Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Riot at Guns n' Roses Concert Due to Negligent Security

In Heenan v. Comcast, a negligent security lawsuit from 2005, the plaintiff, Heenan, alleged that she was caused siginficant injuries due to the concert hall's failure to control an unruly crowd.  Heenan claimed that the defendants, which leased the First Union Center (now Wachovia Center) for a "Guns & Roses" concert, negligently failed to provide adequate crowd control when the featured act was cancelled. The trial evidence showed that the crowd began surging for the exits, causing her to fall.

The defendant maintained that it employed reasonable security measures and that the plaintiff could not establish what had caused her fall. The defendant joined as additional defendants the band "Guns & Roses," Axl Rose a/k/a William Bailey, Black Frog Enterprises (Rose's company), Electric Factory Concerts, Inc., (the concert promoter) and joined a landscaping company responsible for snow and ice removal in the parking lot. The additional defendants were dismissed on non-suit at the close of the plaintiff's case in chief.

Heenan, age 39 at the time of the concert on December 6, 2002, testified that the first two acts of the concert had ended by 9:30 p.m. She the testified that from 9:30 p.m. to 11:10 p.m. nothing happened until a prerecorded announcement notified the crowd that the appearance of "Guns & Roses" was cancelled due to the illness of a member of the band.

The evidence at trial showed that the crowd went out of control, began throwing chairs, throwing objects off the upper balcony, tearing up tiles and smashing production equipment. The concert hall sustained more than $300,000 in property damage and a total of six people were injured.

The plaintiff's security expert testified that a similar incident had occurred in Vancouver, British Columbia, on November 7, 2002 (a month earlier) when a concert was cancelled and the crowd rioted. The expert maintained that the defendant was on notice of possible crowd control problems and yet failed to implement adequate security measures to control the crowd of approximately 14,000 persons. The plaintiff's security expert testified that the defendant should have hired additional security personnel, shut down the concession stand selling beer and made several prior announcements to prepare the crowd for the possible cancellation of the lead act.

The plaintiff testified that she was afraid of injury as the crowd began scrambling to exit the arena. The plaintiff contended she became caught in the exit crowd and was caused to fall in the parking lot. The plaintiff admitted she was not sure if she tripped or slipped and was not exactly sure what caused her to fall. She admitted that no one approached her in an aggressive or threatening manner nor pushed her down. But the plaintiff argued that the defendant conveniently failed to produce video films of the crowd on the night in question, despite the presence of 80 security cameras positioned in the arena.

The plaintiff sustained a fracture of the left ankle in the fall. She underwent open reduction and internal fixation with a plate and four orthopedic screws. The plaintiff has been left with ankle scarring and permanent loss of range of motion in the left ankle. Her physician opined that the she may require additional surgery in the future to remove the orthopedic hardware. The plaintiff claimed $ 60,000 in medical specials and $ 5,000 in past loss of wages from her employment as a secretary.

The defendant argued that it employed 220 security personnel on the night in question identified by yellow jackets. The defense maintained that the plaintiff could not establish any negligence on its part which caused her fall. The defense stressed the plaintiff's testimony that she stopped for approximately one minute for her friend to make a cell phone call for a limousine prior to the fall. The defense argued that the testimony negated the plaintiff's claim that she "feared for her life" while exiting the arena.

Despite the defense's arguments, the jury found the defendant 100% negligent and awarded the plaintiff $140,000 in damages. The plaintiff's motion for delay damages is pending. Share this post :
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