What is expected to be a flood of lawsuits over deaths and injuries associated with the Astroworld Festival has begun in earnest, with at least two actions filed in Houston, Texas courts over the weekend.
News of the first filings came not long after the Houston Chronicle published an article in which prominent local attorneys predicted an influx of lawsuits asking for “hundreds and hundreds of millions” in damages from the eight deaths and hundreds of injuries reported from Friday’s concert at NRG Park.
Houston resident Manuel Souza filed suit Saturday in the District Court of Houston against festival founder and headliner Travis Scott, promoter Live Nation, individuals affiliated with NRG Park and Scoremore Holdings, and several other defendants. The suit describes Souza as injured, without going into the nature or extent of the injuries.
On Sunday in the same district court, another plaintiff, Austin resident Kristian Paredes, filed suit against some of the same defendants, including Scott and Live Nation — and notably added the superstar Drake, who was a featured guest through the climactic stretch of Scott’s performance. Paredes is described in the suit as having “suffered severe bodily injuries” in the crowd melee, some of them characterized as “permanent.”
One of Souza’s attorneys, Ryan S. MacLeod, a partner at Kherkher Garcia LLP, said in a statement to Variety, “As proud residents of Houston, we are sickened by the devastating tragedy that took place on Friday night. Travis Scott has a history of inciting violence and creating dangerous conditions for concertgoers. In fact, he tweeted that he would let the wild ones in after the show sold out. He and those who promoted and supported this concert must take responsibility for their heinous actions. We intend to hold them fully accountable by showing that this behavior will not be tolerated in our great city.”
MacLeod added, “We will be investigating this tragedy over the next few days and hope to shed light on what happened and provide answers to victims and the families of those victims. No one should ever attend a concert in fear. This must stop.”
These lawsuits quickly proved true a statement made earlier by Randy Sorrels, past president of the State Bar of Texas, who had told the Houston Chronicle, “Litigation will be filed by the end of the Monday or sooner, because lawyers representing the victims need to move quickly to secure the evidence at the scene and to make sure evidence is not destroyed or tampered with.”
Indeed, Souza’s lawsuit does ask for a restraining order requiring the preservation of all evidence related to the events.
Representatives for Scott and Live Nation did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuits.
Said Thomas J. Henry, who is representing Paredes, “Live musical performances are meant to inspire catharsis, not tragedy. Many of these concert-goers were looking forward to this event for months, and they deserved a safe environment in which to have fun and enjoy the evening. Instead, their night was one of fear, injury, and death. … There is every indication that the performers, organizers, and venue were not only aware of the hectic crowd but also that injuries and potential deaths may have occurred. Still, they decided to put profits over their attendees and allowed the deadly show to go on.” Henry’s representative said the personal injury attorney is talking with others who say they were injured at the show as well.
The Chronicle story quoted Houston attorney C.J. Baker as saying that the Chronicle that Harris County and the Harris County Attorney’s Office will conduct thorough investigations as to who is culpable for the injuries and deaths. He predicted that if Live Nation can be proven to “have foreseen this kind of thing happening… then the damages the company is facing will be hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.” Baker also predicted a likelihood of lawsuits against Scott: “If the performer could tell there was a problem or if the performer agitated or incited the crowd, then the performer will have legal liability. There is going to be a lot of video to review, and we are going to know who said what and who did what.”
Souza’s suit, filed by Steve Kherkher of Houston firm Kherker Gracia LLP, says that he “suffered serious bodily injuries when the uncontrolled crowd at the concert knocked him to the ground and trampled him,” saying that “the injuries were the inevitable and predictable result of defendants’ conscious disregard of the extreme risks of harm to concertgoers that had been escalating since hours earlier.” After providing snapshots of fans rushing through security barricades in the afternoon, and photos of ambulances in the audience during Scott’s headlining set, the filing says that “so many people were hurt, and so few emergency personnel were provided by defendants, that patrons themselves had to conduct CPR on their fellow concertgoers. Yet defendants made the conscious decision to let the show go on, despite the extreme risk of harm to concertgoers that was escalating by the moment. Eventually, due to defendants’ active decision to let the show go on, the scene devolved into a complete melee, resulting in the needless, untimely death of at least eight people and injuries to scores of others.”
The Souza lawsuit also includes a screenshot of a tweet on Scott’s Twitter account in which, allegedly in response to a complaint about the festival’s quick sellout, Scott is seen as writing: “NAW AND WE STILL SNEAKING THE WILD ONES IN. !!!!!!” — a comment that had nearly 100,000 likes at the time it was captured. “This recklessly encouraged fans to breach the barriers and otherwise actively encouraged a culture of violence.” The filing also includes screenshots taken from widely publicized videos taken Friday afternoon of fans rushing through broken-down security barricades to gain free entry into the grounds.
Peredes’ lawsuit contends that Drake is culpable along with Scott. “As Drake came onstage along side of Travis Scott he helped incite the crowd even though he was knew of Travis Scott’s prior conduct,” wrote Curtis W. Fitzgerald II, filing the suit on behalf of the law office of Thomas J. Henry. The suit says Drake continued to perform alongside Scott “while the crowd mayhem continued.”
In a story published Saturday, the Chronicle broke down a timeline of the event. According to the newspaper’s reporting, police and firefighters declared a “mass casualty” event at 9:38 p.m., 32 minutes after Scott’s set began, when the crowd surges reportedly started. The paper reported that promoters agreed to find a way to cut the concert short soon after the 9:38 “casualty” report, but that the show continued until Scott ran through his planned setlist and finished as scheduled at 10:15 p.m.
However, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner has defended letting the show play out, saying that an abrupt halt could have caused a riot. He also gave reporters a slightly different timeline, one that had the show ending at 10:10. Finner said the festival was not undermanned and that the number of officers on hand should have been sufficient to handle a crowd of 50,000 under normal circumstances.
The concert, which included Drake coming on stage for for the final songs of Scott’s performance, was being webcast live to a worldwide audience by Apple Music. The second night of the festival, planned to unfold Saturday, was immediately canceled as the extent of the casualties of the first night became evident.
Scott has expressed sorrow over the devastation that occurred during his set, and although he paused the show upon seeing an ambulance to acknowledge possible issues in the crowd, has said he had no idea serious injuries or deaths were occurring. “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” the star wrote on social media Saturday. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.”