Music Festivals- Lawsuits and Liability

As many of you may know, the summer is peak time for music festivals. These events draw eclectic crowds of all ages, and cater to a wide range of musical and cultural interests. Recently there was Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, Firefly in Dover, Delaware, Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, and many more happening all over the country. These events attract massive crowds by the hundreds of thousands, and unfortunately, they’re no Woodstock. Every year people die at major music festivals, accompanied by hundreds of arrests and injuries. Considering the mass drug and alcohol use that typically takes place, this is not entirely surprising. Some people are beginning to point the finger at the electronic dance music community (EDM) as a whole, as there seems to be more drug related deaths at those festivals. One major electronic festival, Electric Zoo in New York City, was forced to cancel their final day this year due to deaths involving MDMA. Often in these circumstances, it is difficult to allocate responsibility. It is entirely foreseeable that in that large of a crowd, something will go wrong. Police presence and safety measures are not, unfortunately proving up to the task of reasonable safety for such a large crowd.  Families of several victims of an incident at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, however, are attempting to hold the festival corporations accountable for wrongful death.

South by Southwest (SXSW) festival occurs every March in Austin. Last year during the festival, Rashad Owens was pulled over at a traffic stop for suspected drunk driving. Because he had warrants out for his arrest, he claims he was scared and sped off down a one way road into the festival area. He collided with a barrier and continued to accelerate into a crowd for about three blocks, hitting several other vehicles before being stopped. Four people were killed and over 20 were seriously injured. Owens is now facing capital murder charges for his actions. Now, the families of eight victims have filed lawsuits against SXSW Holdings Inc., SXSW LLC., and Traffic Design Consultants LLC for negligence, claiming that the incident was a “preventable tragedy.” They argue that the organizing companies for the festival failed to protect festivalgoers adequately from potential dangers by not following Federal and State guidelines requiring use of “rigid” barriers. The lawsuits also argue that SXSW should have been well aware of the potential for drunk drivers surrounding the festival, because of the expected excessive alcohol consumption. In my opinion, the potential for an incident like this to happen seems much more possible at an event like SXSW, because it takes place among the streets in the city rather than a more remote location. The case is expected to go to trial this year, and my heart goes out to the families affected by such a tragedy. Hopefully, by holding corporations like this accountable, we can assure more safety for people in the future. In the meantime, if you’re planning on attending a music festival this summer, have fun but remember to be safe and cautious.

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years.  Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer.  Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All