A Houston judge issued an order late Monday night that will allow attorneys for Astroworld victims to inspect and photograph the site of Friday’s deadly incident and require organizers to preserve evidence, after both sides reached an agreement.
The order, granted by Harris County District Judge Ravi K. Sandill and obtained by Billboard, will apply to 18 separate lawsuits that have thus far been filed over the Friday night crowd surge incident, in which eight concertgoers were killed and dozens more injured.
The order was sought by victims and was agreed to by Live Nation, Travis Scott, ScoreMore and other defendants involved in planning and operating Astroworld. Such temporary freezes are common in complex cases, to preserve the status quo and prevent the destruction of evidence.
The agreement is limited. It merely allows attorneys and inspectors to enter the concert grounds during working hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and requires Live Nation and other organizers to preserve any evidence — something litigants already must do in any civil lawsuit.
The judge was careful to note that the agreement did not mean the Astroworld organizers had waived any legal defenses to the lawsuits, which accuse them of being grossly negligent in how they planned and conducted the festival. The defendants can even still challenge whether the case should be heard in Houston court at all.
The order was granted late Monday, signed by Judge Sandill at 9:31 pm Houston time.
Monday’s order is one of the first rulings to emerge from what is shaping up to be sweeping civil litigation over Friday night’s deadly incident. A criminal probe by local and federal authorities is being conducted separate from the lawsuits.
Experts have told Billboard that the cases could ultimately see hundreds of individual claims and hundreds of millions in potential damages or settlements.
The deadly crush occurred during the first night of a two-day festival attended by more than 50,000 people. The event, named for one of Scott’s albums, was hosted at the NRG Park stadium complex in his hometown of Houston. The exact cause of the disaster and the timeline events are still unclear, but videos and witness accounts appear to indicate a chaotic scene in which the already-rowdy crowd surged toward the stage, making it difficult for some to breathe.
The civil lawsuits – 18 and counting so far – allege that those injuries and deaths were caused by various forms of negligence on the part of defendants, meaning they knew about or should have known about the serious potential for harm to concertgoers and didn’t do enough to stop it.
Monday’s order was technically issued in a single case filed by an injured Astroworld attendee named Manuel Souza, who called the disaster a “preventable tragedy” and accused Scott of having “fomented dangerous behaviors.” But it will apply to all 18 cases that have thus far been filed in Houston court, which were listed out in the written order.
Live Nation, Scott and Scoremore have thus far not returned requests for comment on the litigation.