Families of ten attendees killed in Houston’s Astroworld Festival concert have had six months to grieve and move on with their lives. Hundreds of injured attendees may or may not have fully recovered by now. Despite the passage of time, who’s legally responsible for the mass casualty event hasn’t been determined.
What Happened at Astroworld
The Astroworld Festival was a music festival founded by Houston rapper Travis Scott. It was held in Houston in a parking lot of the now-closed Six Flags Astroworld. The first festival was in 2018, and it last took place on November 5, 2021. An estimated 55,000 people attended last year.
The deaths and injuries occurred shortly after Scott took the stage. The crowd surged toward the stage, crushing those at the front. They could not escape, the fans panicked, the situation worsened, and security personnel were overwhelmed. The force of the crowd on those who died was so strong they couldn’t breathe. Many others fell to the ground and were trampled by the crowd and injured.
Hours before the performance, perimeter security was breached by those without tickets. This rush overwhelmed the concert’s resources, causing injuries throughout the day, according to a report by a task force appointed by Governor Abbott to investigate the incident. The Houston Fire Department responded to the scene and declared a mass-casualty incident.
Hundreds of Lawsuits are Pending with Potentially Billions of Dollars at Stake
In January, the Texas Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation granted a joint motion from plaintiffs and defendants to combine the litigation before one judge who will oversee all pre-trial proceedings.
This involves at least 387 lawsuits representing nearly 2,800 alleged victims, according to Billboard. They allege promoter Live Nation, Scott, and other organizers acted negligently when they planned and conducted Astroworld. The lawsuits claim because of that negligence, attendees were injured, and the next of kin of those killed suffered damages.
What Plaintiffs Need to Prove and How Defendants Might Respond
A negligence case puts the burden on the plaintiff to establish evidence showing it’s more likely than not the defendants acted negligently, were at least partially responsible for the crowd surge, and caused the injuries and deaths. The elements of these cases would be:
- Because of the relationship between the defendants and the plaintiff, the defendants owed a plaintiff a duty of care (to act reasonably to protect the plaintiff’s health and safety)
- The defendant breached or violated that legal duty or obligation
- That breach was the factual and legal cause of the injuries
- The plaintiff suffered damages (a measurement of harm in dollars)
- Texas law requires the defendants to compensate the plaintiff for those damages
A plaintiff must show the crowd rush, or something like it, was something that could happen, but the defendants failed to plan for it and acted inappropriately when it happened.
Was the Out-of-Control Crowd Foreseeable?
There is a long history of deaths and injuries caused by surging crowds, according to Rolling Stone:
- A 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati left 11 people dead. The event for 18,000 attendees didn’t have assigned seating. Doors into Riverfront Stadium opened much later than expected, and some opened before others. The crowd rushed forward, killing 11 people
- A music festival in Morocco in 2009 caused 11 deaths after the show ended and the crowd pushed toward the exits
- The Love Parade, an electronic dance music event in Duisburg, Germany, left 21 people dead in 2010.Thousands of fans crammed into the only way to reach the event – a tunnel 260 yards long. Crowd members started pushing, chaos broke out, and deaths and injuries resulted
Not only is there a history of these accidents happening, past Scott concerts are known as rowdy events where he urged fans to “rage” and disobey rules. He was arrested for urging fans to come onstage during shows in 2015 and 2017. Scott was sued in 2017 after a New York City show where he urged fans to jump from a balcony. One fan jumped, and the fall left him partially paralyzed.
Did Defendants’ Failure to Plan Violate Their Legal Duty to Plaintiffs?
Given this history, plaintiffs’ attorneys may show defendants should have foreseen the possibility of the crowd surging toward the stage, causing injuries and deaths. Not planning for a foreseeable event could breach the defendants’ duty of care to the plaintiffs.
Lawsuits claim appropriate planning didn’t happen. They state the event was overcrowded, poorly laid out, it lacked enough security to prevent or reduce the crowd surge, and there were no set routes to evacuate the event.
Plaintiffs would need to show what reasonable concert organizers would’ve done, state what actions should’ve been taken, and how that would’ve prevented the surge, injuries, and deaths.
Was Continuing the Concert Unreasonable?
The lawsuits also state defendants breached their legal duties in how Astroworld conducted the event. Organizers are criticized for continuing the concert for 40 minutes after first responders declared it a mass casualty event.
Defendants claim they didn’t know that declaration was made. There’s evidence even some police officers weren’t aware of it. Videos of officers near the crowd show them not taking action after the declaration. Scott claims he didn’t know the severity of the problem at the time either. Organizers also claim that prematurely ending the concert could’ve angered the crowd, which may have become more violent.
Get Advice and Help From Attorneys You Can Trust
Given the number of people involved and the amount of possible damages, it may be many more months, maybe years, before Astroworld victims settle their claims or have their cases brought to trial.
In Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area, contact Schechter, Shaffer & Harris LLP for the legal guidance you need with no up-front costs if the negligence of others injures you. With more than 45 years of experience representing accident victims, our team can represent your interests through these difficult times and help you receive the compensation you need and deserve.