Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 | 12:58 p.m.
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A confidential settlement has been reached in a lawsuit blaming a former Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel-casino executive and his alleged sex-and-drug-oriented lifestyle for the 2007 drug overdose death of his girlfriend.
The family of the girlfriend, 23-year-old Michelle Hatchel, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas last Aug. 28 against Ed Scheetz, former chief executive of New York-based Morgans Hotel Group Co.; and against Morgans Hotel Group, which co-owns and manages the Hard Rock.
The suit charged Hatchel, who Las Vegas police said was found dead of a drug overdose in a luxury Turnberry Towers condominium on Aug. 29, 2007, had received the cocaine and oxycodone that killed her from Scheetz and that she was "assaulted and battered" while staying with Scheetz just prior to her death.
Morgans as a defendant was accused along with Scheetz of leasing the condominium where Hatchel died and Morgans was accused of condoning Scheetz's alleged promiscuous and drug-abusing lifestyle that Hatchel's family claimed contributed to her death.
The suit was dismissed Jan. 7 with attorneys for Scheetz and Morgans Hotel Group never having filed court papers responding to the allegations.
Attorneys for Scheetz, Stanley S. Arkin and Peter B. Pope of the New York law firm Arkin Kaplan Rice LLP, issued this statement about the settlement: "In August 2007 Michelle Hatchel died of a drug overdose. Her life and death were tragic. Even though our client was never served with legal papers and three of the four plaintiffs had no legal standing to bring a wrongful death suit, our client and his business associates decided to settle the lawsuit to bring closure to the Hatchel family and to end the slanderous and bogus accusations against Ed Scheetz by the plaintiffs’ attorney and consultant."
Attorneys for Hatchel's family could not immediately be reached for comment Monday on the settlement. Officials at Morgans also could not be reached and it wasn't clear if Morgans participated in the settlement.
The August lawsuit seeking $645 million in damages was filed on behalf of Hatchel's mother, Kim Hatchel; as well as Michelle Hatchel's grandmother, brother and aunt.
Three weeks after Hatchel died, Morgans said Scheetz resigned as Morgans president and chief executive officer for personal reasons.
The lawsuit said Hatchel had been traumatized by the deaths of friends in the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and Scheetz capitalized on her emotional troubles to induce her into drug use and sexual activity. Hatchel was a resident of Colorado, where she had met Scheetz at a Denver nightclub in 2005 and had a relationship with him, the suit said.
It said a wrongful death suit filed against Scheetz by Hatchel's father has already been settled for a substantial sum by Scheetz "and/or other named defendants."
It said in the summer of 2007, Hatchel was flown to New York to be with Scheetz on a flight arranged by Scheetz's secretary at Morgans and then was flown to Las Vegas on Morgans' private jet.
After arriving in Las Vegas, Scheetz was spending time with both Hatchel and an ex-girlfriend of Scheetz and in phone calls and text messages to friends, Hatchel expressed unhappiness with the ex-girlfriend's presence and feared for her safety, the lawsuit charges. The ex-girlfriend was also named as a defendant in the now-dismissed suit.
As for the alleged role of Morgans and the Hard Rock in Hatchel's death, the suit charged:
"A part of the Hard Rock marketing’s strategy its target demographic patrons included hedonistic sexually permissive and promiscuous lifestyle which also included use of illegal and/or illegally obtained ... controlled substances including but not limited to cocaine and oxycodone and as CEO of said named corporate defendants, defendant Scheetz's own lifestyle ... was a living example of said Hard Rock image and all of his actions, inactions, and/or omissions herein were within the course and scope of his employment."