MGM Re­sorts set­tles Ve­gas shoot­ing suits, up to $800M

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Ken Rit­ter

LAS VE­GAS — Two years af­ter a shooter rained gun­fire on coun­try music fans from a high­rise Las Ve­gas ho­tel, MGM Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional reached a set­tle­ment that could pay up to $800 mil­lion to fam­i­lies of the 58 peo­ple who died and hun­dreds of oth­ers who were in­jured, at­tor­neys an­nounced Thurs­day.

It will re­solve hun­dreds of law­suits in mul­ti­ple states that seek com­pen­sa­tion for a range of phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal in­juries from the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory and comes two days af­ter the an­niver­sary of the Oct. 1, 2017, mas­sacre.

Vic­tims say the casino gi­ant failed to pro­tect 22,000 peo­ple at a venue it owns or stop the shooter from spend­ing sev­eral days amass­ing an ar­se­nal of as­sault-style weapons and am­mu­ni­tion in his suite at the Man­dalay Bay resort.

Dr. Heather Mel­ton, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon whose hus­band, Sonny, died shield­ing her from the gun­fire, said she had mixed feel­ings about the set­tle­ment. “There’s some good that comes from it: It will help give fam­i­lies clo­sure and al­le­vi­ates their on­go­ing med­i­cal costs,” she said. “But there’s no amount of money I would take to not get my hus­band back.”

The set­tle­ment cre­ates the third-largest vic­tims com­pen­sa­tion fund in U.S. his­tory, ac­cord­ing to a claims ad­min­is­tra­tor who has doled out money in ma­jor at­tacks and dis­as­ters. Ken­neth Fein­berg, who wasn’t in­volved in the Las Ve­gas deal, said he over­saw $7.1 bil­lion in vic­tim com­pen­sa­tion af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks and $6.5 bil­lion fol­low­ing the 2010 BP oil spill.

The amount of the set­tle­ment de­pends on the num­ber of plain­tiffs who take part, ac­cord­ing to at­tor­neys who rep­re­sent thou­sands of peo­ple with claims against MGM.

“Our goal has al­ways been to re­solve these mat­ters so our com­mu­nity and the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies can move for­ward in the heal­ing process,” said Jim Mur­ren, chair­man and CEO of MGM Re­sorts.

An in­de­pen­dent ad­min­is­tra­tor will be ap­pointed by a court to al­lo­cate money from the set­tle­ment fund, at­tor­neys and MGM said. James Frantz, a San Diego at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents 199 vic­tims, said he ex­pected a for­mula to be worked out based on the sever­ity of peo­ple’s in­juries.

They ex­pect to wrap up the work by late next year, a time­line that Fein­berg called “very re­al­is­tic.” At­tor­neys will get some of the money, but they wouldn’t say how much.

The set­tle­ment fund will dis­burse at least $735 mil­lion, which MGM’s in­sur­ers will cover. If claims reach $800 mil­lion, MGM would pay $49 mil­lion to fill the gap above its in­sured amount of $751 mil­lion.

Robert Eglet, a lead plain­tiffs’ at­tor­ney, said a court bat­tle could have taken a decade or more and the deal would “pro­vide the great­est good” for those reel­ing from the mas­sacre.

“While noth­ing will be able to bring back the lives lost or undo the hor­ror so many suf­fered on that day, this set­tle­ment will pro­vide fair com­pen­sa­tion for thou­sands of vic­tims and their fam­i­lies,” he told re­porters in Las Ve­gas.

Eglet said there are a few other law­suits out there, but the “short an­swer” is that ev­ery­thing is set­tled. Other law­suits name the gun­man’s es­tate, gun man­u­fac­tur­ers, event pro­mot­ers and oth­ers.

A coun­try music fes­ti­val be­came a killing ground when a re­tired ac­coun­tant and high­stakes video poker player fired out the win­dows of his ho­tel room into the crowd.

Stephen Pad­dock, 64, killed him­self as authoritie­s closed in, and they found 23 as­sault-style weapons in his room.

Chelsea Romo, 30, a sin­gle mother of two from Te­mec­ula, Cal­i­for­nia, lost her left eye and still has shrap­nel lodged in her brain. Of the set­tle­ment, she said, “I don’t think any­thing could ever be enough” be­cause “you can’t bring peo­ple back.”

DE­NIS POROY/AP

Chelsea Romo re­counts de­tails Thurs­day of the Las Ve­gas mas­sacre. Romo lost her left eye in the shoot­ing.

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