It has been more than a week after Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston on November 5 killed ten and injured scores of others when the crowds surged towards the stage.
Over the past week at least 90 lawsuits have been filed against Live Nation and a local promoter, festival location NRG Park and the county government body involved with managing it, a security contractor, a management company, Travis Scott himself, and Drake, who joined Scott onstage.
The Houston police conducting the probe has opened a criminal investigation, but formal charges are yet to be filed.
Based on past lawsuits performers don’t normally face liability for deaths and injuries at their concerts. However in this situation the magnitude of the tragedy is many folds greater and hence artists' liability would be a key center for litigation.
Scott has a history of unruly behavior from crowds at his concerts. In 2015 and 2017 he was arrested for disorderly conduct and inciting a riot.
In one of his concert's in 2017, a fan was partially paralyzed after he was allegedly pushed from a balcony at New York City’s Terminal 5. In a video from the same concert, Scott can be heard saying “They gonna catch you, don’t be scared” from the stage before a different fan drops from the balcony to the crowd below.
One key question that the probe should answer is if Scott knew the full extent of the chaos that was transpiring as he performed.
There are reports of Scott receiving onstage communication from people who appeared to be members of his team, and at least one video of the rapper briefly stopping his performance and calling for security because of an apparently incapacitated audience member.
But it’s still unclear what was specifically communicated to Scott, and what party might have been formally responsible for relaying communication about an emergency to him. If it could be proven that someone else was negligent on that front, that could ease his liability.
Scott’s dual role as performer and host of the festival must be considered as well. Unlike, say, Drake who appeared as a guest performer during Scott’s set, and is named as a defendant in at least one lawsuit.
After the artists, Live Nation is the next-most visible defendant in the dozens of lawsuits that have piled up after Astroworld. ScoreMore, a Texas-based promoter that Live Nation acquired in 2018, is also named as a defendant in multiple suits.
As the promoters of Astroworld, Live Nation and ScoreMore were responsible for planning, staffing, putting up money, securing permits, finding vendors, communicating with local agencies and almost everything involved in making the festival happen aside from actually playing music.
The particulars of Live Nation and ScoreMore’s potential culpability will depend on the evidence, and plaintiffs' ability to argue that the companies were lax in their preparations in areas like security and emergency response.
A leaked 55-page operations plan for the festival, which appears to have been prepared by ScoreMore. It lays out an elaborate chain of command and responsibility. The arrangement is typical of major festivals, with promoters handling top-level organization and contracting various specific tasks out to a network of vendors.
There are also allegations of negligence against the security contractor called Contemporary Services Corporation hired for Astroworld.
The venue of the festival itself, NRG Park and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, which manages the park on behalf of the county, is also facing lawsuits. If there is any liability assigned to the venue for Astroworld it would most likely have to do with the physical properties and layout of NRG Park itself.
The Astroworld disaster could result in extensive monetary damages and also affect long term changes in the way festivals are operated.