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Liability for Injuries at Concerts

Just a few weeks ago tragedy struck when a crowd surged the stage while attending the Astroworld Festival in Houston. It was later learned that hundreds of concertgoers had been injured, with 10 dying from their injuries including a 9 year old boy. Since that time, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed, including one on behalf of 125 victims, including the family of a 21 year old man who died of cardiac arrest after being crushed by the crowd. The law firm filing suit has indicated that another suit on behalf of another 100 victims will be forthcoming. 

The suits, which to-date alleges $3 billion in damages, named a number of defendants including Travis Scott, who was getting ready to perform at the time of the surge and was the founder of the concert, as well as a number of other parties affiliated with the festival including Apple Music, Live Nation, Epic Records, Cactus Jace Records and Tristar Sports & Entertainment Group. This is not the first lawsuit brought against Scott as a result of a concert. In 2017, a concertgoer attending one of his concerts was pushed from the third floor balcony after Scott encouraged fans to jump from balconies, saying that the fans below would catch them. 

It remains to be seen who will, if anyone, will be found guilty for the injuries and deaths that occurred at the Astroworld Festival. Unfortunately this is not the first time that catastrophe has struck at a concert. Other examples of catastrophic injuries at concerts where victims successfully recovered damages include:

  • a 2012 concert in which DJ Skillrex landed on a woman while diving off the stage. The woman’s injury caused her to have a stroke 16 days later. She was awarded $4.6 million in damages. Liability was divided among Skillrex (35%), the venue (10%) and the touring company (40%). The plaintiff was found to be 15% liable for the accident. 
  • a 2016 fire at Ghost Ship, a California warehouse which had been converted into a venue, in which concertgoers were trapped and 36 died. A settlement of $32.7 million was reached in that case.
  • stage equipment and metal scaffolding being knocked into a crowd waiting to hear Sugarland perform at the Indiana State Fair in 2011. In 2014, a $50 million settlement between the victims and 19 companies was reached.
  • 100 deaths, including the band’s guitarist, and 200 injuries when the manager for the band Great White set off fireworks inside at a nightclub in Rhode Island which quickly engulfed the venue in flames. A settlement of $1 million with the band was reached. Rhode Island, and the town where the fire occurred, reached separate settlements agreeing to pay $10 million in damages. Criminal charges were also filed against the band’s manager. 

Liability 

Like other personal injury cases, negligence on the part of the defendant(s) will need to be shown in order to recover damages. To prove negligence, the injured concertgoer(s) (plaintiff) will need to prove that:

  1. the defendant owed the concertgoer a duty. The duty owed is one of reasonable care.
  2. the defendant breached that duty; and
  3. a causal relationship exists between the defendant’s breach and the plaintiff’s injury. 

In the case of a concert, for example, the owner of the venue owes the concertgoer a duty of reasonable care to keep the venue, which includes its premises, reasonably safe. Assuming that the plaintiff can prove that the duty of reasonable care was breached, the plaintiff will have to show that defendant(s) negligence caused a dangerous situation, or that the defendant(s) negligently failed to fix the issue after it was discovered. In the Astroworld case, and cases that deal with crowd surges, often it is alleged that security was inadequate. That either there was not enough security or that there was no way to escape. 

Assuming the plaintiff successfully proves a duty and breach of duty, he/she will have to show causation. This is perhaps the most difficult element to prove. For example, if insufficient security is alleged then the plaintiff will have to prove that additional security would have prevented the plaintiff’s injuries.  

Damages

The damages in personal injury cases include compensatory, or those intended to make a party whole, and pain and suffering, those for which it is hard to assign a value. Compensatory damages include: medical bills (doctor and hospital visits, prescriptions, medical equipment, rehabilitation) and lost wages for time missed from work. Pain and suffering includes mental and physical distress, loss of enjoyment and loss of consortium. In certain cases, punitive damages may be available. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and to send a message to the community as a whole. 

It is important to know and understand the laws of the state in which the injury occured. For example, an injured concertgoer at a Charlotte, North Carolina concert will likely have a harder time recovering damages than one injured at a concert in New York. The reason for this is that North Carolina, along with a handful of other states, follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, meaning that if a concertgoer is found even partially at fault for his/her injuries, he/she will not be able to recover damages. This can be a particularly harsh rule. For example, in the DJ Skillrex case cited above, the plaintiff was found to be 15% liable. Despite that, she still received $4.6 million in damages. In North Carolina, she would have received nothing because she was found to be partially at fault. 

Our Charlotte, North Carolina Attorneys Can Help

If you were injured while attending a concert in Charlotte, or anywhere in North Carolina, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to determine if you have a claim, and against whom. The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced personal injury attorneys who can help you understand your rights and whether or not you have damages and should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation. 

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