The hundreds of lawsuits filed against Live Nation and Travis Scott over the deadly Astroworld music festival are moving forward as one enormous case, after a Texas court panel formally approved the consolidation maneuver last week.
Three months after a crowd surge during Scott’s show left 10 dead and hundreds injured, the Texas Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation on Wednesday (Jan. 26) granted joint motion from both victims and organizers to combine the sprawling litigation before a single judge for all pre-trial proceedings.
The large new case will absorb at least 387 separate lawsuits that seek to represent nearly 2,800 alleged victims. Those lawsuits claim that festival promoter Live Nation, Scott himself and other organizers were legally negligent in how they planned and conducted Astroworld, and they’re seeking billions in total damages.
Such “multidistrict litigation” is standard procedure in mass injury lawsuits, with the goal of avoiding the inefficiency of individually trying many cases that share key similarities. It will allow a single judge to coordinate the cases to streamline complex pre-trial procedures like discovery – the process of handing over evidence. It could also make it easier to negotiate a single settlement to resolve all of the cases.
The move toward a single case was agreed upon by both sides. In requesting to go that route, attorneys for both sides wrote that “this type of litigation is exactly what the Texas MDL process is designed to address.”
Large settlements are often the end result of such large cases. For instance, three years after a 2017 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip shooting that left 61 dead, MGM resorts paid $800 million to settle litigation involving more than 4400 relatives and victims.
If the Astroworld litigation does not end in such a settlement, a few individual cases could eventually be tried as so-called bellwether trials – representative cases used in multi-district litigation allow a judge and both sides to assess the strength of the larger case. For instance, a loss in such a bellwether can convince one side to settle, out of fear of a wider loss in the overall litigation.
Though agreed upon by all parties, there was briefly one hold-out to the consolidation process. Brent Coon & Associates, a firm that filed litigation on behalf of more than 1500 Astroworld victims, argued in December the process was unnecessary, but those objections were quickly withdrawn.
Notably, the order issued last week did not disclose which Texas state judge would handle the case. But in their joint filings, attorneys for the victims and the organizers requested Judge Lauren Reeder to oversee the MDL. It was unclear why Judge Reeder was their choice.
While they are good indicators of the overall scope of the litigation, the numbers of cases and victims are rough estimates. The larger case will also cover additional “tag-along cases” that were filed later, and there could be duplicates or drop-outs among victims as the case moves forward.