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Won't get fooled again: overcrowding at concerts causes injury and death - despite industry denials. Don't be fooled: crowd crush cases turn on straightforward questions of foreseeability and duty of care.

In 1979, the British rock British rock and roll, or British rock, was born out of the influence of rock and roll and rhythm and blues from the United States, but added a new drive and urgency, exporting the music back and widening the audience for black R & B in the U.S.  hand The Who sold out its December 3 concert at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum. All 20,000 tickets were general admission--every seat and all the standing room was up tot grabs. When the promoter opened the doors, the waiting crowd rushed the entrance to gel the best positions inside. The result was pandemonium Pandemonium

Milton’s capital of the devils. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]

See : Confusion


chief city of Hell. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]

See : Hell

"When a person fell, it created a vacuum, and the people on the bottom could not get up," said one survivor. (1) Eleven tans were crushed to death.

>From 1992 through 2002, there were 232 deaths from crowd-safety failures at concerts and festivals around the world, and more than 66,000 people were injured. (2) During a single week in 2003, a stampede to exit the E2 nightclub in Chicago left 21 dead by asphyxialion or heart attack; 100 others died either trying to escape or from injuries after they escaped a pyrotechnics pyrotechnics (pī'rōtĕk`nĭks, pī'rə–), technology of making and using fireworks. Gunpowder was used in fireworks by the Chinese as early as the 9th cent.  fire at a Great White concert at the Station, a club in West Warwick, Rhode Island West Warwick is a town in Kent County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 29,581 at the 2000 census.

West Warwick was incorporated in 1913, making it the youngest town in the state.
. (3)

Yet rather than working to prevent further deadly incidents, the concert industry--taking its cues from such megastars as Bruce Springsteen and U2--embraces the overcrowded o·ver·crowd  
v. o·ver·crowd·ed, o·ver·crowd·ing, o·ver·crowds
To cause to be excessively crowded: a system of consolidation that only overcrowded the classrooms.
 conditions that lead to these disasters.

Lawyers who handle crowd crush cases must understand these five important facts:

* Leading authorities have named festival seating the principal culprit in most crowd crush cases.

* Even "respectable" artists now demand festival seating at their shows.

* The documented history of problems makes foreseeability the linchpin linch·pin or lynch·pin  
1. A locking pin inserted in the end of a shaft, as in an axle, to prevent a wheel from slipping off.

 of any legal analysis of a crowd crush case.

* Entering the festival seating area to get close to the band does not mean that the person who is injured when doing so assumes the risk of severe injury or death.

* The defendants will probably include media behemoths that can spend lavishly to defend their policies.

The National Fire Protection Administration's (NFPA NFPA National Fire Protection Association
NFPA National Food Processors Association
NFPA National Fluid Power Association
NFPA National Federation of Paralegal Associations (Edmonds, WA) 
) Life Safety Code, NFPA 101 defines festival sealing as "a form of audience/six, orator ORATOR, practice. A good man, skillful in speaking well, and who employs a perfect eloquence to defend causes either public or private. Dupin, Profession d'Avocat, tom. 1, p. 19..
 act accommodation in which no scaring, other than a floor or ground sin-tact, is provided for the audience/spectators gathered to observe a performance." (4) That people get hurt in festival seating areas conics Con´ics

n. 1. That branch of geometry which treats of the cone and the curves which arise from its sections.
2. Conic sections.
 its no surprise to these experts. The NFPA says festival scaring at live entertainment events should be "expected to result in overcrowding overcrowding

overcrowding of animal accommodation. Many countries now publish codes of practice which define what the appropriate volumetric allowances should be for each species of animal when they are housed indoors. Breaches of these codes is overcrowding.
 and high audience density that may compromise public safety." (5)

The meaning of "overcrowding" is set forth in the National Building Code published by the Building Officials and Code Administrators International The Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA) is an association of professionals employed in the establishment and enforcement of Building Codes, which are the rules and regulations that govern the design and construction of buildings.  (BOCA BOCA Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc.
BOCA Bird Observers Club of Australia
BOCA Business Object Component Architecture
BOCA Borland Object Component Architecture (Borland) 
), which specifies that the "occupant load of any space or portion thereof shall not exceed one occupant per three square feet ... of occupiable floor space." (6)

Jake Pauls, a safety consultant and member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, has a simple explanation for the crowd dynamic in a festival seating area: "People caught in a crowd crush behave as a liquid. No individual can control his or her movement or assist others close by." (7) Outsiders can do little to help victims in crowd crush situations.

Festival seating may be relatively harmless for small crowds, or for larger crowds with enough space to spread out. But the combination of big crowds in small spaces leads to disaster.

Three weeks after the incident at The Who's concert in 1979, the Cincinnati city council banned festival seating at all venues within its jurisdiction. (8) But elsewhere, promoters continued to sell tickets for open floor space in front of bands, with tragic results. (9)

Despite its dangers, festival seating has become more appealing to mainstream performers. Cincinnati, lot example, lifted its 23-year ban on festival seating at the insistence of mainstream rock-and roll icon Bruce Springsteen. Inspired by the band U9--which sells out stadiums and arenas around the world and will not sign a contract with any venue unless it permits festival seating--Springsteen decided he could raise his performances to new heights if more of his fans were closer to him. He "really liked the energy; liked the vibe" at a UP show, explained the general manager of din Cincinnati arena where Springsteen performed." (10)

Corporations that promote and product rock concerts also downplay the risks, at least when bands they promote are playing. A typical comment comes from the editor of a concert industry magazine, defending U2's use of festival sealing by saying that it is a problem only for some bands: "If there is a band that can pull off festival seating safely, it is U2. Their crowd isn't going to be as volatile as, say, a Red Hot Chili Peppers Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American alternative rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1983. For most of its career, the group has consisted of vocalist Anthony Kiedis, guitarist John Frusciante, bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary, and drummer Chad Smith.  crowd." (11)

Foreseeability of harm

Crowd crush cases are grounded in basic tort law A body of rights, obligations, and remedies that is applied by courts in civil proceedings to provide relief for persons who have suffered harm from the wrongful acts of others. , especially the foreseeability of harm. Injured concertgoers will prow: their case if they are in the class of people to whom any defendant has a duty of care; that defendant breached its duty; there is a causal link unbroken by a third party in the crowd; and the concertgoers were harmed as a result.

Although few reported decisions have arisen specifically from concert injuries, there is relevant authority. Crowd crush cases turn largely on one of the most venerable of all tort decisions, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. In that case, a woman was injured when a package full of dynamite exploded at a railway station. The court ruled that the defendant did not need "notice of the particular method in which all accident would occur, if the possibility of an accident was clear to the ordinarily prudent eye." (12)

Applying Palsgraf's foreseeability-of-harm requirement to the festival seating scenario, the question is: Who reasonably could have foreseen a person's being crushed in the densely packed crowd and therefore had a duty to try to prevent the risk? Typically, the defendants include the owner and operator of the concert venue, the concert promoter and/or producer, the security company for that specific event, and the performer onstage at the time the person was injured.

The concert venue. A key defendant is the venue itself, whose duty of care is well established by law. The venue bears a dual burden for crowd safety: It is liable for any injuries caused by a hazard the venue itself creates and for negligently failing to remove a hazard created by others, once it has either express or implied notice of the hazard. (13)

This second burden is particularly important in crowd crush cases because the danger, at least in a sense, is created by third parties. The most direct risk to the victim is the too-close proximity of other fans. Because crowd crush injuries have occurred with some frequency, they have become foreseeable to the concert industry, which establishes a venue's duty to take reasonable precautions.

The Restatement (Second) of Torts underscores avenue's common law duty to prevent harm from dangers created by others. Specifically, [section] 344 addresses crowd security.
   A possessor of land who holds it open to the
   public tot entry for his business purposes is
   subject to liability to members of the public
   while they are upon the land for such a purpose,
   for physical harm caused by the accidental,
   negligent, or intentionally harmful
   acts of third persons or animals, and by the
   failure of the possessor to exercise reasonable
   care to

      (a) discover that such acts are being
   done or are likely no be done, or

      (b) give a warning adequate to enable
   the visitors to avoid the harm, or otherwise to
   protect then; against it. (14)

Injuries are clearly a foreseeable consequence of crowding people together, and venues that profit from large crowds owe a "duty of reasonable care to business invitees" on their premises. (15)

The promoter. At a professional wrestling Noun 1. professional wrestling - wrestling for money
sport - the occupation of athletes who compete for pay

rassling, wrestling, grappling - the sport of hand-to-hand struggle between unarmed contestants who try to throw each other down
 exhibition in Raleigh County, West Virginia Raleigh County, founded in 1850, is located in the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of 2000, the population was 79,220. Its county seat is Beckley6. Origin of the county name , wrestler Sweet Stan attacked a spectator he thought had thrown an object into the ring while the wrestlers were trying to incite To arouse; urge; provoke; encourage; spur on; goad; stir up; instigate; set in motion; as in to incite a riot. Also, generally, in Criminal Law to instigate, persuade, or move another to commit a crime; in this sense nearly synonymous with abet.  the crowd. The spectator and his wife sued to recover for his injuries. The court held that if the promoter had instructed the wrestler to provoke and incite patrons, then the promoter was liable because such provocation would foreseeably result in fights and injuries. (16)

Similarly, both the owner-operator of Independence Hall--a Baton Rouge, Louisiana For the Canadian restaurant, see .
Baton Rouge (from the French bâton rouge), pronounced /ˈbætn ˈɹuːʒ/ in English, and
 concert hall--and the promoter of a rock concert held there ignored the foreseeable risk foreseeable risk n. a danger which a reasonable person should anticipate as the result from his/her actions. Foreseeable risk is a common affirmative defense put up as a response by defendants in lawsuits for negligence.  of harm by keeping the house lights off at intermission. The court found that they breached their duty of care to a woman who fell in a dark hallway at a time when they should have reasonably expected patrons to visit the snack bar or restrooms. (17)

The crowd security company. The security company's ability to foresee harm should be informed by the history of problems at other, similar events. In the West Virginia West Virginia, E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N), Virginia (E and S), and Kentucky and, across the Ohio R., Ohio (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop.
 wrestling case, for example, the head of file security company admitted that, based on his experience with professional wrestling shows, even he thought the 12 security guards his company provided were not enough. (18)

An early request for production should yield any personnel-training manual, policy and procedure guide, and hiring criteria. If a gym membership and an impressive physique are enough to get hired for a concert security job, the jury should know that this is the extent of the security company's regard for concertgoers' safety. If the event was videotaped, either by the promoter or someone in the crowd, the footage will show how difficult it is t0r a security person standing outside the festival seating area to see if someone is being hurt inside.

The artist. The artist's duty of care is based on the grim history of festival seating. After hundreds of deaths and thousands of crowd crush injuries, no performer can credibly say that such occurrences are unforeseeable Un`fore`see´a`ble

a. 1. Incapable of being foreseen.

Adj. 1. unforeseeable - incapable of being anticipated; "unforeseeable consequences"
unpredictable - not capable of being foretold


As a practical matter, performance contracts contain the occasional nugget Nugget

A 15 year Gold FHLMC (Freddie Mac) bond; similar to a Dwarf.
 regarding the duty of care. In a pending federal case, for example, a rider to the contract between the artist and the promoter states that the promoter assumes the duty of protecting the producer, the artist, and the patrons. But the artist did not pass his entire duty of care to the promoter. The same rider defines breach of contract and lists inadequate security as a breach. If the artist or his crew had decided that security was insufficient, he could have refused to perform. (19)

Denying the performer's motion to dismiss based on the absence of a duty of care to his fans, the district court made two significant observations: "The duty turns on the nature of the contractual duty and the 'special relationship' created between the tortfeasor A wrongdoer; an individual who commits a wrongful act that injures another and for which the law provides a legal right to seek relief; a defendant in a civil tort action. Cross-references

Tort Law.

tortfeasor n.
 and the injured party Noun 1. injured party - someone injured or killed in an accident

victim - an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance
. There is no categorical bar against imposing a duty on a singer to a concertgoer con·cert·go·er  
One who attends a concert.

concert·going adj.
." (20)

In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, although the performer might argue that he stopped playing once it was obvious from the screaming and crying that people were getting hurt, the fact that he did not exercise the authority negotiated for him in his own contract is itself compelling evidence that he breached his duty of care.

Besides claiming that each possible defendant is individually liable, you can link the parties that put on the concert by showing that they jointly controlled the risk. Several types of joint control can give rise to a duty for each party. The classic "concert of action" might be written into certain contracts, such as provisions allowing several parties to independently assess crowd safety, or it can be proved through evidence of parallel behavior that implies tacit agreement or cooperation. Or the defendants might all have followed an industrywide standard or custom regarding crowd safety. (21)

The victim's role

As in any lawsuit, humanizing your client is essential. In a concert injury case, you may face more of a challenge getting the jury to focus on your client as a person who was simply standing where he or she was allowed to be, doing what he or she was supposed to do. If the defendants try to blame the plaintiff, it is vital to argue that the victim did not assume the risk of being crushed in the festival seating area and did not engage in comparative negligence comparative negligence n. a rule of law applied in accident cases to determine responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident. .

For a victim to have assumed a risk, completely barring recovery, he or she must have knowingly and voluntarily accepted the risk that caused the injury. For example, an entire body of case law" denies recovery to fan's hurt in the stands at baseball games because courts have concluded that the risk of harm is so "open and obvious" that anyone watching a game should know that he or she risks being hit by a ball. (22) Since spectators can ensure their safety by staying in the screened area behind home plate, sitting anywhere else in the ballpark implies that the Fan weighed the odds and made an informed choice. The defendant in that scenario bears no further duty. (23)

But festival-seating concertgoers are different from baseball fans. At a ball game, the assumption of risk bars rely recovery because the risk of being hit by a ball is a "customary part of the sport." (24) Getting crushed by a crowd to the point of asphyxiation asphyxiation /as·phyx·i·a·tion/ (as-fix?e-a´shun) suffocation; the stoppage of respiration.
Oxygen starvation of tissues.
 does not occur with the frequency, or fair warning, of getting hit by a foul ball. Yet even if concert disasters were more common and well publicized, that would still not relieve organizers or performers of their duty of care. On the contrary, when the parties putting on the concert "should anticipate an unreasonable risk of harm to the invitee An individual who enters another's premises as a result of an express or implied invitation of the owner or occupant for their mutual gain or benefit.

For example, a customer in a restaurant or a depositor entering a bank to cash a check are both invitees.
 notwithstanding his knowledge, warning, or the obvious nature of the condition, something more in the way of precautions may be required." (25)

This is the principle to cite when a defendant mentions the warning in fine print on the back of a ticket, or the hastily scrawled signs inside the arena warning fans that they enter the festival seating area at their own risk. This further duty by the defendants applies to any venue, including those that stage rock concerts or festivals, "where there is reason to expect that the invitee's attention will be distracted ... or that after a lapse of time he may forget the existence of the condition, even though he has discovered it or been warned." (26)

Similar logic applies to the defense that the victim was comparatively or contributorily negligent. To show that the victim's injury was caused by overcrowding and inadequate security--not his or her own conduct--you must establish that your client could not find a "place of safety," or that overcrowding restricted his or her free movement. (27)

In other words, no place in the festival seating area was safe, so it did not matter where in the crowd your client stood. Ready support for this proposition is in the NFPA's Life Safety Code and the BOCA code, which says that the lack of adequate room to stand or move exposes patrons to the possibility of being crushed in the crowd anywhere in a festival seating area.

Defendants in crowd crush cases will probably have big names with big litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.

When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation.
 budgets. While festival seating can exist anywhere there is no reserved seating, injuries are more likely in the bigger concert crowds at larger venues. Odds are, you will be taking on juggernauts like Clear Channel Communications Not to be confused with clear channel radio stations, which are AM radio stations with certain technical parameters.
Clear Channel Communications (NYSE: CCU) is a media conglomerate company based in the United States.
, Infinity Broadcasting, or a municipal stadium authority.

If a radio station copromoted the concert, as is often the case, you may face Clear Channel Communications. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 its Web site (www., the company owns, programs, and sells airtime for over 1,200 radio stations in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. .

Another likely defendant is SFX SFX Special Effects
SFX Self Extracting (data compression)
SFX SpreadFireFox (IRC)
SFX Sound Effect(s)
SFX Side Effects (counter-strike gaming clan) 
, a Viacom subsidiary that owns 44 U.S. amphitheaters and boasts on its Web site ( that a "staggering 62 million people attend over 26,000 events" it promotes or produces each year. Given these companies' huge income and the muscle of corporate parents like Viacom backing them up, you could be waking a sleeping giant Sleeping Giant may refer to:

In geology:
  • Sleeping Giant (Connecticut), trap rock ridge system located in the Mount Carmel neighborhood of Hamden, Connecticut

Crowd crush cases may offer drama, but they are fundamentally simple, based on facts that should be self-evident: Overcrowding leads to injuries; a party that can reasonably foresee harm has a duty to prevent it; and where powerful interests insist on pursuing a dangerous practice like festival seating, the victims are truly protected only by their lawyers.


(1.) Dan Klepal, Concert Goers Still Feel the Dangers Today, THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER En`quir´er

n. 1. See Inquirer.

Noun 1. enquirer - someone who asks a question
asker, inquirer, querier, questioner
 (Dec. 3, 1999), available at editions/1999/12/03/loc_concert_goers_still. html (last visited Apr. 23, 2004).


(3.) Alisa Wolf & John Nicholson, Safe Exit: Nightclub Safety Equals Life Safety, NAT'L FIRE PROT PROT Protection
PROT Protocol
PROT Protective
PROT Plano Regional de Ordenamento do Território (Portugal) 
. ADMIN. J., July 8, 2003, available at 070803/070803.asp (last visited Apt; 23, 2004).

(4.) NAT'L FIRE PROT. ADM See add/drop multiplexer.

(language) ADM - A picture query language, extension of Sequel2.

["An Image-Oriented Database System", Y. Takao et al, in Database Techniques for Pictorial Applications, A. Blaser ed, pp. 527-538].
1N., LIFE SAFETY CODE HANDBOOK 2003, (Ron P.E. Cote & Gregory E. Harrington eds., 9th ed. 2003).

(5.) Id. at A.

(6.) BLDG BLDG Building . OFFICIALS & CODE ADM'RS INC inc - /ink/ increment, i.e. increase by one. Especially used by assembly programmers, as many assembly languages have an "inc" mnemonic.

Antonym: dec.
., THE BOCA NATIONAL BUILDING CODE/1996 (#301-96) 1008.1.5. (13th ed. 1996).

(7.) See Wolf & Nicholson, supra A relational DBMS from Cincom Systems, Inc., Cincinnati, OH ( that runs on IBM mainframes and VAXs. It includes a query language and a program that automates the database design process.  note 3.

(8.) Larry Nager, Festival Seating Back for Springsteen Concert, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, Aug. 7, 2002, available at 2002/08/07/loc_festival_seating.html (last visited Apr. 23, 2004).

(9.) See Corey Moss, U2's Festival Seating Plan Draws Fire,, Jan. 11, 2001, at www.vh1. com/artists/news/1437876/01112001/u2:jhtml (last visited Apr. 23, 2004). See WERTHEIMER, supra note 2.

(10.) See Nager, supra note 8.

(11.) Moss, supra, note 9. See also Nager, supra note S.

(12.) 162N.E.99, 100 (N.Y. 1928) In Palsgraf the plaintiff's claim failed. Because the dynamite was hidden in an innocent-looking bundle of newspapers, the court ruled, the railroad company could not have foreseen the danger and owed her no duty of care.

(13.) See, e.g., Williams v. Walnut Creek Amphitheater P'ship, 468 S.E.2d 501,503 (N.C. Ct. App. 1996) (citations omitted); Coronel v. Chicago White Sox The Chicago White Sox are a professional baseball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox are a member of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. From to the present, the White Sox have played in U.S. , Ltd., 595 N.E.2d 45, 4748 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992).

(14.) Emphasis added. See also the Illustrations to Comment for that section, which underscore that the operator of premises bears a duty to provide adequate security to prevent a foreseeable crowd crush.

(15.) Coronel, 595 N.E.2d 45, 46-48; see also Bellezzo v. State, 851 F.2d 847, 850 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1992).

(16.) See Massey v. Jim Crockett Promotions Jim Crockett Promotions was a professional wrestling promotion owned by Jim Crockett, Jr. up until the late 1980s. It was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and was the forerunner to World Championship Wrestling (WCW). , Inc., 400 S.E.2d 876, 881 (W.Va. 1990).

(17.) McLaughlin v. Home Indem. his. Co., 361 So. 2d 1227, 1230 (La. Ct. App. 1978).

(18.) See Massey, 400 S.E.2d 876, 881, In. 11.

(19.) See Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Defendant Mathers' Motion to Dismiss at 8-9, Cunningham v. District of Columbia District of Columbia, federal district (2000 pop. 572,059, a 5.7% decrease in population since the 1990 census), 69 sq mi (179 sq km), on the east bank of the Potomac River, coextensive with the city of Washington, D.C. (the capital of the United States).  Sports & Entm't Comm'n, No. 03839 (D.D.C. filed Nov. 26, 2003).

(20.) Cunningham, No. 03-839 (order denying motion to dismiss at 7, citing Caldwell v. Bechtel, 631 F.2d 989, 1002 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).

(21.) See Hall v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 345 F. Supp. 353, 373-74 (E.D.N.Y 1972).

(22.) See, e.g., Lawson v. Salt Lake Trappers, Inc., 901 R2d 1013, 1015 (Utah 1995). See a also Baker v. Mid Maine Med. Ctr., 499 A.2d 464 (Me. 1985); Pestalozzi v. Philadelphia Flyers Ltd., 576A.2d 72 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1990).

(23.) See Lawson, 901 R2d 1013, 1015; see also Swagger v. City of Crystal, 379 N.W.2d 183, 185-86 (Minn. Ct. App. 1986).

(24.) Gallagher v. Cleveland Browns Football Co., 638 N.E.2d 1082, 1089 (Ohio (11. App. 1994).

(25.) Colonel, 595 N.E.2d 45, 50 (citing Ward v. K Mart Corp., 554 N.E.2d 223,238 (Ill. 1990) (citing W. PAGE KEETON Werdner Page Keeton (born in McCoy, Texas, August 22 1909, died January 10 1999) graduated first in his class at the University of Texas School of Law in 1931 and joined the University of Texas law faculty the following year at the age of 23.  ET AL., PROSSER & KEETON ON THE LAW OF TORTS [section] 61, at 427 (5th ed. 1984))).

(26.) Id. See also City of Milton v. Broxson, 514 So. 2d 1116, 1118 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1987) (citing WILLIAM L. PROSSER, LAW OF TORTS 394-95 (4th ed. 1971)).

(27.) Greenberg v. Sterling Doubleday Enter., 660 N.Y.S.2d 33, 34 (App. Div. 1997).
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Date:Jun 1, 2004
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