Erika Goldring/WireImage – Travis Scott
performs during 2021 Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on Nov. 5, 2021 in Houston
As local authorities in Houston continue their investigation into what contributed to the crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Fest at NRG Park Friday night that killed at least eight people and injured many others – marking one of the deadliest concerts in U.S. history – the liability of promoter Live Nation, the venue and Scott is being scrutinized.
The eight victims who lost their lives at the event range in age from 14-year-old John Hilgert to 27-year-old Mirza Baig. NBC News
reported that 25 attendees were taken to nearby hospitals and more than 300 people were treated during the festival at an on-site field hospital.
One of the first lawsuits stemming from the festival was filed on behalf of Astroworld attendee Manuel Souza, who claims he “suffered serious bodily injuries when the uncontrolled crowd at the concert knocked him to the ground and trampled him,” according to CNN
, which obtained the suit filed Sunday in Harris County, Texas.
Souza is suing Scott, Live Nation, concert promoter Scoremore (which was acquired by Live Nation in 2018) and others involved in the event.
“Defendants failed to properly plan and conduct the concert in a safe manner. Instead, they consciously ignored the extreme risks of harm to concertgoers, and, in some cases actively encouraged and fomented dangerous behaviors. Their gross negligence caused Plaintiff serious injuries,” the suit filed by law firm Kherkher Garcia continued.
Texas attorney Thomas J. Henry filed another lawsuit on behalf of one of the victims that names Travis Scott, Live Nation and NRG Stadium, as well as Drake (birth name Aubrey Drake Graham), who took the stage during Scott’s performance as a special guest.
“There is no excuse for the events that unfolded at NRG stadium on Friday night,” Henry said in a statement. “There is every indication that the performers, organizers, and venue were not only aware of the hectic crowd but also that injuries and potential deaths may have occurred. Still, they decided to put profits over their attendees and allowed the deadly show to go on.”
Though the lawsuit names NRG Stadium, the festival took place outdoors on a flat space at NRG Park, near the former site of Six Flags AstroWorld. NRG Park is a complex of buildings that includes NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; NRG Arena, an 8,000-capacity indoor venue; NRG Center, a convention center with 706,000 square feet of exhibit space; and the NRG Astrodome, which has been closed as a public assembly facility since 2008. The venues are included in the portfolio of global facility management and venue services company ASM Global, which was formed in 2019 as a result of the merger between AEG Facilities and SMG.
NRG Park posted the following statement on its Twitter page Nov. 6:
“We are deeply saddened by the heartbreaking loss of life and the pain experienced by all those impacted by this tragedy. We are fully cooperating and working closely with police and local authorities as they investigate how this tragedy occured at the Astroworld festival.”
More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath of Astroworld, according to NBC News.
The Houston Chronicle
reports that “at least 36 Astroworld Festival concertgoers and their families – including one of the deceased – have sued or plan to sue event organizers in a bevy of civil cases that could still grow in the wake of the catastrophic crowd surge at NRG Park.”
The Chronicle notes that “Live Nation Entertainment and its subsidiary Live Nation Worldwide have been linked to at least 750 injuries and around 200 deaths at its events in seven countries since 2006, according to a review of court records, Occupational Safety and Health complaints and news reports.”
Pollstar has reached out to Live Nation for comment, though the entertainment company usually doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.
Live Nation and Scoremore are offering full refunds to Astroworld attendees, in addition to providing mental health counseling and setting up a health fund to assist victims with medical expenses.
“We wanted to provide an update on the steps that Scoremore, Live Nation and the Astroworld Fest team have been taking. Throughout the weekend, we have been working to provide local authorities with everything they need from us in order to complete their investigation and get everyone the answers they are looking for.
Our staff has met with local authorities to provide information, and we have also provided them with all footage from our CCTV cameras. Load out of the site and equipment is currently paused to give investigators the time they requested to walk and document the grounds. Full refunds are being offered for all those who purchased tickets.
“And most importantly we are working on ways to support attendees, the families of victims, and staff, from providing mental health counseling to setting up a health fund to help with costs for medical expenses.
“Our entire team is mourning alongside the community.”
Pollstar reached out to Paul Bassman, managing director at Higginbotham, an insurance and financial services company primarily based in Texas with offices throughout the southwest and California, to get his take on the liability in the Astroworld incident.
“This one is tough to discuss as we simply don’t know what exactly happened,” Bassman told Pollstar. “There have been hundreds if not thousands of festivals worldwide with larger capacities with far more aggressive genres and nothing of this magnitude has ever happened from a crowd surge. What made this different? I have some guesses but that all they are at this time. I sincerely hope that a cause can be pinpointed so we can an industry and do our collective parts to make sure this never happens again.”
Bassman and his company Ascend Insurance Brokerage joined Higginbotham in 2020. Prior to the acquisition Ascend – which brokered insurance in some form for more than 500 entertainment clients – focused on property and casualty insurance for the entertainment business concentrating on festivals, venues, artists, promoters and production companies.
Scott has reportedly offered to pay the funeral expenses for the eight fans who died at Astroworld, as well as partnering with online therapy platform BetterHelp to provide one month of free therapy to those impacted by the tragic incident, Consequence of Sound
reported. Fellow rapper Roddy Ricch, who performed at the festival earlier in the evening on Friday, posted on Twitter that he’ll be donating his net compensation to the families who lost loved ones.
After the crowd surges at Astroworld began, police and firefighters deemed the festival a “mass casualty” event at 9:38 p.m., 32 minutes after Scott’s headline performance started, but he continued performing until scheduled at 10:15 p.m., according to the Houston Chronicle
Houston police chief Troy Finner defended the decision not to shut down the festival immediately.
“You cannot just close when you’ve got 50,000 – over 50,000 – individuals, OK?” Finner said during a press conference on Saturday, according to ABC News
. “We have to worry about rioting – riots – when you have a group that’s that young.”
The Associated Press reports that part of the criminal investigation that’s being led by Houston’s police department will examine whether the “promoter and others behind the festival adhered to the plans that were submitted for the event.” A 56-page operations plan, which included security and emergency medical response protocols for Astroworld, was filed with Harris County and the city of Houston prior to the event and had to be reviewed by Houston police officials. According to the AP, the plan says “a decision to evacuate the event would be made by the festival director after consultation with other individuals, including the security director.” The investigation will also look into “the design of safety barriers and the use of crowd control at the event.”
After releasing a written statement on social media Saturday about Astroworld’s deadly turn of events, Scott posted a video on his Instagram story saying, “I’m honestly just devastated. I could never imagine anything like this just happening.”
He added, “I want to send out prayers to the ones that was lost last night. We’re actually working right now to identify their families so we can help assist them through this tough time.”
Media outlets and the general public are analyzing Scott’s role, from his actions during Friday’s event to his history of riling up the crowd at concerts.
Footage shared on social media
shows Scott apparently encouraging the audience at Astroworld to go wild, with the rapper instructing fans: “I want to make this motherf**king ground shake, goddammit.”
Scott’s concerts are known for their high-intensity atmosphere and ferocious mosh pits, while the rapper has a reputation for stirring up mayhem during shows.
“It’s like the Ramones meet hip-hop,” Brad Wavra, Senior Vice President of Touring at Live Nation, told Pollstar
when interviewed for a 2019 cover story on the rapper
. “Travis comes out and it looks like there’s a riot going on, but it is just raging fun. They come out of the show dripping wet and so satisfied.”
Wavra has worked with Scott since his 2017 “Birds Eye View Tour” string of club and theater dates.
That year Scott was arrested after telling fans at a Rodgers, Ark., concert at Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion to bypass security and rush the stage. The incident left a security guard, a police officer and several others injured. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was ordered to pay court fees and restitution to two injured people, according to NBC Chicago.
He also pleaded guilty to reckless conduct charges and was sentenced to one year of court supervision after a 2015 incident at Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival. Scott was accused of encouraging fans to vault security barricades, though no one was injured.
A lawsuit is still pending from a fan named Kyle Green who was allegedly pushed from a balcony and paralyzed at a 2017 Scott concert at Terminal 5 in New York. A video from the concert shows Scott egging on another fan to jump into the crowd from a second-floor balcony.
In response to the deadly crowd surge at Astroworld, a lawyer for Green told Rolling Stone
: “He’s devastated and heartbroken for the families of those who were killed and for those individuals who were severely injured. He’s even more incensed by the fact that it could have been avoided had Travis learned his lesson in the past and changed his attitude about inciting people to behave in such a reckless manner.”