Mass shootings have increasingly become a reoccurring theme in the news cycle. The motivations for these crimes are often very different. Some times, they are ideologically-motivated terrorists attacks and, other times, they are simply the acts of mad men. The devastation and heartache experienced is, however, always the same. Because massacres impact so many people, they tend to garner a great deal of attention and subsequent outpouring of sympathy. For business leaders, these kinds of events are typically seen as moments to demonstrate the socially responsible, community-oriented side of business. While pure capitalism demands the exploitation of vulnerable communities in distress, that business instinct is supplanted by an expectation of charity in times of mass tragedy. For businesses involved in mass tragedies, however, these events also represent massive liabilities.
The leadership of MGM Resorts International has chosen to sue hundreds of mass shooting victims according an Associated Press report. Their apparent goal is to prevent victims of the late 2017 Las Vegas Shooting from suing the company. Ironically, MGM is attempting to absolve itself of responsibility with the aid of a provision from a 9/11- era piece of legislation that was created to help encourage businesses to improve their security. MGM lawyers are arguing their client used a federally certified security vendor called Contemporary Services Corp, so they have no liability. Although it is thoroughly outrageous that MGM is preemptively suing victims, who have either already dropped their lawsuits against MGM or have simply threatened to sue, it is even more outrageous that MGM is attempting to fully blame CSC based on the twisted rationale that the security firm was also responsible for the security at a concert across from their Mandalay Bay casino-resort property and victims remained in the line of fire.
Unfortunately, MGM is likely correct that most of the legal responsibility, outside of any and all negligence on MGM’s behalf, does fall on CSC. MGM’s abuse of the legal system and emotionally distressing harassment of victims should, however, earn MGM’s leadership a slew of countersuits and a couple of testimonies in front of a Congressional committee or two. The Las Vegas Shooting was likely the deadliest mass shooting of its kind inside the US, while it was defined by a great number of oddities that left it hard to belief the shooter could be responsible and indicated a conspiracy by security interests may have been at play, but the MGM lawsuit adds a whole new layer of outrage. Quite frankly, it is an example of the business community at its worst. It is a clear cut example of business interests and legal professionals conspiring to corrupt the US legal system and bend the Courts to their will. It is an example of injustice being done to those who have already been victimized.
On the other hand, MGM’s actions are not necessarily unusual or justifiable. From a human and community perspective, these kinds of lawsuits are absolutely abhorrent and unaccepted. The legal system must, however, offer some sort of protection to businesses from frivolous lawsuits and never-ending litigation. Looking at slightly less unsettling, yet equally outrageous, examples of legal abuse, doctors and hospitals are choosing to sue patients who leave them negative online reviews. In cases where patients are outright cyberstalking and/or threatening healthcare providers, doctors and hospitals have a right and responsibility to report such incidents to authorities and take any further action needed to safeguard themselves. With that in mind, healthcare providers need to be held accountable, especially since their mistakes can kill, maim, and/or bankrupt their patients. All people in positions of responsibility need to be held responsible for their shortcomings, but doctors need to be held to a higher standard.
Unfortunately, medicine is one of those professional fields where mistakes are going to happen. Even if the doctor does a flawless job under the best of circumstances, a patient can still suffer some devastating complications. It is hard to become a doctor and even harder to be a doctor. Simply put, reputation is everything to healthcare providers, so doctors and hospitals are particularly defensive when it comes to anything that might damage their reputations and imperil their careers. Confronting and dispelling, instead of suppressing, criticism is, of course, the best approach to safeguarding one’s reputation and improving the healthcare system. Suppression and lawsuits are, however, far easier, far quicker, and far more guaranteed to silence critics. The problem is that suing a patient for posting an unfavorable review on Yelp, because it was not factual, is likely going to do more damage than the review. It is also one of the worst uses of healthcare dollars possible and an abuse of the legal system.
Quite frankly, frivolous and unjust lawsuits have always been a major problem. As the world grows more interconnected, this legal abuse appears to be growing bolder and more rampant. In law, there is a rarely heard concept known as locus standi. Locus standi is the right to take legal action and to be heard in court. Traditionally, the right of locus standi has been reserved for those who have suffered undue hard due to the malicious or negligent actions of others. The right of locus standi should be generously applied to cases where individuals, as well as legal entitles like businesses, have clearly been hurt by the actions of others in some way. It should not, however, be applied to cases where no actual harm has been caused nor should it be applied to cases where the plaintiff has caused the defendant greater harm. Patients suffering from medical mistakes have had greater undue harm done to them than the doctors who received bad Yelp reviews. The victims of the Las Vegas Shooting did not cause MGM undue harm, even if they had actually sued them. In short, lawmakers and the Courts need to clarify when there is an actual right to locus standi.
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