Who is responsible when concertgoers are injured? This article addresses legal liability of the property owner and third parties for a personal injury sustained at a concert or other venue.
Two men attending a concert in west Texas were severely injured during the concert. The concert promoter knew early on that the event held the possibility that drunk people would injure others. He took the precaution of obtaining a bid for security services from a reputable provider. Based on a pre-bill invoice he received, he knew that the event would require a minimum of 18 security guards, licensed by the State of Texas to perform their duties correctly. The invoice reflected the professional opinion that six security guards would be required in front of the stage. This is the location where the men were severely injured. It is highly probable that the presence of those six security guards would have eliminated the possibility of their injuries.
Yet, instead of hiring the reputable security guards, the concert promoter turned instead to a friend who hired non-qualified, unlicensed local farmers to provide security. These individuals consumed alcohol on the job, and were becoming acquainted with the performers at the time the men were beaten by a patron of the concert. The concert promoter knew that such a result was foreseeable, had knowledge of the correct solution to the problem, yet took actions in which he failed to exercise the type of control which would have prevented the men’s injuries.
Landowner Liability vs. Third Party Liability
Two cases from the 1980’s directly addressed the question of landowner liability in cases in which a third party’s criminal actions created liability for the landowner. In Nixon v. Mr. Property Management Co., Inc., 690 S.W.2d 546 (Tex. 1985), a minor was raped in a vacant apartment managed by the defendant. In that case the Texas Supreme Court held that a statute required the owner of property to keep the doors and windows of a vacant structure or vacant portion of a structure securely closed to prevent unauthorized entry. The unexcused violation of that statute constituted negligence as a matter of law in that case because the child was raped in a vacant apartment that was not closed to the public.
The legal issue in that case was the question of foreseeability. The court stated that foreseeability means that the actor, as a person of ordinary intelligence, should have anticipated the dangers that his negligent act created for others. Usually, the criminal conduct of a third party is a superseding cause relieving the negligent actor from liability. However, the tortfeasor’s negligence will not be excused where the criminal conduct is a foreseeable result of such negligence.
The same issues were present in a slightly different context in El Chico Corporation v. Poole, 732 S.W.2d 306 (Tex. 1987). In that case a patron of El Chico was killed in a automobile accident by a drunk patron of El Chico restaurant in Houston. The patron was drunk when he left the restaurant, and the owner of the El Chico knew it. The Texas Supreme Court found that El Chico could be sued for negligence, even though it was the criminal act of the patron who actually caused the plaintiff’s death.
The court analyzed the situation in context of “duty” when it stated that if a party negligently creates a situation, then it becomes his duty to do something about it to prevent injury to others if it reasonably appears or should appear to him that others in the exercise of their lawful rights may be injured thereby. The court said that duty is the function of several interrelated factors, the foremost and dominant consideration being foreseeability of the risk.
An appeals court addressed the specific case of a concert promoter being responsible for the criminal acts of others in Barefield v. City of Houston, 846 S.W.2d 399 (Tex.App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 1992, writ denied). In that case a patron of a rock concert was injured in a parking garage across the street from the location of the concert. In determining that the concert promoter was not liable for the concert goer’s injuries, the court quoted the general rule that a defendant has no duty to prevent the criminal acts of a third party who does not act under the defendant’s supervision or control. A defendant, however, may be subject to tort liability for another’s criminal act if the criminal act occurs on the defendant’s premises. The defendant’s duty to provide protection arises from his occupation of the premises. By occupying the premises the defendant has the power of control and expulsion over the third party. Liability follows control, the court held. A very similar result was held in LaFleur v. Astrodome-Astrohall Stadium Corporation, 751 S.W.2d 563 (Tex.App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1988, no writ).
Statute Governing Licensed Security
A statute addresses a person’s duty to hire licensed security guards for protection of the patrons expected to attend the concert. “A person commits an offense if the person contracts with or employs a person who is required to hold a license, registration, endorsement, or commission under this chapter knowing that the person does not hold the required license, registration, endorsement, or commission or who otherwise, at the time of the contract or employment, is in violation of this chapter.” Tex.Occupations Code §1702.386.
People who attend concerts and are injured may have legal rights to sue the property owner or a third party for the injury, and may receive compensation for their injuries.