What Canadian rapper Drake might have known about the tragedy unfolding at the Astroworld concert in Houston before he took the stage has made him a defendant in some of the scores of lawsuits launched against the deadly event.
"The allegation about Drake is that he also should have been aware that people were being injured and hurt," said Meredith Duncan, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center Faculty.
"And by him taking the stage and performing that he was going to add to that situation."
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed and a criminal investigation opened after nine people died and hundreds were injured in an apparent crowd surge at rapper Travis Scott's Astroworld outdoor music festival. Authorities have said 50,000 people attended the Nov. 5 event.
Among those named in the lawsuits include promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Scott. Drake, who was a surprise guest performer and appeared on stage with Scott, has also been named a defendant in some of the legal action since taken.
'Helped incite the crowd'
One of those lawsuits filed by concertgoer Kristian Paredes, 23, from Texas, includes Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Scott and Drake. The suit alleges the Toronto rapper, who is referred to by his real name Aubrey Drake Graham, "helped incite the crowd" and that he continued to be on stage with Scott "as the crowd became out of control" and "the crowd mayhem continued."
Concertgoers have described the packed crowd growing dangerous even before Scott appeared on stage, and seeing people collapse while the rapper performed. Scott reportedly paused his performance once it was clear people needed medical attention and encouraged the audience to make room for an ambulance that was winding through the crowd, but later finished his set.
Authorities gave word at about 10:03 p.m. CT that the concert was in the process of shutting down, but witnesses say Scott and Drake kept performing.
Scott's attorneys have said their client did not know about the deaths and injuries until after the show. Other news reports have quoted sources saying Drake was also unaware of what had happened. In an Instagram post, Drake said his heart was "broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering."
Some lawsuits claim both negligence — that all the defendants failed to take reasonable precautions to protect against physical injuries and death — and gross negligence, meaning the defendants were aware of the risk but consciously disregarded those risks.
Responsibility to take steps
As for Scott's potential liability, if he was able to see and observe that harm was occurring as a result of the way the concert was being conducted, then he had a responsibility to take steps to stop that harm, according to C.J. Baker, a Texas-based injury lawyer.
"There's a lot of video out there. And if that video ultimately shows that he could tell or that he should have been able to tell then he could have prevented the harm by ending the show sooner.or by taking some kind of steps to prevent it," he said.
Scott has history that could also play a role in any legal proceedings. He previously pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges related to two separate incidents of encouraging fans to rush the stage, once at a 2015 music festival in Chicago and later at a 2017 concert in Arkansas, local media in both places reported at the time.
However, as for Drake, Baker said it 's too soon to tell exactly what role he played at Astroworld.
"But it's important that everyone who was involved in the concert be brought into the lawsuit so that we can figure out through the discovery process who bears what fault," he said.
WATCH | Travis Scott, Drake sued for negligence over Astroworld festival deaths:
Duncan said for Drake to be subject to civil liability, the plaintiffs have to show that he was somehow at fault.
"And it just doesn't seem that there is fault there if it is true that all he was was a surprise visitor and he didn't know anything about everything else that was going on," she said.
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