Victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas should have a firmer idea within the next three months of how much money might be available for disbursement from the estate of the gunman, Stephen Paddock.
But most lawyers and experts don’t believe it will add up to a lot when it’s doled out.
District Court Judge Gloria Sturman on Thursday assigned Larry Bertsch, a certified public accountant and financial forensics expert, to begin taking inventory of Paddock’s assets — the bulk of which appear to be homes he owned in Reno and Mesquite. Estimates on the real estate site Zillow show the combined value of the two homes to be close to $800,000.
The financial forensics expert said he had "no idea" what the totals might be, but John Cahill, public administrator for Clark County, said he’d be surprised if it added up to more than $1 million. Earlier estimates have gone as high as $5 million, but Alice Denton, the lawyer who sought the appointment of Bertsch, said that was probably on "the outer limits" of the value of Paddock’s holdings.
Paddock, a known high-stakes gambler in Las Vegas, Reno and Mesquite, is responsible for the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, where he shot and killed 58 people while wounding hundreds more. There were more than 20,000 people at the concert when he opened fire from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, which offered a clear view of the festival.
The 64-year-old had six-figure lines of credit at several casinos and was known to play video poker in the high-limit areas where thousands per poker hand could be dealt. Formerly involved in real estate, he had become a professional gambler and didn’t appear to have outstanding debts to any casinos. He also had wired $100,000 to his girlfriend prior to the shooting.
Thursday’s hearing also came at a time when victims of the mass shooting have been assembling a strategy for suing MGM Resorts International and Live Nation — the company that staged the Route 91 concert.
A. Craig Eiland, a Texas-based lawyer, has been helping spearhead a coalition of more than 60 attorneys from at least a half-dozen states representing hundreds of victims to get them to agree to not sue the Paddock estate individually because that strategy would ultimately lead to smaller payouts for their clients.
He said with each lawsuit, the cost of defending it in court eats into the estate’s holdings. By getting all of the clients to agree to not sue individually, it protects the total value and will allow for larger disbursements. Eiland said the real focus for litigation is directed toward MGM Resorts International, Live Nation and Mandalay Bay.
Denton said all of the civil lawsuits brought against the Paddock estate in Clark County have been voluntarily dismissed and a couple others are sitting in court that aren’t likely to move forward either. She said attorneys will be meeting to try and get the same agreement from lawsuits filed in states such as California, Texas and Florida.
The agreement so far has not included potential creditors that Paddock may have owed money to, Sturman pointed out in court. But attorneys said none have come forward so far to lay claim to the assets.
Denton said Paddock’s mother owned her son’s assets, but the shooter’s brother — Eric Paddock — has power of attorney. Denton said Eric Paddock has indicated he doesn’t want any of his brother’s assets and wants it to be divided among the victims.