By: Declan Andersen
A fan who attended a Harry Styles concert in December 2019 recently initiated a lawsuit against several defendants, including the venue, the owner of the venue, and other concert organizers for “injuries sustained during a crowd surge.” Of the named defendants, Live Nation has found itself in hot water recently, as they are also entangled in the wave of litigation following the events of Travis Scott’s “Astroworld” festival. While it is unclear if more individuals were injured during the crowd surge at the Styles concert, the events at “Astroworld” left ten dead and hundreds injured.
A key distinction between the Styles lawsuit and the “Astroworld” litigation is that Styles was not named as a defendant, while Scott was. The apparent reason for Styles’ exclusion was that he allegedly took steps to try and alleviate the surge. Scott meanwhile did not end his performance after it was declared a “mass casualty event.” It is worth noting that artist liability for injuries sustained by concertgoers is rare, even in instances involving fatalities. A potential rise in crowd surge litigation could result in an unworkable or unclear legal standard that would leave artists potentially liable for injuries sustained at their shows.
A crowd surge occurs when people are closely packed into a space and, in response to certain stimuli, begin to push towards the front of the crowd. This crowding sensation often induces a feeling of panic in the front of the crowd, causing some to try and move back. The resultant compression from the two area of the crowds moving against each other often leads to those in the middle being injured.
In comparing the inclusion or lack thereof of Travis Scott and Harry Styles with respect to the lawsuits arising from injuries sustained at their concerts, a difficult legal standard could emerge. The theory of both cases is grounded in negligence, with the common theme being a breach of the duty control to the crowd. Styles seems to have escaped being named in the lawsuit, as he allegedly took proactive steps in trying to aid in crowd control. Conversely, Scott’s actions could be charitably described as “reckless,” but strike much closer the civil/criminal divide.
Still, even though the two cases do not make for a perfect comparison, the outcome of these lawsuits has the potential to set an unworkable legal standard for artists performing in large venues. Scott’s actions could easily form their own category for finding an artist liable in this context, as he has an extensive history of inciting violent acts among his fans. With that said, placing artist’s behavior under a microscope during their performances to determine their liability for crowd surge injuries generates numerous questions. Do artists need to supervise their crowds? What constitutes inaction? Is merely asking for calm enough?
As the most stringent of the COVID-19 restrictions fade into the past, the demand for arena concerts and music festivals should return to pre-pandemic levels. With the live event industry experiencing losses totaling more than $30 billion globally in 2020, promoters and artists will be keen to capitalize on a return to normalcy. The rise in these crowd surge lawsuits should then give performers ause, as Travis Scott alone is facing a lawsuit seeking $10 billion in damages. Even if these lawsuits do not bear fruit, the threat of potential future litigation could reasonably cause artists and promoters to implement better safety measures. These enhanced measures may likely be more expensive and reduce the overall capacity of live events, which would work to negatively affect profitability.
 William Earl, Harry Styles Fan Sues the Forum, Alleges Concert Crowd Surge Resulted in Personal Injury, Variety (Jan. 7, 2022, 4:02 PM), https://variety.com/2022/music/news/harry-styles-the-forum-injury-lawsuit-1235149348/.
 Kimberlee Speakman, Nearly 300 Astroworld Lawsuits To Be Combined Into Single Case, Forbes (Dec. 3, 2021, 8:39 PM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberleespeakman/2021/12/03/nearly-300-astroworld-lawsuits-to-be-combined-into-single-case/?sh=2998f166294d.
 John J. Perlstein, Harry Styles Fan Files Lawsuit Over Crowd Surge Injuries – What Can We Expect?, Forbes (Jan. 14, 2022, 12:30 PM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/legalentertainment/2022/01/14/harry-styles-fan-files-lawsuit-over-crowd-surge-injurieswhat-can-we-expect/?sh=7c6faef21eac.
 Perlstein, supra note 4.
 Speakman, supra note 3.
 Perlstein, supra note 4.
 Melinda Fakuade, Astroworld and the trickiness of tragedy blame games, Vox (Nov. 10, 2021, 8:00 AM), https://www.vox.com/culture/22772690/what-happened-astroworld-travis-scott-live-nation.
 Andrew R. Chow, Here’s Who Could Be Held Legally Liable for the Astroworld Tragedy, Time (Nov. 15, 2021, 8:26 AM), https://time.com/6115460/astroworld-tragedy-legal-responsibility/.
 The Whisler Law Firm P.A., Crowd Surge Injuries, Deaths, and Who’s Responsible (Jan. 28, 2022), https://whislerlawfirm.com/blog/crowd-surge-injuries-deaths-and-whos-responsible/.
 Perlstein, supra note 4; Plaintiff’s Original Petition, Jury Demand, and Rule 19.37 Notice, And Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Temporary Injunction at 13, Souza v. Scoremore LLC (2021), available at https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/manuel-souza-astroworld-lawsuit.pdf.
 Perlstein, supra note 4.
 Chow, supra note 8.
 Andy Cush, Who Will Be Held Responsible for the Astroworld Disaster?, Pitchfork (Nov. 15, 2021), https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/who-will-be-held-responsible-for-the-astroworld-disaster-travis-scott-live-nation/.
 See Jeremy Kahn, Is Omicron the beginning of the end-emic? Some countries ease COVID restrictions even as infections surge, Fortune (Dec. 28, 2021, 10:10 AM), https://fortune.com/2021/12/28/omicron-restrictions-less-strict-easing-covid-quarantine-cdc/.
 Jem Aswad, Concert Industry Lost $30 Billion in 2020, Variety (Dec. 11, 2020, 7:09 AM), https://variety.com/2020/music/news/concert-industry-lost-30-billion-2020-1234851679/.
 Juan A. Lozano, Board rules Astroworld lawsuits to be handled by one judge, Assoc. Press (Dec. 8, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/astroworld-festival-deaths-travis-scott-entertainment-business-lifestyle-a506452f616936dbd6a8f79395831d8e.