Some AstroWorld defendants try to get out

Lots going on here.

Apple, Drake and other defendants targeted have asked a Harris County court to dismiss them from a sprawling lawsuit filed by victims of the 2021 Astroworld disaster.

A flood of new motions and documents filed in Harris County’s 11th Civil District since the end of 2023 show efforts by attorneys to define just who is responsible for the failures at the Travis Scott concert that killed 10 people and injured scores more.

At the same time, filings from the plaintiffs’ lawyers reveal expert testimony, expected to play a part in any upcoming trial, that employees from two concert’s organizers — NRG Park operator ASM Global and Live Nation — knew the expected crowd size would exceed safe levels days before the concert and failed to heed lessons learns from previous Travis Scott concerts in 2018 and 2019.

“It is an industry accepted principle that elements of crowd behavior can be predicted and that a crowd can be managed if handled properly,” wrote Larry Perkins, of Perkins Crowd Management Group, a consultant on crowd safety. “However, in the case of the Nov. 5, 2021, event, the festival was not properly planned and staffed resulting in the inability to manage the ingress and crowd flow.”

The planner failed to meet industry standard, he wrote.


In a March 8 filing, attorney for Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham, said despite a meticulous complaint filed by the plaintiffs lawyers, developed over the course of two years, they did “not attribute any direct conduct, activity, omissions or obligations” to Drake that caused the disaster. The rapper performed for about 14 minutes, and only got on the stage after many of the injuries had already occurred, his attorney wrote. He was not involved in the planning of the festival, his attorney said, and was an invitee “much like the festival patrons.”

In its filings, Apple also said it didn’t have anything in to do with planning the concert.

“Apple’s involvement was limited to Travis Scott’s performance — one performance out of dozens during the planned two-day event,” Apple wrote, saying the plaintiffs lawyers didn’t have a “scintilla of evidence” to claim the concert was a joint venture between the tech company and Scott.

In a different motion, Apple also pushed back at a claim made by ASM that the tech giant was to blame to disaster because one of its livestream cameras “may have created obstructions that would have further reduced the usable square footage for accommodating the audience.”

Apple was contracted to livestream the concert on Nov. 2, 2021, just three days before the show, lawyers wrote.

See here for previous coverage. I don’t have any opinion on these motions, which seem like normal lawyering to me, but I am interested in the expert testimony that this tragedy was foreseeable. There’s more on that in the story, and in this Houston Landing piece.

Ten days before the 2021 Astroworld music festival, the event’s safety director was worried about whether organizers could cram throngs of fans in front of main act Travis Scott.

“I feel like there is no way we are going to fit 50k in front of that stage,” Seyth Boardman wrote to the festival’s operations director. “Especially with all of the trees!”

Boardman’s fears became deadly reality on the night of Nov. 5, 2021, when 10 young fans packed into a section near the stage suffered fatal injuries from a crowd crush during Scott’s musical set.

Boardman’s message was one of several high-level conversations about crowding at the festival in the days and hours leading up to the festival’s deadly climax, according to a review of hundreds of pages of court records filed in recent weeks.

Those documents, submitted in connection with the mass of civil litigation from victims, contain the most detailed information yet about the lead-up to the festival, which has never been the subject of an independent investigation. Harris County commissioners rejected Judge Lina Hidalgo’s request for one after the tragedy.

In the absence of an outside review, contract experts for the plaintiffs have authored their own attempts to make sense of the disaster. They contend festival planners relied on a fundamental misunderstanding of how many people they legally could pack into its grounds – and they did not have enough space even by their own, generous estimates.

That error, the experts allege, was compounded by security lapses on the day of Astroworld that allowed gatecrashers to swarm the festival grounds, and a failure to monitor the crowd for the tell-tale signs of crowd crush.

There’s more, so read the rest. This all sounds bad, but it’s evidence being put forth by the plaintiffs. The defense still gets to have a say, both in terms of questioning this evidence and presenting their own. There will be a lot more to come in this case.

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