Award for Nevada casino-goers highlights casino liability

On November 3, 2010, a civil court in Clark County found Harrah's Laughlin casino liable for injuries to multiple individuals as a result of a brawl between rival bike gangs that occurred at the casino in 2002. Following the court's judgment, the southern Nevada hotel-casino paid an undisclosed amount to plaintiffs who were injured or emotionally traumatized while caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between the Hell's Angels and the Mongols.

Premises liability personal injury law deals with accidents that happen on the property owned by another business or individual. In the case of casino accidents, it involves filing suit against casino owners for an injury that would have been prevented had the casino provided better security for bystanders. The claim hinged on the argument that officials at the casino were aware of escalating conflict between the rival biker gangs but failed to act on this information or ramp up security at a vulnerable time. The brawl occurred in the early morning hours of April 27, 2002 during the Laughlin River Run, an annual event attended by thousands of motorcycle aficionados.

The damages and the casino's culpability

According to court documents, security footage showed that gamblers and bystanders scattered, dove to the casino floor and ducked for cover when gang members began firing shots. Two Hell's Angels members died from gunshot wounds during the fight while a Mongols member was stabbed to death.

One of the plaintiffs claimed that he suffered a back injury when he dove off his chair and had flashbacks to Vietnam War combat; he still suffers from PTSD and emotional trauma. He also hyperventilated and had uncontrollable shaking resembling a heart attack. Two other plaintiffs reported being caught in a stampede of panicked casino-goers, which ultimately resulted in them ending up in an elevator full of gun-wielding Mongols. The combined damages included the man's back injury, emotional trauma and other injuries.

The casino's culpability, according to the plaintiffs, resided in its negligence in fulfilling its duty to dispatch security officers accordingly after receiving information that a threat to patrons' safety was imminent. Security officers have a duty of care to protect people at all times from potential security risks to their health and well-being, but security inadequately dealt with what happened in the 2002 incident, and innocent people were hurt as a result.

About casino gun injuries

While gun violence is often seen as the province of criminal law, this case shows, and the jury's verdict confirms, that when it happens on casino premises, it can also be a matter of civil liability. To fulfill their duty of care for patrons, casinos are expected to train their security professionals on preventative and emergency protocols for handling gun violence as well as ensure that a sufficient number of security officers are on staff to handle a potentially dangerous situation.

While a report issued in the first quarter of 2013 by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority indicated that violent crime in Las Vegas decreased 13 percent in 2012 and 11 percent so far in 2013, there still remains a risk that a similar incident could unfold in the casino mecca itself; a number of notable cases so far in 2013 have drawn concern over safety on the Strip, including three incidents that took place inside of hotel-casino establishments.

If you have suffered a catastrophic personal injury or emotional trauma while in a casino and feel as though the staff did not protect or take care of you in accordance with their duties, consult with your personal injury lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation.

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