21, 2017, here. Did that have anything to do with his behavior? Is anyone else responsible for helping the gunman either intentionally or negligently? Currently, there are no sure answers to these pressing questions.
However, there are some very troubling aspects of this story that need to be analyzed by the courts – are hotels negligent when they fail to allow a person to bring such an arsenal to their hotel room? This needs to be answered because it is also being reported that the gunman rented a place overlooking the Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival, a huge event held yearly in downtown Las Vegas. The question stands – Did the Mandalay Bay provide negligent security?
Recently, real estate mogul and CEO of Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn, weighed in on the security at the Mandalay Bay, here, here and here. It had been reported that the shooter did not let anyone into his hotel room for two or three days, hanging a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Steve Wynn found that unacceptable and said it would have “triggered a whole bunch of alarms here, and we would have – on behalf of guests, of course – investigated for safety.” According to Wynn, if a guests wants their room to be left undisturbed for more than 12 hours, an inquiry begins. If a guest is found with a firearm in one of Wynn’s properties, they are removed from the premises.
Under Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton, 109 Nev. 1096 (1993), a plaintiff in a civil case can establish a case for liability against a hotel due to the criminal act of a third party where they can show there is a 1) duty, 2) breach of that duty, 3) proximate cause, and 4) damages. The idea is that a hotel has a duty to protect against the wrongful conduct of a third party where wrongful conduct is foreseeable. See Estate of Smith v. Mahoney’s Silver Nugget, Inc., 127 Nev. 855, 858 (2011).
In this case, there were a lot of outward warning signs – this gunman carried ten suitcases into the hotel filled with guns and ammunition. Did a bellman help him and not notice the weight and sound of the metal? It is also being reported that the gunman set up cameras in the hallway to alert him to the presence of law enforcement. How did no one notice this? What we also know is that the gunman appeared to be a high roller, playing $100 hands of table games and earning “comps” through his play. It is possible that the hotel knew he was bring all these guns and ammunition to his room, knew or should have known about the cameras and did nothing because of his value to the casino floor. There are still many questions left unanswered and they may remain unanswered unless the victims demand to know what the Mandalay Bay knew and when they knew it and to hold them accountable if they were negligent.
Another troubling aspect is that the gunman was prescribed 50 10-milligram diazepam by Dr. Steven Winkler on June 21. Why? Because this class of drug has been shown to trigger aggressive behavior. It is being reported that in a 2015 study published in World Psychiatry, adults and teens convicted of homicide had a 45% higher rate of killing when they were on benzodiazepines, the class of drug that includes diazepam. Is there a connection between this violent and atrocious act and the use of these seemingly therapeutic drugs? Again, the answers may only be learned if the victims decide to hold those responsible accountable by filing a civil law suit.
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