The Legal Beat: The Astroworld Festival Disaster

As reported extensively by the press, on Nov. 5, 2021 the Astroworld festival (in Houston, TX) got underway. The headliner was rapper Travis Scott who founded the festival in 2018. As soon as Scott began to perform, the crowd surged toward the stage. Ten people died by being trampled or asphyxiated. Many more were injured. It has also been reported that fans had earlier crashed the VIP entrance to the venue.

Numerous lawsuits have since been filed and the question of who is responsible for this disaster has arisen. 

It should be noted that Scott has run into trouble in the past for allegedly inciting violence and praising fans for participating in such conduct at his concerts. At the 2015 Lollapalooza festival, he was cited for disorderly conduct and there were problems in 2019 at Astroworld when fans rushed to enter the festival.

Some of those who may be held legally responsible include Scott, Live Nation, the City of Houston, and Harris County.

As Scott took the stage at about 9 p.m. the crowd began to push forward from the front and sides, leading to numerous attendees being crushed. People fell, were trampled and panicked. Apparently, there were too many people near the stage and insufficient escape routes. Scott paused the concert several times before stopping it for good at 9:42 pm.

There are many legal issues raised by this disaster, such as:

• Was the event organizer or others negligent in preparing for the event and not stopping it when problems arose?

• Was there adequate and properly trained security, ushers, and police?

• Was sufficient fencing, signage, lighting, medical facilities and crowd control measures taken? 

• Were cost-cutting measures taken that increased the risk of this occurring?

• What about the layout of the stage and fan areas? 

• Did Scott incite the attendees with his conduct? What did he know about the crowd surge and when?

• What was the chain of command?

Undoubtedly, the various defendants will countersue each other for the tragedy.

One of the important questions is whether the concert should have been stopped earlier and the lights turned on when things got out of hand.

What Travis Scott knew about the crowd surge and when will be investigated. Who had authority to stop the concert? Why weren’t there more exits and contingency plans for such an occurrence? 

From a legal standpoint, it seems the overall question will be what would a reasonable person or company have done to prepare for a safe concert and what should have been done once the situation deteriorated? My guess is that the vast majority of these cases will be settled by insurance carriers for the defendants. Hopefully, in the future, music festivals will have better safety precautions in place than they had at Astroworld.