MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liability
By REGINA GARCIA CANO
Wednesday, July 18
LAS VEGAS (AP) — MGM Resorts International has sued hundreds of victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in a bid to avoid liability for the gunfire that rained down from its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas.
The company argues in lawsuits filed in Nevada, California, New York and other states this week and last that it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The lawsuits target victims who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims or have threatened to sue after a gunman shattered the windows of his Mandalay Bay suite and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival.
High-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more last year before killing himself. Victims with active lawsuits against MGM don’t face the company’s legal claim.
MGM says the 2002 law limits liabilities when a company or group uses services certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and mass attacks occur. The company says it is not liable because its security vendor for the concert, Contemporary Services Corp., was federally certified at the time of the Oct. 1 shooting.
MGM claims the victims — through actual and threatened lawsuits — have implicated CSC’s services because they involve concert security, including training, emergency response and evacuation.
“If defendants were injured by Paddock’s assault, as they allege, they were inevitably injured both because Paddock fired from his window and because they remained in the line of fire at the concert. Such claims inevitably implicate security at the concert — and may result in loss to CSC,” according to the MGM lawsuits.
CSC’s general counsel, James Service, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it doesn’t comment on litigation involving the company or a third party.
MGM wants a court to declare that the U.S. law “precludes any finding of liability” against the company “for any claim for injuries arising out of or related to Paddock’s mass attack.”
Brian Claypool, an attorney who was at the music festival during the shooting, called the lawsuits a “hypocritical maneuver” that will turn into a “public relations nightmare for MGM.”
“We collectively view this as a bullying tactic to intimidate the survivors who are rightfully seeking social change and redress through the litigation process,” Claypool, who represents dozens of victims, said in a statement.
MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong said Congress determined that federal courts should handle any lawsuits over mass attacks where federally certified security services were provided.
“While we expected the litigation that followed, we also feel strongly that victims and the community should be able to recover and find resolution in a timely manner,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Attorney Robert Eglet, who represents victims in a lawsuit pending in federal court in Nevada, also decried the casino operator’s move, saying the company is filing complaints nationwide in search of a sympathetic judge. He told AP he has been flooded with calls from victims.
“This is absolute gamesmanship. It’s outrageous. It’s just pouring gasoline on the fire of (the victims’) suffering,” Eglet said. “They are very distraught, very upset over this. MGM is trying to intimidate them.”
Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.
Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO
Veterans’ Charities That Mislead:
BBB Wise Giving Alliance Joins Federal, State Regulators to Announce Enforcement Actions
BBB Wise Giving Alliance Urges Donors to Check Out Groups Before Giving; Offers Tips, List of Accredited Veterans’ Charities
Columbus, OH (July 19, 2018) – BBB Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org), the charity monitoring organization affiliated with BBB, joined today with the Federal Trade Commission, state Attorneys General, and state charity regulators to help the donating public avoid misleading charity appeals and find trustworthy veterans’ organizations to support. The event was held at the FTC’s headquarters in Washington, DC to announce the latest enforcement actions against veterans’ charities.
“Americans have a strong interest in supporting charitable organizations helping veterans or active duty service members,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “which is why it is particularly disheartening that we hear about recent government actions that identified misleading appeals from charities that claimed to help our service members. As with any charity appeal, we urge donors to exercise caution and check out organizations before making a giving decision.”
As potential donors respond to appeals from such organizations, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advisory tips:
• Mistaken Identity: Watch out for name confusion. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.
• Check Outside Sources Before Giving: Visit Give.org to check out a charity’s trustworthiness by verifying that it meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. These standards address more than just finances; they also cover charity governance, results reporting, appeal accuracy, and donor privacy. Also, check with your state government’s charity registration agency, usually a division of either the attorney general’s office or secretary of state’s office.
• Avoid On-the-Spot Donation Decisions: Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation.
• Find Out What They Do: Don’t assume what the veterans organization does based on their name alone. Review the appeal carefully and see if it matches program and financial information appearing on the organization’s website.
• Recognize Telemarketing Cautions: Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If interested in a call on behalf of a veterans’ charity, always check out the organization online before donating.
• Be Wary of Unusual Donation Transaction Options: Watch out if a charity solicitor asks for donors to send contributions using an unusual transaction method such as wire transfer, gift cards, or pre-paid debit cards. This could be a ruse to enable questionable solicitors to get funds quickly.
• Learn How Donated Items Will Be Used. If a veterans’ charity is soliciting for used clothing, cars, furniture and other in-kind gifts, find out how they benefit. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter what the contents.
• Seek Out Financial Information. Verify the accuracy of financial information in veterans’ organizations appeals. Check out the charity’s report on BBB’s Give.org or review the charity’s website for its latest financial information. The BBB Standards for Charity Accountability call for a charity to spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program service activities, as opposed to fundraising and administrative costs.
For more tips on giving to charities including mailing list removal, car donations, and sweepstakes appeals, visit our giving guidance and tips page.
The following provides links to BBB Wise Giving Alliance reports on the six veterans charities referenced in today’s FTC’s press conference. These charities did not disclose any of the requested information to BBB WGA.
- Foundation for American Veterans
- Healing American Heroes (aka Help Our Wounded)
- Healing Heroes Network
- Help the Vets (aka American Disabled Veterans Foundation, Military Families of America, Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer)
- National Vietnam Veterans Foundation
Below is a list of 26 nationally soliciting veterans and military service charities that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability (i.e., BBB Accredited Charities):
1. America’s Vet Dogs – The Veteran’s K-9 Corps
2. Blinded Veterans Association
3. Boot Campaign
4. Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation
5. Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes
6. Disabled American Veterans
7. EOD Warrior Foundation
8. Gary Sinise Foundation
9. Green Beret Foundation
10. Homes for Our Troops
11. Honor Flight Network
12. K9s for Warriors
13. Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
14. Military Spouse Corporate Career Network
15. Operation Healing Forces
16. Operation Homefront
17. Soldier’s Angels
18. Team Red, White & Blue
19. Travis Manion Foundation
20. USA Cares
22. Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home for Children
23. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
24. VFW Foundation
25. Wounded Warrior Project
26. Wounded Warriors Family Support
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.
ABOUT BBB Wise Giving Alliance:
BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) is a standards-based charity evaluator that seeks to verify the trustworthiness of nationally soliciting charities by completing rigorous evaluations based on 20 holistic standards that address charity governance, results reporting, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues. The BBB WGA produces national charity reports and local Better Business Bureaus produce local charity reports – all reports are available at Give.org.
If you would rather not receive future communications from BBB Serving Central Ohio, let us know by clicking here.
BBB Serving Central Ohio, 1169 Dublin Rd., Columbus, OH 43215 United States
July 19, 2018
Attorney General DeWine Announces Action Against Sham “Help the Vets” Charity as Part of National Sweep
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a multi-state action against a Florida-based nonprofit accused of misleading donors across the U.S. about how their donations would be used. The action is part of a nationwide crackdown on sham veterans’ charities.
Help the Vets reportedly collected more than $11 million from donors in Ohio and other states between 2014 and 2016 but used less than five percent of it on charitable programming. Instead, the vast majority of funds went to its founder and paid fundraisers.
Under an action by Attorney General DeWine, the Federal Trade Commission, and the attorneys general of California, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon, the organization will no longer be able to solicit donations, it will release its remaining funds to be distributed to other charities, and its founder, Neil G. Paulson Sr., will pay $1.75 million to be used for charitable contributions.
“There are many organizations in Ohio and across the U.S. that do great work to help veterans and service members,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Unfortunately there are some groups that only pretend to do this kind of work. We want people to know the difference. Sham charities drain away money and resources that could be used by honest, legitimate organizations.”
The action against Help the Vets is part of “Operation Donate with Honor,” an effort by the Federal Trade Commission and officials in every U.S. state to curb giving to fraudulent charities that falsely claim donors’ contributions will help veterans and service members.
Help the Vets, which also operated under names including American Disabled Veterans Foundation and Military Families of America, claimed donations would be used to provide medical care and other services to wounded veterans, but investigators found that these programs largely didn’t exist and that any benefit to veterans was “merely incidental.” Instead, most of the money went to for-profit fundraisers the group hired to collect donations.
To help Ohioans avoid charity scams, Attorney General DeWine offered the following recommendations:
• Don’t rely on a group’s name alone. Many sham charities have real-sounding names.
• Research charities using the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and other resources.
• Check an organization’s IRS Form 990, which is typically available on Guidestar.org, to find program descriptions, expenses, and other details.
• Be aware that some calls come from for-profit companies that are paid to collect donations. If you ask, these professional solicitors must tell you how much of your donation will go to the charity. They also are required to identify themselves.
Suspected charity fraud should be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section investigates suspected violations of the state’s charitable laws and pursues enforcement actions to protect Ohio donors.