Concerts are largely a safe and fun way to spend an evening. However, we have seen several recent concerts that turned from fun to disaster, even leading to loss of life. When a gunman shot two men at an Atlanta nightclub, their families sued the club, the ticket seller, and the record label. The courts found Sony, the record label, to be guilty to the tune of $160 million.
Shooting at the Masquerade Club Kills Two
Ewell Ynoa aka Wells TK and Giovan Diaz aka Lukewarm 88 were friends who went to see a Cousin Stizz concert in 2017. Masquerade, a club at the Atlanta Underground, hosted the event.
The two young men got rowdy and jumped up on stage during an intermission. Jonathan Bautista, another concert attendee, didn’t like their actions, and a fight started between the three. Bautista pulled out his gun and shot the two friends. He then fired two shots into the floor, which injured two more people.
The scene at the club was so chaotic that police and ambulance crews took a long time to enter the club and help the victims. This made a dangerous situation worse.
The families sued over the wrongful death of these two young men. They asked the court for money to help recompense them for the lives lost. In December 2022, the court found that each life was worth $80 million, making a total verdict of $160 million. The court held liable the label, RCA Music, and its parent company Sony.
“This verdict represents an incredible day of justice for our clients and for the safety of all people that attend concerts across America,” Attorney Parker Miller said in a news release. The families now have some monetary help, but they still have big holes where the lives of these two young men used to fit.
If a concert goes wrong, someone suffers a personal injury. Personal injury is a claim in civil court that someone who had a duty to protect you failed to do so. It can include a range of harms going from mild to catastrophic to wrongful death. The idea is that the people who put on the concert are responsible for harm done at the concert.
The concert shooting in Georgia created two claims for wrongful death and several smaller claims for the other people injured when Bautista shot the floor.
Wrongful death is when someone passes away and another entity (person, business, etc.) was at least partly responsible. The responsible party must have done something wrong or at least been negligent. Only close family members can raise this charge and it compensates harm to the family for their loss.
A catastrophic injury is a legal term for a class of grievous injuries. These injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of limbs
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe burns
- Skull fractures
- Multiple bone fractures
- Organ damage
Not every action creates legal liability, a declaration of fault under the laws. Legal liability can come from
- intentional tort (a tort is a civil charge of harm)
- unintentional acts or negligence; and
- breach of contracts
Legal liability means that someone has failed in their duty to keep you safe. At this concert, the record label, its parent company, the venue, and others failed to keep the concertgoers safe from the shooter. Judges are finding this liability more frequently.
Concerts and Crowded Events
Concerts, ball games, and other crowded events bring many people together in one location. If just one person attempts an illegal action or does something exceptionally stupid, that person’s action can cause harm to many people.
Warning Signs of Lax Security
The Masquerade shooting illustrates a number of security issues.
- Training. Security workers need training in proper procedures.
- Observation. There must be a system in place to check that those who enter aren’t carrying prohibited items, especially weapons. This can be done with a metal detector, a pat down, bag searches. and other means.
- Sufficient staffing. There should be enough security guards to see what is going on in the crowd. These guards should be actively monitoring the crowd and the surrounding area for anyone carrying items they shouldn’t have, like cameras or bottles.
- Evidence of compliance. Clubs often hang their fire capacity limit on the wall surrounded by other certificates, like building inspections. These signs show a business that takes safety more seriously.
Threats at Concerts
Concerts can be a high-risk atmosphere. Many people crowd together. They may drink or do drugs. Spirits are high and people are excited. They don’t consider the dangers that they potentially face.
The plurality of concert deaths comes from drug use. These happen individually and are widely scattered. No single incident pops up in the headlines, but the danger is still there.
The drug causing the most problem is MDMA (ecstasy or molly). MDMA can make people forget to drink water, resulting in dehydration. On a crowded club dance floor they may fall down dead.
Concerts often feature fire as a special effect which can easily get out of hand. Special effects malfunction or are handled incorrectly. Someone can sneak a cigarette and not put it completely out. And then there are the deliberate actions.
Crowds can become unruly creatures. Their movement patterns can move people like a river and don’t always take them to where they want to be. It is most common for a crowd crush to happen in front of the stage, where people cram to get close to the artist. Chokepoints like doorways and tunnels can also cause of crowd crush by people.
Asphyxiation and trampling are the premier causes of injury in the crowd crush. A small push from the back of the crowd can cause ripple effects that get bigger as they move through the crowd.
Terrorism and Shootings
Today, terrorism is a growing concern at concerts. Terrorists set out to kill people with guns or bombs to make some sort of political statement., Some shootings happen for a weak reason or no reason at all.
Past Concert Disasters
People have died at concerts for a long time. However, there seems to be a recent increase in problem events. Fire has killed more people over a longer span of time, but terrorists are the more current threat.
In addition to those listed, there have been numerous nightclub fires around the world that didn’t quite meet the term “concert.”
Tips To Keep Safe
You can do several things to make yourself and your loved ones safer at concerts
Avoid open seating. The lack of assigned seats made many crowd-crush events worse. Assigned seating puts each person in a small area, separated from others. The seats themselves are a barrier to a surging crowd.
The worst is first-come, first-served or festival seating. If you do attend a festival, you do not have to claim a spot in the front. Lay down a blanket with the chill people further back.
Scope out exits. When you enter a club, note where all the exits are and which are closest to you.
Avoid choke points. Look for choke points and avoid them if possible. These can be narrow entrances or created by fencing. Non-working doors can also cause a choke point to happen.
Find police or security. Are there enough people hired to control an event of this size?
Take a protective stance – If the crowd feels strange around you, take a fighter’s stance, with feet apart and knees slightly bent, one in front of the other, and hands up. Be ready to move and help someone if needed.
Move with the crowd. Don’t try to move against it. Don’t scream, that wastes breath. Go with the flow, keeping your hands up in case you must protect yourself or someone else.
At a concert, many people or entities may have the responsibility to get people in, out, and through a concert alive and uninjured. The venue, the promoter, the record label, and more are often involved in setting up a concert.
If a crowd injures you or kills a loved one, the first thing you should do is call an experienced lawyer. They can show you your rights and duties. You may claim damages against the people who put on the concert. You may even collect punitive damages, depending on the case.
Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you if tragedy occurs. Call us or visit our website for more information.