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Lawyers: A 'stretch' to hang Astroworld liability on Travis Scott as $3B in lawsuits pile in

·Producer
·5 min read
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More than 300 lawsuits totaling a staggering $3 billion have been filed over the Astroworld disaster on November 5 that ultimately claimed the lives of ten people. 

Most recently, Live Nation (LYV) and Apple (AAPL), along with rapper and headliner Travis Scott, were sued for $2 billion by hundreds of concertgoers who allege they were injured at the deadly event at NRG Stadium, where concertgoers surged toward the stage during Scott's performance, sparking deadly mayhem.

"The resulting catastrophic incident and carnage were easily foreseeable and preventable had the Defendants acted in a reasonably prudent manner in planning a large-scale festival like Astroworld," the lawsuit read. Still, legal experts have doubts about whether the artist himself will be held financially liable for the fatalities.

"I think it'd be a stretch to put this on [Travis Scott]," Nick Rozansky, attorney at Brutzkus Gubner Rozansky Seror Weber, told Yahoo Finance.

Meanwhile, a separate suit (filed Tuesday by Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee) is seeking more than $750 million in damages on behalf of 125 victims. Scott was once again named in the complaint, along with fellow rapper Drake, who performed as a surprise guest.  

According to the complaint, Scott's past actions and social media posts "[glorify] violence and other dangerous behaviors" whereas Drake "was well aware of the damage [Scott] had caused at his shows in the past." For context, Scott was arrested in 2015 after encouraging fans to storm the stage at Lollapalooza. He was sentenced to one year of court supervision before being arrested again in 2017 on suspicion of starting a riot while performing in Arkansas. 

Additionally, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said Scott "absolutely" should have stopped the show once he saw the crowd surge, saying during an NBC 'Today' show interview that "everybody at that event has a responsibility, starting from the artist on down."

Travis Scott, Live Nation, Apple and Epic Records did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance's request for comment.

'Not enough' to hold up in court

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 09: A woman walks past a memorial to those who died at the Astroworld festival outside of NRG Park on November 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 09: A woman walks past a memorial to those who died at the Astroworld festival outside of NRG Park on November 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

According to Bryan Sullivan of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae, although "hypothetically an artist can be held potentially liable," that does not seem to be the case with Scott. 

The attorney further explained that the rapper would have had to incite the violence through some sort of direct action. Under this criteria, Scott's reputation, lyrics, past behavior and legal troubles are "not enough" to hold up in court, Sullivan said. 

"You can be a very violent person in an area where there was a fight, but not have thrown a punch," he told Yahoo Finance. 

"The law requires him to engage in specific conduct that incited the incidents...What did he do at Astroworld that night? That's the question the courts will be asking," he continued — surmising that Scott "likely will be dismissed from the case" barring no damning allegations come to light. 

Rozansky said the financial burden most likely will fall on the security company and event promoters like Live Nation and ScoreMore, but expected more "finger pointing" ahead.

"It's not uncommon for all of the defendants to start suing each other for identity and contribution if they are found liable," the lawyer noted. 

More fallout ahead for Scott

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: Travis Scott performs during 2021 Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 05, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: Travis Scott performs during 2021 Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 05, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage)

Although Scott likely won't be held financially responsible for Astroworld, there could be more fallout ahead for the 30-year-old — especially when it comes to future performances and brand deals. 

Sullivan explained that if he were advising a client on risk management he'd be hesitant to recommend Scott as a performer or headliner "just because of who he is." 

Alternatively, if Scott were to perform, the attorney said there'd likely be "a reallocation of the risk" — adding that any additional security detail or special insurance would have to come out of the rapper's pocket.

"All of those costs would be reallocated to Travis in the negotiations of the contract," Sullivan said. 

Major brands associated with Scott have begun to distance themselves from the controversy, suggesting Scott might already be paying a financial penalty of sorts for the tragedy. 

Nike (NKE), acting "out of respect" for those affected by Astroworld, postponed the launch of its Travis Scott shoe collaboration. 

Separately, Luxury goods company Dior, which was set to release its spring/summer 2022 Travis Scott menswear collection early next year, is now reportedly evaluating the situation, while Epic Games quietly removed a Travis Scott emote that was available to purchase on gaming app Fortnite. 

'Reasonable' as key word

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 09:  A general View of the atmosphere during the second annual Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 9, 2019 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 09: A general View of the atmosphere during the second annual Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 9, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

Deaths at concerts and festivals, while tragic, are not an entirely new phenomenon. During 2017, two deadly events rocked the music industry: Las Vegas' Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting where over 55 people were fatally gunned down, and Ariana Grande's Manchester Arena terrorist bombing which killed 22. 

Still, Sullivan explained those deadly acts were "very different" from Astroworld. 

"The question in this case is more, 'Did the venue and promoter take all reasonable precaution to prevent people from getting hurt?' Key word is reasonable...did they have enough security detail to deal with the situation? Did they have enough medical personnel? Did they react fast enough? Did they allocate enough funding?"

"It all depends on the facts," he concluded. 

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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