Two Retired Judges Will Decide How $800 Million Settlement for Las Vegas Shooting Victims Is Divided
The 2017 Las Vegas shooting tragedy left 58 people dead and over 800 seriously injured. The shooter wielded an armory of 23 guns on the crowd of concertgoers from his suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. In October, an $800 million settlement was reached between MGM Resorts and the victims’ families. Last week, USA Today reported that two retired judges will ultimately be responsible for determining how that record-setting settlement figure is divided among the victims. Though unofficial guidance from outside attorneys and judges is to be expected, two individuals now comprise the de facto authority tasked with quantifying the pain and suffering endured by 4,500 plaintiffs represented in the lawsuit.
USA Today’s column is a thorough examination of the near-universal reality that personal injury attorneys inevitably encounter when handling mass tort cases with such sizeable settlement funds — few will be happy. Though the $800 million settlement figure seems significant at face value, putting a price tag on pain and suffering is a responsibility few would wish for.
The victims’ attorneys reportedly chose former mediation judges Jennifer Togliatti and Louis Meisinger to handle the task. Togliatti is based out of Las Vegas, while Meisinger is from Los Angeles. Many of the victims, as well as their attorneys, reside in California, which was reportedly a consideration when selecting Meisinger. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs are reported to have preferred two mediators rather than one given the vast number of cases, many of which include intricate details requiring exhaustive analysis.
The judges are unable to publicly disclose any details regarding the method behind the valuation process due to an agreement reached with attorneys representing both the plaintiffs and MGM Resorts. Personal injury attorneys and tort professionals have indicated the judges are likely to utilize a “sliding scale” as a means for identifying the most severe cases among the several thousand. In effect, the judges are tasked with ultimately placing a dollar value on each victim’s injuries (with many victims experiencing emotional trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety issues).
Attorney Craig Eiland is representing around 1,400 plaintiffs. In an interview with USA Today, Eiland described the settlement division process as a “sliding scale” where “broad categories are set” to identify plaintiffs according to the significance of their physical injuries.
“Once these broad categories are set, my responsibility is to make sure we have all the information possible so the judges can make a financial judgment on each case based on things such as lost wages, medical bills, and summaries of care,” Eiland said.
Presently, a number of victims remain undecided over whether or not they will opt into the $800 million settlement fund. While attorneys expect the majority of victims to opt in, doing so requires them to wave any future claims against MGM Resorts. Opting out of the fund allows plaintiffs to bring their own civil lawsuits against MGM Resorts, provided they meet the May 2020 filing deadline.
Personal injury and tort attorneys typically caution plaintiffs considering opting out of such large settlements, given the legal costs involved in preparing a case properly for trial. However, attorneys’ fees for similar personal injury and wrongful death cases often involve no upfront cost to the plaintiff, but can ultimately be as high as 45% of a victim’s awarded amount.
Settlement funds for plaintiffs opting in are anticipated to start being distributed in late 2020. The MGM settlement represents the third-largest victims compensation fund in U.S. history. Through the agreement, MGM did not admit any liability for the shooting.