A 12 months after the lethal catastrophe at Travis Scott‘s Astroworld pageant on Nov. 5, 2021, occasion organizers and victims are nonetheless locked in sprawling litigation over the tragedy, with lots of of tens of millions in potential damages on the road and no fast finish in sight.
Starting simply hours after the incident, greater than 4,900 alleged victims have filed authorized claims towards Dwell Nation, Travis Scott and different pageant organizers over the catastrophe at Astroworld, during which a crowd crush throughout Scott’s headlining efficiency left 10 useless and lots of bodily injured.
The instances declare the organizers had been legally negligent in how they deliberate and carried out the occasion, together with not offering sufficient safety and having inadequate emergency protocols in place. One case, filed by the household of a boy who died that evening, claimed Dwell Nation and Scott had “egregiously failed of their obligation to guard the well being, security, and lives of these in attendance.”
Mixed, the instances are searching for billions in damages over the catastrophe. Even when a last settlement comes no the place near that whole — and it possible received’t — the large potential penalties ensuing such “mass tort” instances ought to serve a stark reminder for these planning future music festivals.
“In enterprise conditions there’s at all times a stress to chop prices, however you possibly can’t reduce prices in a approach that finally ends up costing folks lives and limbs,” says Mark Geistfeld, a professor at New York College College of Legislation and an skilled in such litigation. “The purpose of mass torts is that you just want one thing on the market to mood the revenue motive.”
“These instances could be a actual get up name,” Geistfeld says. “Are we truly spending sufficient on safety and issues like that to verify these varieties issues don’t occur?”
The lawsuits over Astroworld had been all filed individually by the completely different victims, however they’ve been consolidated earlier than a single Texas state decide as a “multidistrict litigation” — a regular process aimed toward avoiding the inefficiency of individually litigating many instances that share key similarities.
Such a transfer not solely helps streamline the proceedings, but in addition may make it simpler to achieve a broad settlement with all victims, like the $800 million deal that ended comparable litigation over a 2017 mass capturing at a Las Vegas live performance pageant.
“Settlements are the way in which these instances virtually at all times finish,” says Jay Tidmarsh, a professor at Notre Dame Legislation College and an skilled in advanced civil litigation. “They make sense due to the dangers of loss on either side in addition to the price of litigation.”
A 12 months into the case over Astroworld, sources near the litigation inform Billboard that the events are at the moment within the midst of what’s often called discovery — the laborious course of throughout lawsuits during which both sides arms over mountains of proof to their opponents, like inner emails about how the occasion was deliberate. Requests for such information have been exchanged, and disputes over what ought to be disclosed will probably be hammered out by the decide within the months forward.
The events are additionally gearing as much as begin depositions, during which attorneys for both sides will take testimony from the assorted figures within the case, doubtlessly together with victims themselves, witnesses to the catastrophe, folks concerned in planning and plenty of others. Either side can also be lining up their very own “skilled witnesses” — specialists and professionals who will provide dueling evaluation on what went down at Astroworld.
That work may nonetheless take effectively over one other 12 months, given the sweeping scope of a case involving greater than a dozen defendants and 1000’s of plaintiffs. However when discovery and depositions ultimately wrap up, the case will possible head in one among two methods.
One is a fast settlement. Based mostly on what will get disclosed throughout discovery, it may turn out to be obvious to attorneys for the organizers that they’re dealing with a really sturdy case. Or plaintiffs may get frightened that their final damages award is perhaps restricted, even after years of pricey litigation.
“A method these instances go is what’s known as world peace — a big settlement that can cowl all of those claims,” Geistfeld says. “If the quantity is true, it would simply be higher for either side to take that route reasonably than go to case by case litigation.”
If the events can’t attain such a deal, they’ll hold litigating. However they received’t simply take all 4,900 instances to trial. As an alternative, the litigation will possible proceed towards what are often called “bellwethers” – a handful of trials over particular person victims that goal to function a consultant pattern of the broader case.
Within the bellwethers, the 2 sides will grapple over the core query in all of the instances — whether or not the conduct of Dwell Nation, Scott or any of the opposite planners prompted the accidents suffered by varied concertgoers. As reported by Billboard final 12 months, that query will activate whether or not the planners may have seen such a catastrophe coming, and whether or not they then took the correct steps to keep away from it.
Irrespective of how these early instances play out, specialists say the case continues to be more likely to ultimately finish in a settlement. However the end result of the bellwethers will play an enormous position in determined how that deal is in the end structured.
“What [bellwether trials] do is ready a baseline for negotiation,” Tidmarsh says. “Say the plaintiffs lose virtually all the early instances, then the settlement worth goes approach down. Say they win tens of millions, then the worth goes approach up.”