By this time, most of the nation, if not the world, has heard about the very tragic and unnecessary deaths that occurred at a music concert in Houston, Texas. The Astroworld Music Festival held at NRG Park in Houston on Friday, November 5, has already produced at least 16 lawsuits filed in state court as of November 8, according to Law360. Tragically eight people lost their lives and dozens more injured. More lawsuits will inevitably be filed alleging wrongdoing. As the lawsuits are freshly printed and filed, they will focus on the same defendants and pointed allegations against those individuals and organizations that maintained a duty of care over those who attended the event. Duty of Care is a legal obligation that every special event organizer must adhere to when they organize and plan for an event. It is a standard of reasonable care against any acts that could reasonably and foreseeably harm others. The legal system will demand that the Plaintiffs show that Duty of Care was ignored to establish a proper course of negligence by the Defendants identified in the lawsuits.
It is too early in the process to blame anyone that may be responsible for this tragedy. There is still an ongoing law enforcement investigation, and the civil process is only beginning, both of which will generate a score of testimonies and documents.
We must ask the same question
The Astroworld Music Festival will, like all the other tragic events in a large gathering over the last fifteen to twenty years, generate renewed interest from insurance companies, public sector agencies, event organizers, and any stakeholder who maintains an interest. We must always divert back to the same tried and true questions that we ask when it comes to planning for safety and security:
Was there a comprehensive incident action plan, and was that plan been tested?
A plan without testing is no different than buying a book and never reading it.
We have no idea if there was a plan or if that plan was tested for the Astroworld Music Festival, but we know that the victims will demand and righteously deserve answers. According to Law360, an online legal website resource owned by LexisNexis, it was identified that there were upwards of 1200 law enforcement and security personnel assigned to the event. At some point, the individual(s) who maintained command and control for the safety and security at the Astroworld event will need to answer all the questions the victims ask. Why did this happen? How did it happen? What caused this to happen? Who is responsible for what happened? When did someone know that there were gaps or shortfalls in the “plan”?
The same standard will always apply to special events
Every single event organizer is held to the same standard. When you invite the public into any setting, there is a complete responsibility taken on by that individual or entity. They bear the brunt of the ultimate success or failure of the event.
We can never ignore the obvious about any size crowd especially large gatherings because the more people that an event brings, the higher the odds are of:
- Something dangerous or reckless occurring
- Large gatherings of people can come with side effects that can impact how effectively a the organizer or facility operates and responds to the needs of the crowd
- Big crowds of people raise the possible number of victims
- Individuals within a large crowd commonly assume someone else will maintain their safety and well-being within the facility or area that the event is occurring
Remember every single special event organizer needs to understand the key legal terms often introduced in conversation with Valentis:
Duty of Care, Negligence, and Reasonable Foreseeability.
What is Duty of Care? It is a legal obligation which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence.
What is Negligence? The failure to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the same or similar circumstances
What is Reasonable Foreseeability? The reasonable anticipation of the possible results of an action, such as what may happen if one is negligent. The foreseeability aspect - the event which is the primary cause of the injury—is established by proof that the actor, as a person of ordinary intelligence and circumspection, should reasonably have foreseen that his or her negligent act would imperil others, whether by the event that transpired or some similar occurrence, and regardless of what the actor surmised would happen regarding the actual event or the manner of causation of injuries.
Valentis will maintain awareness of this case as it does with all the others that involve tragedy and injury. Each one, sadly, presents an opportunity to learn what worked best and what were the lessons learned. We do that because we believe we share responsibility, or as we say, ‘we have skin in the game’ for what happens when Valentis is under contract at a special event. At the end of the day, when everyone has returned to their homes, offices, or departments, two entities will be left to answer questions: Valentis and the Special Event Organizer. Ask yourself, who do you want standing next to you? We don’t go home.