What would Kirk Kerkorian have told MGM Resorts International about the Las Vegas Massacre lawsuits? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

What would Kirk Kerkorian have told MGM Resorts International about the Las Vegas Massacre lawsuits?

LAS VEGAS — Kirk Kerkorian passed away on June 15, 2015, at the age of 98.  His net worth at the time of his death was reportedly $4.1 billion.  He was called the “father of the mega-resort” and he is credited as being one of the most important figures in the shaping of Las Vegas.

At the time, Kerkorian built the world’s largest hotels in Las Vegas three times: The International Hotel (opened in 1969), the MGM Grand Hotel (1973) and the MGM Grand (1993).

On November 21, 1980, a fire broke out at the MGM Grand Hotel in a ground floor restaurant.

At the time of the fire, about 5,000 people were in the hotel and casino of the 26-story luxury resort which had more than 2,000 hotel rooms.

Remember 85 people were killed and 650 were injured which included guests, employees, and firefighters.  61 of the deaths were on the upper floors of the hotel, mostly in the stairwells, where all the doors except on the roof and ground floor were locked and the smoke concentration was the highest.

The 1980 MGM Grand Hotel tragedy remains the worst disaster in Nevada history.

The October 1 Las Vegas Massacre is the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

On February 10, 1981, just 81 days after the MGM fire, another fire broke out at the Las Vegas Hilton, killing at least five people.

As a result of both incidents, there was a major change in fire safety guidelines and codes.  In 1981, all buildings opened to the public in Nevada were required to have fire sprinklers, smoke detectors in rooms and elevators and exit maps in hotel rooms.

As happens in this country all too often, it always takes a tragedy for change to occur.

What makes it even worse is when negligence, incompetence, and ignorance are responsible for these tragedies as was the case with the October 1 Las Vegas Massacre, which was also entirely preventable and foreseeable.

A Baltimore Post-Examiner reader told me the other day that when the MGM burned in the 1980’s and lives were lost, Kirk Kerkorian publicly said ‘these were our guests’ in response to why he moved to provide for and settle all claims against the MGM at the time.

I heard similar remarks about Kerkorian in relation to the 1980 MGM fire when I was employed as an investigator with the MGM Grand in the 1990’s.  I always found Mr. Kerkorian to be amicable and he was always very friendly with the employees.

So, what does all this have to do with the Las Vegas Massacre and MGM Resorts International?

Well, while doing some research for this story I came upon an 18-year-old news article from November 2000 in the Las Vegas Sun, ‘MGM Grand fire altered safety standards.’

It goes hand-in-hand with what that Baltimore Post-Examiner reader told me the other day about Kerkorian.

Bill Shernoff, a Los Angeles attorney who specialized in bad faith insurance lawsuits was hired by the MGM after the 1980 fire to handle the 1985 retroactive insurance case.  The underinsured MGM paid a $40 million premium for $120 million in retroactive insurance to cover the huge claims. The insurance companies were banking on a long settlement process in order to make money from investments from the premium.

That back-fired on them, because the settlement in the 1980 MGM fire came too quickly, within five years, and the insurance companies refused to pay.

Shernoff told theSunin 2000, “It was one of the most unforgettable lawsuits I experienced.  Kirk Kerkorian took the money out of his own pocket to pay off the remaining fire victims, then sued the insurance companies.”

“It prevented the victims and their families from suffering while the matter was argued in the courts,” Shernoff said.

The insurance companies settled with Kerkorian days before the civil trial, paying $87.5 million.

Kirk Kerkorian’s compassionate concern for the victims and their families of the fire at his MGM Grand Hotel juxtaposed with MGM Resorts International’s disgraceful conduct towards the victims and their families of the Route 91 Harvest music festival, is as different as day is to night.

Combine that with MGM Resorts International’s totally insensitive, inhumane and again, disgusting conduct in the ongoing lawsuit by the family of 7-year-old Zynae Green who was electrocuted at the MGM National Harbor in Maryland last year.

A once vibrant, healthy little girl before being shocked, Zynae was left permanently disabled.  She now requires round the clock care.

This little angel will never know what it’s like to live a normal life.  I can only hope that if there is a miracle in someone’s life, that it happens to Zynae.

As I reported in our Friday Baltimore Post-Examiner article, MGM Resorts International using stall tactics after a family of girl who was electrically shocked filed lawsuit,’ Green family attorney Benedict Morelli told the media, “This is a tragedy that MGM is making worse and worse and worse.”

Last July, Jason McMillan, the 36-year-old Riverside County sheriff’s deputy who was shot while attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival and left paralyzed, told the media that it was insulting to learn that he was being sued by MGM Resorts International at the same time he was struggling to rebuild his life.

“It enrages me to think that this company can just try to skip out on their responsibilities and their liability for what happened,” McMillian said.

Attorney Mark Robinson, who represents several Massacre victims, told the media in July that his legal team unearthed evidence of an incident on Nov. 29, 2014, in which a gunman in the Mandalay Bay resort hotel was caught with a large number of weapons.

“He had high-powered rifles equipped with scopes and a silencer.  He said he was going to shoot ducks or target practice – with a silencer? No… He pointed his gun out of his room at the Las Vegas Strip. What happened was he got arrested, prosecuted, went to federal court where he was convicted and went to prison,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that MGM attorneys have been arguing that Paddock’s attack was unprecedented and that security could not have anticipated it.

“Mandalay Bay was put on notice of this even three years before” Paddock’s massacre from the same resort, Robinson said.

Roger Allen Kenis, a US Marine Corps Veteran, who was at the Route 91 music festival commented to the Baltimore Post-Examiner: “Unfortunately, it once again shows their money is more important than doing the right thing.  If a company has no heart, it has no place in our communities.  Investors are better off with a company that has some sense of morality built into its foundation. Cutting corners for profit is exactly what allowed thru their gross negligence, these tragedies to occur. Their bottom line for investors is not an excuse, not even close.  It’s their scapegoat in reasoning, and flawed principals that are the issue, yet we know they held other social moralities as higher priorities. So which is it? Does MGMRI have a conscience or not?”

Kirk Kerkorian had just more than compassion for the victims and their families of the 1980 MGM Grand hotel fire.  He had a genuine concern for their pain and anguish during the lawsuits.

I can only speculate why that was.

But I bet it had a lot to do with the fact that Mr. Kerkorian was the man he was because of how he grew up.  Not with a silver spoon in his mouth but born into a poor family.  He dropped out of college to support his family, was an amateur boxer winning 29 out of 33 fights before he gave that up.  He later obtained his pilot’s license and became a flight instructor.

During World War II, Kerkorian served with the Royal Air Force as a pilot.  After the war, he renovated and sold old military aircraft, became involved in the airline business, made money, became a billionaire and the rest is history.

MGM Resorts International is a multi-billion-dollar business empire.  Its net worth as of January 2019 is $13 billion.

If Kirk Kerkorian was still alive today, I wonder what he would think about the conduct of MGM Resorts International in relation to the victims, survivors and the families of those who were killed during the Las Vegas Massacre and that beautiful little girl, Zynae Green and her family?

I bet he would say, wrong, wrong, wrong.

About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.

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