Can I Sue if I Was Sexually Assaulted at a Concert?
Sexual assaults are the dirty secret of concerts and festivals. While most assaults are limited to unwanted groping, the prevalence of these assaults is far higher than most people realize. Promoters and venues need to do more to protect guests. What happens when a serious assault takes place? Can the venue or the promoters be held responsible?
In the paragraphs below, we will try to answer your questions.
Sexual Harassment and Assaults at Concerts – the Statistics
According to a 2018 report from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, half the U.S. population goes to concerts each year. Although those numbers are way down in 2020 because of COVID-19, the numbers are expected to bounce back once venues reopen and there is widespread access to a vaccine.
A survey of concert goers revealed that 92% of females say they received some sort of sexual harassment or misconduct at a concert. 55% had been groped. 3% had been sexually assaulted. Reporter Vera Papisova writing for TeenVogue says she was groped 22 times in 10 hours at Coachella in 2018 while writing a story on sexual assault at music festivals. She interviewed 54 women and all reported being harassed or groped.
Vice wrote an entire article on the rape culture at concerts (and specifically Coachella where a photo went viral of a dude wearing a shirt that said, “Eat Rape Sleep Repeat.”)
UNLV says that there have been 7 “reported and verified” sexual assaults at Coachella over the last 10 years. Ask any sexual assault victim’s advocate, however, and they will tell you that assaults at concerts have become so common place that the overwhelming majority are never reported.
Why Are Concerts and Festivals Like Coachella Havens for Sexual Misconduct?
UNLV claims there are several reasons there are so many incidents of sexual misconduct and assaults at concerts. These include crowd size, difficulty in crowd surveillance and alcohol use. We agree but think that list doesn’t address the core of the problem.
Unfortunately, there really is a rape culture that exists at these events. Marshall University describes “rape culture” as “an environment where rape is prevalent and sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture." Simply because sexual misconduct at concerts is now normalized doesn’t mean that it should be an excuse for physical assaults.
What Can Festival Venues Do to Combat Sexual Violence?
When asked, one festival employee threw up his hands and said, “What can we do? There are over 50,000 people here.” That attitude is one of the biggest problems facing the industry today. Festival organizers have a duty to take action. Simply hiring a couple security guards or posting a no harassment policy isn’t enough.
UNLV suggests venues do the following:
- Promote an explicit anti-harassment policy
- Increase bystander intervention
- Create a centralized place for help and reporting
- Provide cell phone applications for contacting security
- Train staff to identify and respond to nonconsensual behavior
- Increase surveillance via technology or elevated positions
- Imbed individuals in the crowd to provide monitoring and allow immediate reporting
- Manage alcohol intake
Those are all excellent suggestions. We hope that organizers take a more direct approach and promptly remove offenders / prosecute those who physically grope others. Word will quickly spread that offensive behavior won’t be tolerated.
Suing Concert Promoters and Music Venues
We started this post with a question. Can I Sue if I Was Sexually Assaulted at a Concert? The answer is yes. And we think that if more people reported and took action, the prevalence of rape culture would quickly decrease.
Promoting an explicit anti-harassment policy and increasing bystander intervention as suggested by UNLV are great ways to begin changing people’s attitudes on sexual violence at concerts. Hitting promoters in their wallets is also a great way to force promoters to do more.
Coachella reportedly brings in over $100 million. They can easily hire more security, create apps to report misconduct and educate concertgoers. (We personally believe that more women would attend festivals if they felt safer. Refinery29 said a number of women they interviewed had stopped attending music festivals because of sexual harassment and sexual violence. )
Live Nation Sued for Concert Goers Death
On October 26th, 2020 a California appeals court ruled that Live Nation could be held liable for the death of a 19 year old attendee at a Live Nations electronic music festival (Hard Fest). This case involved an overdose (ecstasy) and not a sexual assault. But the ruling of the court is important to all people harmed at concerts.
Katie Dix was just 19 years old. While at a Live Nations event she overdosed on MDMA and died. Her parents sued claiming that Live Nation knew that ecstasy would be sold and consumed at the festival and created a risk of injury or death.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court tossed the lawsuit. The trial judge ruled that Live Nation owed no special duty of care to music festival attendees. Not satisfied with the ruling, Katie’s parents appealed.
Live Nation anticipated 65,000 attendees per day at Hard Fest, the majority of whom were between 18 and 28. The company obtained all the necessary permits for the event and as part of the permitting process, hired an outside security company to provide 400 guards. The company also provided medical and EMS first responders and “cooling stations” due to the anticipated high summer heat.
The rest of this story is predictable. Katie overdosed. Security guards responded but didn’t provide any medical assistance despite Katie turning blue. It took medics quite some time to find and begin treating her. By then, it was too late. At the hospital she was pronounced dead.
Live Nation said it did everything required by their permits. They had both medical personnel and security at the festival. They say Katie’s death was the result of her own action or because of drug dealers. In their words, “no connection exists, direct or indirect, between any act or omission on part of [Live Nation] and [Katie’s] unfortunate overdose.” The trial judge agreed.
Thankfully, Katie’s parents disagreed and appealed. A three judge panel sided with the Dix family.
Citing California law, the appeals court said, “Although there is no duty to come to the aid of another, a duty to warn or protect may be found if the defendant has a special relationship with the potential victim that gives the victim a right to expect protection. If such a relationship exists, then the person with that relationship owes a duty to protect the other person from “foreseeable harm, or to come to the aid of another in the face of ongoing harm or medical emergency”.
So the question becomes, does a concert promoter owe a special duty to people attending their event?
The answer is yes.
According to the California Court of Appeals,
“Live Nation, as the operator of an electronic music festival, had a special relationship with its 65,000 festival invitees. Once they passed through security and entered the large enclosed grounds for the 11-hour festival, the festival attendees were dependent on Live Nation… Attendees … depended on Live Nation to provide adequate security. Based on its prior experience with producing similar festivals, Live Nation knew that a major risk of conducting an electronic music festival was that attendees would consume illegal substances and suffer negative effects, including overdose[s].”
We can say the same about sexual assaults. With 92% of female concert goers claiming to have been sexually harassed or assaulted at a music festival, concert promoters have an equal duty to protect attendees from sexual predators and misconduct. Just like Live Nation knew of the major risk of drug use, concert promoters and venues also know the risk of sexual assaults. In fact, we think the risk of sexual assaults is even higher than that of drug overdoses.
Compared to the promoters, festival goers are relatively powerless to provide their own security. If promoters hope to profit from these events, they also owe a duty to their guests.
The case against Live Nation is far from over. The ruling from the court of appeals simply means the case can proceed. Ultimately a jury will have to decide the extent of the company’s duty to Katie and if they violated that duty.
We encourage those who were sexually assaulted at concerts and music festivals to speak up and step forward. By holding promoters responsible, the chances are great that these people will take better measures to protect guests at their events. Stepping forward means the chances are better that future concert goers need not fear being assaulted.
Were You Sexually Assaulted at a Concert or Music Festival?
No one should be subjected to sexual harassment or worse at a concert. The so-called rape culture that prevails at these events needs to end. And by reporting these crimes and taking action, you can help do that.
To learn more, visit our sexual assault lawsuit information page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us directly for a no obligation, no pressure confidential consultation. Contact attorney Brian Mahany online, by email at [hidden email] or by phone at 877.858.8018.