Just one week after the fatal crowd crush at Astroworld concert, lawsuits have begun to mount. Legal experts warn that the risk of juries deciding against Travis Scott and other companies involved in the tragedy in Houston is increasing.
According to several legal experts, Scott's history of inciting concertgoers could help you pursue negligence claims against the companies responsible for the show. It left hundreds of people injured and eight people died. Experts expect that there will be many more lawsuits seeking damages, even though the investigations are only beginning.
Scott, a 30-year old rapper known for whipping fans into a frenzy and pleading guilty to misdemeanors related to stirring up crowds at past concerts is at the center of the legal chaos.
"This has put everyone on notice: ‘This is what happened, and there's no reason it couldn't happen again'," said John Werner, Beaumont, Texas lawyer who is not involved with Astroworld cases. They know that this situation can quickly get out of control.
Houston lawyer Steve Kherkher wrote that "this tragedy was months, or even years in the making" and demanded more than $1million for a man who was trampled in the melee. He said the incident was "predictable, preventable, and preventable given the rapper’s history.
Scott has been the target of more than a dozen lawsuits. These include lawsuits against several companies, such as entertainment giant Live Nation and ScoreMore, which manages the Houston venue. The complaints claim that organizers failed simple crowd control steps, to properly staff the venue and to respond to early warning signs at NRG Park's sold-out concert that attracted over 50,000 people.
Tony Buzbee, a lawyer, said this week that he was suing for three dozen victims, including Axel Acosta (21 years old), who died.
Buzbee's news conference was directly aimed at the court of public opinion. It featured a tone that was reminiscent of an opening statement, complete with slides and videos.
Attorneys seized an early warning sign of trouble from him and others. It was hours before the concert started, when fans ran past security and metal detectors to get through a fence.
"Whatever security they had, it was wholly inadequate," stated Philip Hilder, an ex-federal prosecutor from Houston and not involved in any Astroworld cases. "The crowd went straight through."
Hilder also criticised the 56-page planning document that was submitted to the city. Hilder said that the plans were "boilerplate" and contained too little information about safety in the parking lot where the performance took place. There was no seating, aisles or pens to control the crowds.
The Associated Press obtained the planning document and shared it with Hilder. It mentions possible tornadoes, bomb threats and active shooters, civil disorder and riots, but makes no mention of a possible crowd surge .
Many lawyers believe litigation will also focus on the unexplained delay that occurred between when city officials declared a "mass causality event" and when concert organizers stopped the show. This 37-minute period was during which fans continued pushing towards the stage, collapsing, and getting crushed.
Frank Branson, a Dallas personal injury lawyer, said that the band "continued on and on long before the problem existed." It's difficult to believe that there wasn't some conscious disregard for the safety and welfare of the audience.
Scott couldn't see what his fans saw from the stage, as they were being pushed, punched and pinned to the ground, with some shouting out to stop it.
In an Instagram post, the rapper stated that he was "devastated" at the deaths. He also suggested that he wasn't aware of the carnage below.
He said, "Whenever I can see the severity of the situation, I stop the TV and help the people get the help they need." "I couldn't imagine the gravity of the situation."
Scott representatives did not respond on Tuesday to an email sent by the AP for comment.
Scott is well-known for encouraging his fans to ignore security, crowd surf and stage dive below him in the moshpit. The Astroworld 2019 commercial, which has since been removed from YouTube, shows the fans storming the concert grounds and breaking through barricades.
Officials in Chicago stated that Scott encouraged Lollapalooza festival attendees to climb security barricades. After pleading guilty, the rapper was sentenced for one year in court supervision.
Scott was arrested in 2017 after he encouraged his fans to rush the stage and bypass security during a concert at Arkansas. This left a security officer, a police officer, and many others hurt. Scott was charged with several misdemeanors, including inciting to riot. Scott pleaded guilty and paid a fine for disorderly conduct.
Scott is also being sued for a concertgoer who claims he was partially paralysed after being pushed from the third-floor balcony of a New York City concert in 2017. The incident occurred after Scott had encouraged people to jump.
Ellen Presby, a Dallas lawyer, said Scott's history will be a factor in his case. However, Scott will likely defend himself by arguing that he is simply a performer who leaves security details to others, making it harder to assign blame.
She said that defense lawyers will argue that "he just hops on the stage and does his thing" and it's all pre-arranged for him. She said that she would defend him and "try to find facts that he was just as shocked and horrified" as the rest of us.
C.J. Houston Baker stated that Scott could be charged with a crime due to his past behavior. However, it would be difficult because it would need to prove intent and not carelessness.
He said, "You would have to show that he acted so that he kind of knew what was going on and did not act accordingly." He said, "That is a much higher and more difficult hill to climb than the lawsuits."
Joel Androphy, a Houston lawyer, said that most law firms will focus on civil cases that pile on defendants with the resources to pay large damages.
Scott is not the only target. Live Nation, a publicly traded corporation, has seen its stock rise as more people flock to concerts and festivals after many pandemic restrictions were lifted. Although the company declined to comment on what went wrong it issued Monday a statement saying that it was supporting police in a criminal investigation, and "will address all legal issues at the appropriate moment."
According to the company, it had $4.6 billion of cash at September. After falling more than 5% the day before, its stock dropped less than 1% Tuesday afternoon.
It would be difficult to sue Houston County and Harris County for negligence, as both are covered by the doctrines of sovereign immunity and government immunity. However, there are exceptions, according to several lawyers.
"They're mostly covered, but their conduct will be scrutinized with a critical eye," stated Randy Sorrels of Houston, a former president of the Texas State Bar Association.