Tennille joined the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada as a staff attorney in the Consumer Rights Project in...
Kristin M. Tyler, founding partner with the law firm of Garman Turner Gordon LLP in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her...
Bob Ambrogi is the only person to have held top editorial positions at both National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly...
On the night of October 1, 2017, a shooter opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino onto a crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. This tragedy left 58 people dead and more than 500 wounded. With terrible tragedies like this one, victims and their families are left to pick up the pieces and face a host of very real legal issues, anywhere from probate and wills to benefits and insurance claims.
On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, host Bob Ambrogi joins attorney Tennille Pereira from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and attorney Kristin Tyler, founding partner with the law firm of Garman Turner Gordon LLP in Las Vegas, Nevada, to discuss the legal issues stemming from the Las Vegas tragedy. Together they discuss how the surrounding legal community is assisting the victims and their families and the next steps lawyers are taking.
Tennille Pereira is a staff attorney from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.
Kristin M. Tyler is a founding partner with the law firm of Garman Turner Gordon LLP in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer – Law News and Legal Topics
The Legal Issues Stemming from the Las Vegas Tragedy
Kristin Tyler: In general, I am involved with a trust in probate section of our Bar and there’s been a lot of discussion between the section members about how is this going to play out because this is really an unprecedented event or we have this man who committed this terrible, terrible act and then he has an estate like he has from what we’ve been able to gather, he has a significant estate to probate and to have people make claims against out-of-state the victims and have his estate be distributed to those victims.
Tennille Pereira: Right now, I have about 180 files that we have taken, and we anticipate there’s going to be more, because there’s a lot of issues that haven’t come down the pike yet, especially with debts, different bills, people after they are out of work for a certain amount of time having landlord-tenant issues, other mortgage issues or different things that right now they are not really thinking at all, but yeah, as of right now the immediate response was a 180-185 cases have been taken.
Intro: Welcome to the award-winning podcast Lawyer 2 Lawyer with J. Craig Williams and Robert Ambrogi, bringing you the latest legal news and observations with the leading experts in the legal profession. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Bob Ambrogi: Welcome to Lawyer to Lawyer. This is Bob Ambrogi coming to you from just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I write a blog called LawSites. Also host another Legal Talk Network program called Law Technology Now along with Monica Bay.
My co-host, J. Craig Williams is in court today and unable to be with us.
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On the night of October 1st, a shooter opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Madalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas into a crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. The tragedy left 58 people dead and more than 500 wounded in the days and weeks since we’ve heard about the victims, we’ve heard about many of the heroes who helped the victims that night, we’ve heard about the ongoing investigation.
But one thing we haven’t really heard a lot about is the inevitable legal problems that will be encountered by the families of those who died or were injured in this tragedy, anywhere from simple probate matters to benefits, insurance claims, employment matters. So, we’re going to look at that side of this story a little bit today, and to help us do that we have two different guests, both of us who are joining us from Las Vegas.
First of all, let me introduce Tennille Pereira. Tennille is on the staff of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada as an attorney in the Consumer Rights Project. She advocates for clients in a wide array of consumer-related matters including predatory lending practices, varying types of automobile fraud, illegal repossession, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act matters and foreclosure and mediation.
Let me welcome to Lawyer to Lawyer, Tennille Pereira. Thanks for joining us today.
Tennille Pereira: Thank you.
Bob Ambrogi: Also joining us today is Kristin M. Tyler. Kristin is a founding partner with the law firm Garman Turner Gordon in Las Vegas. Her practice is focused primarily on estate planning, probate, and guardianship matters. She helps families design and implement comprehensive estate plans, utilizing various trusts, wills and other techniques for estates of all sizes, and Kristin is also an active member of the Probate/Trust Section of the State Bar of Nevada.
Welcome to Lawyer to Lawyer, Kristin Tyler.
Kristin Tyler: Thanks Bob.
Bob Ambrogi: Before we get to kind of discussing the legal issues here, I wanted to ask each of you just as residents of Las Vegas, how this impacted you or your lives personally? Tennille, how about you?
Tennille Pereira: So that morning I woke up to the news because I actually go to bed pretty early. I woke up and turned on the news, getting ready for work, and you know, the whole world just seemed to slow down and stop, watching it and realizing that this happened in Las Vegas, was devastating. It just felt like the whole community had been attacked. I wanted to freeze the day and keep my children inside and sit on the couch with my husband and my kids and just not have to face the world, just because this news was so shocking and devastating.
Bob Ambrogi: Were you impacted or any of your family members or anything in any way impacted in this?
Tennille Pereira: Fortunately, not. I did have a cousin that was in town and he was just a block away from the incident, so I was following his Facebook page and his updates that they were stuck down there, they couldn’t get their car. I told him, hey, let me know, I’ll come pick you up so that you are out of this craziness that’s going on, but fortunately my family was — it was a Sunday night, so we were all at home in bed waiting for work and school in the morning, which is probably why you have so many out-of-state residents there because I think they were on vacation where the rest of us were mostly dealing with work.
I did have one of my children, their Science teacher was there and so he came home pretty upset that day saying, my Science teacher didn’t come and they told us that the teacher was at the event and he was pretty upset so we had to have some hard conversations, but same with all our kids, we have to have that conversation of bad things happening out in the world and their sense of security is shaken, this is their town, but really, fortunately, we didn’t have anything beyond that.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah. Those are tough conversations to have.
Tennille Pereira: Right.
Bob Ambrogi: Kristin, how about you, what was your just reaction generally about what happened?
Kristin Tyler: Pure shock, pure shock about what happened, especially I did unfortunately have a number of people in my circle who were there and were affected, most closely was a co-worker whose young son was attending the concert. I say young, relatively young, and he was shot in the chest, hospitalized for I think about a week. He is home now. Physically he is healing. He is going to be fine mentally. I think he has a long way to go. I can count on both hands the number of people I know that were shot at the concert. It’s just crazy to me to be sitting here talking with people about, yeah, it’s your so-and-so got shot and so-and-so got shot. These are people we know. These are members of our legal community of our overall community and it’s just bizarre that we know so many people now that have been shot, and thankfully all those I know personally survived, although I think they all have a very long way to go mentally as does our entire community.
But, fortunately, no one in my direct circle lost their life but they were — really their lives were tremendously changed that night, there’s no doubt about that.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, they get changed forever. I mean I’ve not been through something like that but I was working in New York on the day 9/11 happened, and again, I wasn’t directly impacted other than the fact that I was working for a newspaper that day and had to kind of turn around and you are kind of in your numb over what’s happening, and then all of a sudden, you realize, well, you’ve got to get to work and things are happening and you’ve got to carry on and telling your family about it, and talking to your family is extremely difficult.
But one of the things that happened in Las Vegas, Tennille, you can tell us about this that the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada responded fairly soon after the shooting with an offer of free civil legal help to victims and their family members. Can you tell us about that?
Tennille Pereira: Yeah, absolutely, so our executive director, Barbara Buckley has a lot of community contacts. She is an amazing woman. She has done amazing things in the legal community and I think she knew that she had the foresight that there are going to be a lot of legal issues for these individuals that have gone through this, and so she put the word out there.
We also have this amazing structure in our office that this is what we do. We talk to people that are in the need and then we contact them, and some of the issues can be handled in-house with our staff attorneys and then we have this whole pro bono network with the legal community outside of our office already in place.
So, we knew that, yeah, it would be like a huge influx and it would be a big project, but we knew we had the infrastructure already set up, we had the connections already there. So, anyone in the legal community in town, could quickly step in and meet this need we knew that we could.
Bob Ambrogi: And the State Bar of Nevada is involved in this as well, do I understand that correctly?
Tennille Pereira: Yes, that is true, so the State Bar of Nevada is helping us with any of our out-of-state referrals. As I mentioned earlier there were a lot of people from out of town that were here attending the event, so what happens is they are kind of all coming to our office through our process, and if there is something that where they need an out-of-state attorney, we’re going through the State Bar and they are going ahead and contacting the State Bar of the states where the representation is needed to get them the pro bono attorney that way.
Bob Ambrogi: What kind of response has there been to your offer?
Tennille Pereira: So as of now sitting at my desk right now I have about 180 files that we have taken and we anticipate there’s going to be more, because there’s a lot of issues that haven’t come down the pike yet, especially with debts, different bills, people after they are out of work for a certain amount of time having landlord-tenant issues, other mortgage issues or different things that right now they are not really thinking at all, but yeah, as of right now the immediate response was a 180-185 cases have been taken.
Bob Ambrogi: And are those all Nevada residents or do those include out-of-state cases?
Tennille Pereira: Those include out-of-state cases also.
Bob Ambrogi: Okay, so ones that you’ve referred out.
Tennille Pereira: Right, the majority of the cases that we’ve actually gotten, even though we did have so many out-of-state visitors have been in Nevada, and that’s probably most likely due to the fact that the Family Assistance Center that was set up, it was physically set up in the State of Nevada in Vegas.
Bob Ambrogi: Can you sort of generally characterize the kinds of cases that you’re seeing coming out of this?
Tennille Pereira: I can. So, I can tell you right now the majority of the cases that we have are employment-related cases. There were a number of individuals that were working there, and some were injured. Many weren’t injured but, yet they are also very traumatized, and then you have the issue of they were told it was staffing so that they were contractors. They weren’t employees entitled to unemployment, compensation, those types of things, and then there’s also been some issues raised with us whether or not that they were paid in full.
You can imagine there were lots of cash tips and those cash tips, nobody seems to know where they are right now. There’s some allegations that’s been handed over here or they think this entity has it and there were also tips that were being paid essentially through the wristbands of the concertgoers and, so they were supposed to be distributed at the end of Sunday and none of that got distributed. So, there’s a lot of issues dealing with that kind of stuff.
Bob Ambrogi: It’s really interesting, so there must be — they are also injury-related claim, Workers’ Compensation, that kind of thing I assume as well.
Tennille Pereira: Yes, and then some of them, it’s such a horrible event. You have people there, they are working and now — and then they are running for their lives because they are being shot at, and the type of work they do is large venues like that, like that’s what they do, and now they are so traumatized, they are like, I can’t go back to that. I can’t go back to that situation. And then they couldn’t go to work for a set time. So, it just created a lot of issues that I think is going to also balloon down the road.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, Kristin, what about in your practice? Are you seeing any of these cases coming into your office, are you getting involved in any way with the after-effects of this tragedy?
Kristin Tyler: Yes and no, any direct cases not yet; however, my practice is primarily depending on probate, so this would fall into the probate realm of my practice, and I think it’s probably just much too soon for the families that these victims to be thinking about legal matters quite yet; however, it just in general, I am involved with a trust in probate section of our Bar and there’s been a lot of discussion between the section members about how is this going to play out because this is really an unprecedented event or we have this man who committed this terrible, terrible act and then he has an estate like he has from what we’ve been able to gather, he has a significant estate to probate and to have people make claims against out-of-state the victims and have his estate be distributed to those victims.
I don’t know if there’s ever been another tragedy like this and history where the person who carried this out had a significant estate. So, there’s a lot of interesting probate issues that are kind of unchartered waters in that regard, but the first step would be for someone to be appointed administrator to oversee his estate and there have been a couple of petitions filed to initiate that action.
And I just checked this morning, knowing that we were going to talk today, there’s been a hearing set for November 17. And I don’t know if it will be decided that day who will be the administrator or if that will be the first in a series of hearings to determine who it will be. It’s been suggested that our public administrator, who is a county employee should do that work. I know that he has expressed objections to that because it would extremely burden his staff; they are not a large staff, and this has a potential to be a very, very large and complex probate matter because of the number of claimants that we anticipate will make claims against the shooter’s estate.
Again, so there’s been a suggestion it should be the public administrator and a local attorney did put his hat in the ring, but then withdrew it.
It’s also been discussed with the members of the Probate Bar that maybe one of our local private fiduciaries should take that on, maybe like a local banker trust company, just to have a team of an institution overseeing that to make sure it’s done properly and as quickly as we can, because certainly everyone wants these funds to get out to the victims’ family as quickly as possible.
So, one thing I think is important to note is for anyone impacted that does want to make a claim against the estate, there’s going to be a deadline to do that. Once the probate is officially started, someone is appointed, they will publish a notice to creditors and then anyone who believes they have a claim against the estate will have 90 days to make a claim.
Now, I don’t want people to go into a panic over that right now, but it’s something that anyone impacted by this needs to have on their radar, and certainly once that deadline is set, they are going to be publicizing that deadline everywhere through the Legal Aid Center, through our State Bar, through the different sections of the State Bar, and I would anticipate that even we would have some media assistance to help spread that word to make sure everyone knows. So definitely keep an eye out for that and once those deadlines are set is when I think myself and my fellow members of the Probate Bar, that’s when we are really going to get busy.
Bob Ambrogi: I want to follow up on that, but I need to take a short break for a word from our sponsors, so stay with us. We will be right back to talk more about the legal outfall of Las Vegas shooting.
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome back to Lawyer 2 Lawyer. This is Bob Ambrogi. Joining us today are attorney Tennille Pereira from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and attorney Kristin Tyler, Founding Partner with the law firm of Garman Turner Gordon in Las Vegas, and we are talking about the legal issues stemming from the tragic shooting in Las Vegas.
And Kris, why don’t you just follow up on the question of these claims against the estate. I assume victims or victims’ families will be pursuing personal injury claims in a number of cases and I assume those are going to be not just against the shooter here, but also against other potential defendants, from gun manufacturers, to hotels, to whoever else it might be. How do those relate to the probate claims? If there’s a personal injury claim pending, does the probate process have to await the outcome of those claims?
Kristin Tyler: It may, yes, and within again the leadership of the bar and discussions at the bench we have talked, and we are trying to figure out a way to streamline that to maybe get a special master appointed to oversee all of that and try to combine it into one action to streamline it, get it under one jurisdiction of the court and try to deal with it as expeditiously as possible.
Again, this is largely unprecedented, so we are not sure about that, but the key thing is that someone who has been hurt is going to file a claim against the estate. They will probably lodge a dollar amount, or they may say dollar amount unknown and that’s when the administrator, whoever gets appointed, is then going to have to go back and forth to determine what is the value of the injury there, for lack of a better phrase.
And I have heard that with the VICTIMS’ FUND that was raised, and this is kind of a separate issue, but with the VICTIMS’ FUND, apparently, they will come up with different categories for people who were harmed. Obviously, those who lost their lives would be the top category for compensation from the VICTIMS’ FUND and we have had conversations about some sort of similar structure for claims against the estate.
I don’t have a great answer for you right now just because this is so unprecedented, but I just want people to know that the bar is looking for ways to streamline it, to manage those claims as quickly as possible and like I said get the money out to the victims as quickly as possible, because that’s where it needs to go.
Bob Ambrogi: So, I was not even aware that there had been a VICTIMS’ FUND established. So, there’s been a compensation fund similar to what’s been established in the wake of way too many other tragedies at this point in this country, that’s happened now already or is that something that’s still being talked about?
Kristin Tyler: There has. So, there was, one of our County Commissioners Steve Sisolak, along with our Sheriff, they set up a GoFundMe page for the victims, so it was kind of the official GoFundMe page for all the victims. That combined with money from MGM, UFC, Zappos, a bunch of different local companies is, according to local newspapers, around $15 million now and probably still growing.
The hope is to get all of those funds collected into one victims pool, one compensation fund for the victims, and then the county has spoken with Ken Feinberg, who has administered other victims’ funds for — he just did the Orlando Victim Fund, he worked at the 911 Fund and they kind of administered those.
Bob Ambrogi: He is the dean of the compensation funds.
Kristin Tyler: Exactly.
Bob Ambrogi: I actually had the pleasure of presenting him with an award a couple of years ago for his work and doing this over a number of funds.
Tennille, in terms of people coming to the Legal Aid Center and their offer of free legal help, I mean you mentioned employment cases, what about just family issues? Are you seeing any of these? I mean are there issues relating to care of children, have there been children orphaned as a result of this? Have you seen anything along those lines?
Tennille Pereira: Absolutely, we have seen that. It’s interesting because when you take one individual out of a family, the whole family dynamic changes, and in this case, since it was done so tragically and most of these individuals that lost their lives were young, often had minors that were still living at home that they were supporting, so now the issue becomes, okay, who is going to be in charge of them.
Some of those minors, they don’t have parents on the other side, they were relying on one parent, so now you have siblings that are coming up and stepping up to the plate and saying, well, I am going to take charge of them and raise them. And then you have other family members coming out too saying, well, hold on, I want to be the one to take them. So now you have their future kind of up in the air and who is going to take them.
So that’s where we come in and we have been working to get them pro bono attorneys that do family law to file emergency petitions if they need to be filed and work with those families to see how they can help them further.
There was one really sad case and an individual that lost his father. He was there at the event with him, watched his father basically get shot and he died. The son also got injured, but he is still here, but now the issue is where does his minor sister go, and it’s kind of like he wants to hold on to what he has left.
Bob Ambrogi: Is he an adult?
Tennille Pereira: Right, he is an adult, but there was one minor sister that still lived in the home and so now unfortunately it looks like there’s going to be somewhat of a battle amongst the family members of what happens to the minor daughter. But then also, this poor individual, he has all of these other issues to deal with too and he is scrambling, trying to hold on to the semblance of the family that he had and deal with all of these other issues, including legal issues.
So hopefully when the dust settles and those things can be worked out, but I kind of mirror Kristin’s response that a lot of these families just aren’t there yet, able to face all of the fallout. The dust is really still filling.
Bob Ambrogi: Right. Well, I mean as you say, it sounds like a lot of the fallout from this has yet to come. People starting to run into problems maybe, making their mortgage payments or dealing with medical bills piling up or insurance claims that aren’t paid, this could go on for quite a while.
Tennille Pereira: Right.
Bob Ambrogi: How is the Legal Aid Center, I know that you said that you are working with the bar to refer out out-of-state cases, how are you handling all of these in-state cases?
Tennille Pereira: So, we have had so many local attorneys step up to the plate and say we want to help here, we want to be involved. The outpouring in the legal community has just been awesome. So, we already have a network of pro bono attorneys that we work with and now we have just added to that list to get these individuals help. And so, if it’s not something that we are able to handle with our current staff attorneys, we do it through our pro bono program and those are placing like amazingly fast.
I walk up to the Pro Bono Director and I say, here’s this case, here’s a situation, here’s the paperwork and immediately he is able to place that with somebody because there have been so many attorneys that want to help.
Bob Ambrogi: That’s great to hear. Kristin, you mentioned the claims against the estate of the shooter here. There were 58 people who died. What about their estates? I don’t know how many of them again were in Las Vegas, I mean were in Nevada or from Nevada or were just tourists from other places, but are you seeing any of the outflow from that?
Kristin Tyler: Again, not yet, but it’s going to have to happen and again when we get that deadline to make a claim, people are going to need to get the legal paperwork in order. So, in order for someone to make a claim on behalf of an estate of someone who was killed in this tragedy, they will have to have someone legally appointed in the probate court, either where they reside or here, if they are from Nevada. So, we are waiting to see those come forward.
And our trust and probate section of the bar, we put out a call to those people saying, hey, if people need help making a claim or with any other probate-related issues, who is willing to help? We had over 50 separate law firms that do probate and trust work offer their services, over 50 law firms. So, there’s a whole tremendous team of probate attorneys locally here who are ready and willing to help those folks once they are able to dive into some of these legal issues associated with the tragedy and certainly once we know the deadline for making those claims.
Bob Ambrogi: It sounds like both of you are saying you have had a great outpouring of volunteer support from lawyers both locally and across the country. A lot of the listeners of this program are lawyers, is there anything more listeners can be doing to help with this? Are you still looking for more volunteers? Is there a place they can go if they want to volunteer? What can you tell them?
Tennille Pereira: So, I would say absolutely, contact our office, because again, a lot of the individuals that need help have not come out yet and we know that there’s going to be a lot more legal issues develop down the road, so we would love to have their contact information and what type of matters they can help in, so that when we do have that client walk through the door, we can immediately match them and get their needs met.
Bob Ambrogi: Okay, great.
Kristin Tyler: I would just chime in on that, the Legal Aid Center has been phenomenal. The Legal Aid Center has kind of been our quarterback on this and they are the great starting point for anyone in need of legal assistance or willing to help provide legal assistance. Contact the Legal Aid Center Southern Nevada, they are just such a great resource for our community, especially in light of what happened here, so reach out to them and let us know how you can help.
Bob Ambrogi: All right, thanks. We are just about at the end of our time for this program and I always like to give our guests an opportunity to have a final say in what we are talking about and also if you do care to let our listeners know more about how they can follow up with you, I welcome you to do that as well.
So, Tennille Pereira from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, why don’t we start with you.
Tennille Pereira: Okay. So, our organization is the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The way that we are helping right now is we are taking cases in-house and we are also working with pro bono attorneys in town. So, we would like to thank, first off, all of those amazing pro bono attorneys that we work with day in and day out and also those ones that have stood up to the plate given the tragedy that has happened and have offered their services. We could not do what we do without the support of the legal community in town.
If you have not reached out yet and you would like to offer your services to help, please contact us. Our Pro Bono Director’s name is Noah Malgeri and he will take your information and get you hooked up with some of these cases.
Bob Ambrogi: All right, thanks a lot Tennille.
Kristin Tyler from the law firm of Garman Turner Gordon, how about you?
Kristin Tyler: The best way if anybody needs to get in touch with me regarding ways to help or questions about probate or estate issues is our website, HYPERLINK “http://www.gtg.legal” www.gtg.legal.
And I guess my other two cents is just to remind everyone the importance of estate planning, even if it’s simple estate planning. Estate planning documents can make situations like these that are just so horrible to even imagine a lot more easier to deal with when you have the documents in place to say who should be in charge of things, who should be caring for minor kids, who should be exercising powers of attorney for those people that are injured.
So, this is just a great reminder to everybody listening to hopefully get their own estate planning in place and also to advise their clients and the people in their circles that it’s really important to get the estate planning done no matter how young you may be because you just never know when you are going to need it.
Bob Ambrogi: It’s a really sad reminder that your life can change in an instant and you need to have the stuff, you need to have your ducks in order, just because you just never know.
Well, thank you very much. I applaud both of you and the Legal Aid Center of Nevada and the State Bar of Nevada and Barbara Buckley, the Executive Director there at the Legal Aid Center and both of you for all the great work you are doing around this. I really appreciate both of you taking the time to be with us today, so thanks a lot to both of you.
Tennille Pereira: You are welcome.
Kristin Tyler: Thank you Bob.
Bob Ambrogi: And that brings us to the end of our show for today. If you like what you hear on Lawyer 2 Lawyer, please feel free to rate us in Apple Podcast.
This is your host Bob Ambrogi. On behalf of J. Craig Williams, my co-host and everybody at the Legal Talk Network, thanks a lot for listening and join us next time for another great legal topic. When you want legal, think Lawyer 2 Lawyer.
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