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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Analysis

‘The damages could be substantial’: Astroworld lawsuits piling up following deadly crowd surge


Plaintiffs filing lawsuits against parties involved with organizing Astroworld are exceeding 200 nearly two weeks after a deadly crowd surge killed 10 attendees. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

Plaintiffs filing lawsuits against parties involved with organizing Astroworld are exceeding 200 nearly two weeks after a deadly crowd surge killed 10 attendees. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

After the tragedy at Astroworld earlier this month, hundreds have sued the festival organizers and rapper Travis Scott, and the damages from these lawsuits can be significant, one UH legal expert said.

Several Houston lawyers, including UH alumnus Tony Buzbee, are taking on a combined number of over 200 plaintiffs in cases filed against defendants involved in Astroworld including Travis Scott, his management, record company and live-event company Live Nation, according to KHOU.

“They can rack up some pretty good damages in terms of just the personal injuries to the people,” said UH lecturer Steven Kirkland. “The damages could be substantial, particularly since there’s a whole bunch of them.”

Kirkland, a former trial judge who now works in the City of Houston attorney’s office, said many of these lawsuits filing for damages are relating to the harms experienced by the individuals.

These can include survivor claims that encompass loss of companionship or family support from deceased victims. Other claims can include psychological damages to medical expenses for treatment of physical harm and punitive damages.

“The functional differences with the decedents, your damages model is different. So with the decedents, you know, you’ve got wrongful death claims versus personal injury claims,” said UH Law Center lecturer and Beard & Barks PLLC partner Justen Barks. “But the damages models are very complicated and unique to each individual plaintiff.”

Barks said attorneys representing living victims will seek to cover future pain and suffering and economic loss.

Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendants, in this case, the promoters, organizers or the performer. A jury could determine the value of the damages and a judge would shrink that number down, according to Kirkland.

Kirkland explained that these plaintiffs are going to have certain elements included when building their cases.

This starts with their damage stories, which is showing that they’ve gone through some degree of mental anguish and experienced pain and suffering. One way to show the physical extent of this is through medical expenses.

For the punitive claims filed, the next step is to prove that injury was caused by the concert and therefore by the people being held responsible.

With these claims accusing the promoters, organizers, and performers as negligent there would need to be questions explored such as what the standard of care is for events like Astroworld. If these standards were met then the question would be if it was enough, and that would be more difficult to prove, according to Kirkland.

Although these cases might not make it to court through settlements, Kirkland said if they did it would set an industry-wide and possible legal precedent.

“Cases that involve extreme conduct often do set a precedent, and there’s no question that this is an extreme situation where you can certainly see this setting a precedent,” Kirkland said

He anticipates there would be more immediate reviews of security and crowd-control measures for future events put on by concert promoters.

However, Kirkland said instant gratification with regards to the legal ramifications of Astroworld is long into the future as these kinds of processes could take upwards of two to three years.

“It’s bad for our sense of community when many of us come together and end up walking away in trauma, it’s really sad,” said Kirkland. “That’s really sad, that something that we would do for purposes of bringing us joy and enjoyment could turn into something that’s going to cause, that did cause, and will continue to cause fear and anxiety.” 

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