Two years after the deadliest mass shooting in the history of America, more than a half-dozen local people injured now face the task of having each of the individual cases assessed while an $800 million court settlement is sorted out.
On Thursday, lawyers representing MGM Resorts International, which was sued by other lawyers representing hundreds of shooting victims, announced a settlement of between $735 million and $800 million for those injured in the shooting.
At least four men and four women from the Santa Clarita Valley were among the more than 2,530 litigants affected by the mass shooting.
One of the people shot in the Las Vegas shooting was Dominica Zeolla, of Canyon Country.
“I’ve been in physical therapy since the incident happened,” Zeolla said Friday.
Zeolla, a real estate agent who went to Canyon High and College of the Canyons, spent more than a week in the hospital after being shot.
“It affected my spine, my ribs, my muscles,” she said Friday, reflecting on the shooting.
“I’m glad we got justice, but no amount of money is going to bring back the loved ones we lost,” she said.
“It won’t take away what we all had to endure,” she added. “I hope my medical is covered by this and the ongoing physical therapy.”
On Oct. 1, 2017, lone gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of country music fans at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas strip. Shooting from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Paddock killed 58 people, wounding 422 others. When the shooting was over, 851 people were injured, including those who suffered non-gunshot injuries.
Paddock, 64, was found dead later that same night in his hotel room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His motive remains unknown.
Valencia law firm Owen, Patterson & Owen LLP, representing the family members of shooting victims, filed its first lawsuit in probate court aimed at freezing the assets of the responsible parties, focusing its initial attention on the security practices of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
The firm’s lawyers have been hammering out the details for two years.
“For two years, our staff has been diligently gathering medical records,” Rick Patterson, founding partner of Owen, Patterson & Owen LLP, said Friday.
On Friday, the firm notified the people it represents. The notification reads: “After months of negotiations, we are pleased to inform you that we have reached a settlement agreement with MGM to resolve all claims and lawsuits pertaining to the 1 October shooting. While the settlement itself is complex, the key terms of the agreement directly (affect) you.”
On Friday, Patterson reflected on two years of intense discussion in courtrooms in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“This has certainly been one of the most complex cases we’ve handled, given all the moving pieces,” Patterson said.
Now comes the task, he said, of assessing how much money goes to each of the individual victims.
His letter to clients said: “As our client, your are eligible to apply to be part of the settlement fund … a court will assign an independent claims (administrator) to evaluate each claim and allocate the settlement funds to each person who participates.”
Patterson said Friday: “In gathering information about the injuries, we had to establish a standard in dealing with these medical injuries.”
“Some lost their lives, some still have shrapnel, some who will not — ever — be able to work again, some lost limbs,” he added.
“The response from them has been one of gratitude,” he said about the law firm pursuing their cases.
Negotiations in reaching a settlement began in earnest, Patterson said, in February.
One of the key aspects of the talks was bringing all of the victims with legitimate claims under one representative group, Patterson said.
“We understood the importance of working together,” Patterson said.
A year ago, before negotiation talks began, Patterson was in and out of courtrooms.
On Oct. 1, 2018, he said: “Further investigation has revealed the hotel allegedly was aware of suspicious activity surrounding the killer. Many are questioning how someone was able to check into a hotel for just a few days, with baggage pieces loaded with assault rifles. The shooter also placed a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on his door the entire stay. That should have raised suspicions.”
Court papers presented during summer 2018 by Owen, Patterson & Owen reveal 634 plaintiffs sued MGM as of July 2018. One court document reads: “In total, 2,530 individuals have sued MGM or suggested they may sue.”
“Discovery in each of these actions promises to be a mammoth undertaking,” one court brief shows.
Now, the process of assessing each individual case is shaping up to be just as daunting, Patterson said.
In the past two years, Zoella has bonded, she said, with other local victims of the shooting.
“You feel a connection,” she said. “We always give each other a hug.”