Live Nation Entertainment Inc. is being targeted by more than a dozen lawsuits over the deadly crush of concertgoers at the promoter’s Astroworld Festival in Houston last week, but at least one expert says it may be too early to know who’s at fault.
Stan Kephart, a former police officer whose consulting company has worked on crowd-management probes for more than three decades, said in situations like Astroworld the greatest legal risk lies with performers and the cities that approve the events. U.S. rapper Travis Scott was performing at the concert Nov. 5 when eight people died.
Crucial evidence will likely involve comparing the number of people in the crowd with how many tickets were authorized to be sold under the contract, said Kephart, who’s based in Phoenix. If the numbers match, Live Nation may be less liable because private security and police are supposed to keep out people who don’t have tickets, he said.
“We don’t know the cause or relationship between what happened and specifically where the fault lies,” Kephart said. “In this instance we don’t know factually a number of things about this particular venue in Houston that need to be figured out before we can say what liability lies where.”
Details of Scott’s behavior on stage will also be scrutinized, Kephart said.
Scott and Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, were sued Saturday by a man who says he was seriously injured after being knocked down and trampled. The suit, filed in state court in Houston, also named concert promoter Scoremore LLC and several individuals tied to the event at NRG Park.
“Tragically, due to Defendants’ motivation for profit at the expense of concertgoers’ health and safety, and due to their encouragement of violence, at least 8 people lost their lives and scores of others were injured at what was supposed to be a night of fun,” the complaint says.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Sunday said he filed suits on behalf of multiple victims, including 21-year-old Noah Gutierrez. Crump, known for representing the family of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after his racially charged death in 2012, asked concertgoers to reach out and tell their stories.
“We are hearing horrific accounts of the terror and helplessness people experienced,” Crump said in a statement posted on Twitter.
More civil lawsuits against Scott and Los Angeles-based Live Nation are expected. Houston police are also conducting an extensive investigation.
Live Nation returned to profit last quarter after about two years of losses during Covid-19 lockdowns.
In a Nov. 6 tweet, Live Nation said it was “heartbroken for those lost and impacted.” Two days later, the company said in a statement that it is continuing to “support and assist local authorities in their ongoing investigation so that both the fans who attended and their families can get the answers they want and deserve, and we will address all legal matters at the appropriate time.”
Scoremore said in a statement on Twitter that it is also cooperating with authorities. Neither company immediately responded to messages seeking comment.
The press office for the city of Houston didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Scott’s history of encouraging fans to misbehave is once again in the spotlight. The Houston native was arrested twice on public disorder charges tied to concerts in 2015 and 2017, when he encouraged fans to ignore security measures and rush the stage at events in Chicago and rural Arkansas, respectively. He pleaded guilty both times.
Scott also was sued over another 2017 incident at a concert in New York city in which a fan was paralyzed after a crowd, allegedly incited by the performer, pushed the fan off a balcony.
People at his concerts have been known to “jump up on the stage, mosh-pitting, all these things,” Kephart said. “Knowing all that, the city of Houston should have been preparing to deal with these things. That’s not the promoter’s job.”
Scott’s attorneys David Byrnes and David Lande of Ziffren Brittenham LLP in Los Angeles, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Lawyers for concert attendee Manuel Souza, who filed the first lawsuit, say the events were predictable. The complaint slams Scott and Live Nation for allowing the performance to continue even after widespread reports of trampling and people losing consciousness, and ambulances driving through the thick crowd to provide aid.
Patrons were “unable to breathe due to profound lack of crowd control, inadequate water, inadequate security, and a lack of exit routes,” the complaint said. “So many people were hurt, and so few emergency personnel were provided by defendants, that patrons themselves had to conduct CPR on their fellow concertgoers.”
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