Live Nation, Travis Scott facing lawsuits over concert deaths
8 people, aged 14 to 27, killed as crowd surged at Astroworld music festival
Multiple lawsuits have been filed and a criminal investigation opened after eight people died and hundreds were injured in an apparent crowd surge at Travis Scott's Astroworld music festival in Houston on Friday.
At least 14 civil lawsuits have been filed against promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc., or a subsidiary, Live Nation Worldwide Inc., according to court records. Of those, 10 name Scott — whose real name is Jacques Webster — as a defendant and one names Drake, a fellow rapper and guest performer.
The lawsuits generally claim that Live Nation acted negligently by failing to create and enforce proper safety protocols, failing to provide adequate security and failing to maintain proper crowd control. The victims were crushed in a chaotic surge near the stage, with some trampled and others unable to breathe.
"Conditions were created and consented to by the festival organizers that caused several stampedes and a crowd compression that resulted in the tragic deaths of eight individuals and the serious injuries of hundreds more," according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Houston resident Wasem Abulawi, who the suit says was "seriously and permanently injured."
Concert planned 'incredibly poorly'
"I think it's self-evident that this concert was planned incredibly poorly," lawyer Tony Buzbee told reporters in Houston on Monday. His law firm represents the family of one of the concertgoers who died and is reported to be suing organizers on behalf of multiple plaintiffs.
Kristian Paredes, a resident of Austin, Texas, who named Scott and Drake as defendants, said Scott had "incited mayhem or chaos at prior events" and that Toronto-born Drake was aware of Scott's previous conduct.
Scott previously pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges related to two separate incidents of encouraging fans to rush the stage, once at a 2015 music festival in Chicago and later at a 2017 concert in Arkansas, local media in both places reported.
In a statement posted on his Instagram account Monday night, Drake issued his first comment on the tragedy, saying his "heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering."
What is the legal standard?
The most likely party to face liability would be the concert organizers and promoters who determined the level of security, said C.J. Baker, a Texas-based injury lawyer.
To prevail on a negligence theory, the plaintiffs must show that the defendants knew or should have known that there were actions they could have taken to prevent a foreseeable tragedy, Baker said.
As for Scott, his previous behaviour at concerts could help plaintiffs build a case against him, said Richard Mithoff, another personal injury lawyer from Houston.
"You have to know, at some point, that if you keep pushing it, this is the kind of tragedy that will result," Mithoff said.
Scott's record could help plaintiffs establish "gross negligence," meaning an almost total disregard for others' safety, Mithoff said.
Concert paused, audience urged to make room
In a video posted to social media, Scott said that he "could just never imagine the severity of the situation."
He paused his performance once it was clear people needed medical attention and encouraged the audience to make room for an ambulance that was winding through the crowd, but later finished his set.
Both Live Nation and Scott would likely argue that the surge was sudden and unexpected, Mithoff said.
County given 56-page operations plan
Officials with the Houston police and fire departments have said that part of their investigation will include reviewing whether the concert promoter and others behind the festival adhered to the plans that were submitted for the sold-out event founded by Scott and attended by about 50,000 fans at county-owned NRG Park.
Astroworld's organizers laid out security and emergency medical response protocols for the festival in plans filed with Harris County. The 56-page operations plan, obtained by The Associated Press, says that a decision to evacuate the event would be made by the festival director after consultation with other individuals, including the security director. Such plans were filed with Harris County and Houston, and have to be reviewed by Houston police officials.
Officials have said a private company was primarily responsible for providing security at the festival, but Houston police were also assigned to the event. The plan says medical care at the festival was provided by ParaDocs, a private company based in New York.
Police worked with head of security
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said in a statement on Monday that he had a "brief and respectful" meeting with Scott and the rapper's head of security on Friday before his performance. The chief said he asked them to work with the police department.
"I expressed my concerns regarding public safety and that in my 31 years in law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages, to include a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation," Finner said.
The police department's probe would be separate from any independent investigation ordered by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County's top elected official, according to Rafael Maitre, a spokesperson for the judge's office. Hidalgo hasn't decided who would conduct such an independent review or how it would be done, Maitre said Monday.
As of Sunday, 13 people who were injured at the concert remained hospitalized. Harris County officials said Monday they didn't have updated information on the injured.
With files from The Associated Press and CBC News