During SXSW in 2014, a man named Rashad Owens drove drunk through barricades and into a crowd on Red River. He was attempting to flee police. His drunken rampage led to four deaths and several injuries. In early 2016, Owens was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison.
News came out in mid-January 2017 that the largest civil suit against South by Southwest had been dismissed. The lawsuit was filed by six plaintiffs and a Dallas attorney who says he plans to appeal the dismissal.
Are Music Festivals Liable for Injuries?
They call Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and with good reason. But when events draw large crowds, there is high potential for injury. Injuries happen for a variety of reasons – slips and falls in unsafe venues, car accidents and alcohol/drugs, to name a few big ones.
In the case of the SXSW lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that the incident with Rashad Owens was a preventable tragedy. They said that the organizing companies for the festival should have been aware of the potential for drunk drivers, given that the festival takes place in city streets. Because the festival did not adequately protect festivalgoers with rigid barriers, required by state and federal guidelines, these wrongful deaths and injuries were the responsibility of the festival.
Under the doctrine of premises liability, festival organizers can be held accountable for injuries caused due to unsafe festival conditions. But, in this case, the judge believed that SXSW had no way of predicting Owens’ behavior.
If you are injured at a music festival, do everything in your power to gather evidence of the negligent party’s liability. Become a reporter – get witness contact information, take pictures of your injuries and keep all receipts for your medical treatment.