Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Gagging order and diversity issues discussed at Astroworld court hearing 

By | Published on Friday 4 March 2022


A court hearing earlier this week considered how the hundreds of lawsuits filed in relation to last year’s Astroworld tragedy will be managed, and also discussed the gagging order recently issued by the judge overseeing the proceedings, and the lack of diversity within the pool of attorneys working on the cases.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured when a crowd surge occurred during Travis Scott’s headline set on 5 Nov 2021 at the Houston-based festival he founded.

As a criminal investigation got underway to ascertain if decisions made by event organisers before or during the festival contributed to the crowd surge, hundreds of those affected by the incident filed lawsuits, including the families of those who died.

Although various parties are named as defendants in many of those lawsuits, the key defendants are Scott himself and the festival’s promoters, Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary.

Last month it was confirmed that 387 lawsuits relating to Astroworld would be consolidated, so to make it easier to manage the legal action. It was then subsequently announced that judge Kristen Hawkins would oversee the proceedings.

According to the Associated Press, at a hearing earlier this week Hawkins set out how she intends for all the consolidated Astroworld litigation to be managed.

She plans to have monthly hearings on the cases and she has requested that, before the next such hearing, all the lawsuits should be organised into four categories, grouping together legal action in relation to deaths, bodily injuries, brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.

This week’s hearing also considered a leadership structure within the lawyers representing both plaintiffs and defendants, and a process to deal with any future disputes over evidence and other matters. Hawkins also spoke more about the gagging order that she issued last month which limits what lawyers working on the Astroworld cases can say in public.

The judge clarified that lawyers could inform their media contacts about factual issues that happen in the courtroom, but she said that she didn’t want them presenting their legal arguments through media or social media, as that could influence any jury should one or more of the lawsuits get to full trial. The judge added: “This case should be tried in the courtroom and not on social media or with press releases or other statements to the media”.

A final issue raised during this week’s hearing related to diversity concerns. One of the lawyers representing some of the Astroworld victims – including the family of the youngest person to die from injuries sustained at the festival, Ezra Blount – is Ben Crump, also known for his civil rights work.

He told the court that most of the victims killed or injured at Astroworld were black, but the majority of the attorneys working on these cases are white. Crump stated: “There seems to be not much representation in the court of those African American voices – we are concerned about them not having a voice”.

Hawkins responded that the lack of diversity among the lawyers representing Astroworld victims “has not gone unnoticed by the court [and] I would like that to be considered going forward”. However, she added, “I’m not going to choose someone’s counsel for them – and I do know we have excellent attorneys in this room and those attorneys come from all aspects of Harris County”.