The Astroworld Festival tragedy that left eight Travis Scott fans dead and at least 25 others hospitalized will likely result in settlements that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, and possibly even prison sentences for figures involved with the show, according to lawyers who brought suits over previous concert tragedies. Nearly 40 lawsuits have already been filed against Scott, Drake, Live Nation, and many other entities connected to the festival.
“I’m just shocked,” says attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who represented families of people killed at the 2011 Indiana State Fair when the stage collapsed in bad weather before a planned Sugarland concert. “This event was foreseeable and predictable, so it was preventable. Somebody needs to be held to account.” (“We continue 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,” a Live Nation spokesperson said in a statement, “and we will address all legal matters at the appropriate time.”)
For Rhode Island-based attorney Ronald J. Resmini, who represented victims of the 2003 Great White fire at the Station nightclub, which killed 100 fans, the case is a nightmarish bit of deja vu. “It’s like they were playing Russian Roulette with a loaded gun,” he says. “It’s just gross negligence.”
The Great White fire resulted in lawsuits against the band and their management team, the club owners, the state of Rhode Island, the manufacturers of the foam insulation involved in the fire, JBL Speakers, Home Depot, Clear Channel, and many other entities only tangentially related to the tragedy.
The death toll from Astroworld death toll may be significantly lower than the Station fire, but Astroworld was a much larger event, so there’s many more targets for lawsuits. That includes the security companies contracted to work the show, insurance companies, NRG Park, Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, and quite possibly the city of Houston for failing to stop the show before it started, the lawyers said.
“The head police officer at that location actually had a consultation before the show with [Scott],” says Resmini. “He expressed concerns… It definitely [emphasizes] the fact that they went forward knowing it was more likely than not to be a foreseeable risk.” (Houston Police chief Troy Finner said he met with Scott “for a few moments” before his headlining set. “I expressed my concerns regarding public safety,” he said in a statement, “and that in my 31 years of law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens.”)
“There’s exposures for anybody who promoted the event or even invested in it,” Resmini continues. “Anybody who has even a sniff or smell in that concert production is exposed to significant liability.”
The lawsuits will likely be consolidated into one so they can be brought in front of a single judge, which prevents conflicting decisions. “That will involve the liability aspect of the case,” says Allen. “In other words, it will determine who will be held to account and for what percentage.”
At that point, big money settlements will almost certainly follow, the attorneys said. “They all settle,” says Resmini. “That’s because the defense fees on these cases are exorbitant. Also, in my opinion, they are definitely liable here. They simply cannot win in court. It’s impossible. They have no argument. The final tally will be in the hundreds of millions. If the Station fire was, to be successful, a B plus case, this is as a A plus. There’s no way it will go to court. No way. Impossible.”
A criminal investigation of the Astroworld tragedy is already underway, and there is precedent for charges to be brought: Great White tour manager Daniel Michael Biechele pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Station fire and was sentenced to four years in prison, though he was let out after after just two.
It’s still very early in the Astroworld legal process, but the lawyers didn’t rule out the possibility of a similar outcome. “Maybe somebody needs to go to jail this time for there to be real changes made [to the concert industry] in the future,” says Allen.