Falls Festival Facing Class Action Over Stampede

Legal firm Maddens Lawyers announced March 15 it has filed a class action lawsuit against the four-state Falls Festival in Australia on behalf of 65 attendees.  

– Poster for Lorne

On Dec. 30 at its event at Lorne, Victoria, a stampede began as patrons were leaving one tent after a performance by Sydney band DMAs.

According to media reports at the time, 60 punters were given medical attention onsite and 19 were transported to hospital.

In January, Maddens Lawyers put a call-out through its website and on Facebook to those “injured or traumatised as a result of the stampede.”

The firm’s Brendan Pendergast told national youth radio station triple j’s current affairs show “Hack” March 15, “The allegation is that if proper care and attention had been taken to configuring the area where the acts were taking place, and the scheduling of the successive acts this stampede would not have occurred, that this was entirely avoidable.”

He added, “It wouldn’t surprise me if damages of that order [over A$1 million US$772,390] were payable … but it’s very early days.”

Falls co-producer Jessica Ducrou told “Hack,” “We are cooperating with WorkSafe in its investigation. We have had regular contact with affected patrons since the incident and are providing ongoing assistance.”

She emphasized that Falls would “definitely be going ahead in 2017.” In the meantime, Falls’ Byron Bay site, North Byron Parklands, has applied to the Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) to extend a five-year trial, which expires in 2017, an additional 20 months to Aug. 31, 2019.

The site also hosts the Splendour In The Grass festival. Both festivals are owned by Secret Service, which co-owns the site. Last year Live Nation bought 51 percent of the company.

The site’s general manager, Mat Morris, explained, “Under the current trial approval Falls Festival Byron 17/18 cannot operate. Negotiations with several international artists are also well advanced for Splendour in the Grass 2018 and negotiations covering Splendour in the Grass 2019 will commence towards the end of this year.”

According to the DP&E, a second application is for the Parklands to become a permanent home for the festivals. Its request is that the larger event, Splendour In The Grass, be allowed to increase its capacity from 35,000 to 50,000.

Local police have objected to this, according to Echonetdaily.

Tweed Byron local area command Brendan Cullen wrote to the DP&E saying this would stretch police resources to monitor the community as well as the festival.

Cullen’s letter also noted other factors, including onsite access, on-stage lighting and traffic management, would be too difficult to manage, as well as there being “no possibility of evacuating North Byron Parklands within eight hours at current capacity levels.”