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Does the operator of a music festival owe a duty of care to its patrons to provide medical care?

Does the operator of a music festival owe a duty of care to its patrons to provide medical care?  That’s the question recently taken up by the Court of Appeals for the Second District.

While at Live Nation’s 2015 “Hard Fest,” which took place at the Pomona Fairplex, Katie Dix, a festival-goer, ingested an illegal drug and collapsed. After medical personnel responded, an ambulance transported Katie to a hospital, where she died shortly thereafter. Katie’s parents, Mark and Pamela Dix, sued Live Nation for negligence and other causes of action. Live Nation moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not owe a duty of care to music festival attendees.

The trial court granted Live Nation’s motion.

The Dixes appealed, contending that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because Live Nation owed a duty of care to music festival attendees and that triable issues of material fact exist on their negligence cause of action.

On appeal, it was considered that Live Nation knew its festival-goers were likely to ingest illegal substances which could lead to dehydration.  They had a plan in place to attempt to prevent the ingestion of illegal drugs and, to combat dehydration, offered free water to its patrons.  Because the festival was anticipated to have over 5,000 attendees, the county required Live Nation to have a medical action plan which was approved by the Fire Department.  The medical plan called for the stations to be staffed with medical personnel, including physicians, nurses, and emergency medical technicians.  These stations were inspected and approved by the fire department.

During the festival, 19 year-old Katie Dix collapsed.  Security personnel carried her outside of one of the music venues and placed her on the ground.  When Katie’s friends asked security to “do something,” security personnel said there was nothing they could do until medical personnel arrived.  Upon arrival, medical personnel placed a manual air pump in Katie’s mouth and began CPR.  After about 15 minutes, she was transported by cart to an ambulance.  After further resuscitation efforts in the ambulance, she was transported to hospital where she was pronounced dead.  The cause of death was “acute drug intoxication.”  She tested positive for ecstasy and bath salts.

Among other things, the Dixes alleged negligence on the part of Live Nation for having inadequately trained personnel and for the delay in the provision of emergency medical care to Katie after she collapsed.

Live Nation asserted, among other things, that it did not owe a duty to:

…ensure Katie’s safety against her own volitional choice to engage in dangerous, prohibited activities during the Hard Fest.” Live Nation argued that, based on the application of the factors set forth in Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, “[w]hile [Katie’s] death is tragic, these facts do not create a duty on the part of [Live Nation] to prevent her from voluntarily ingesting a known illegal drug, or for [Live Nation] to ensure [Katie] consumed adequate water and hydration to avoid injury or death from overdose.”

Live Nation contended that, “[g]iven the tenuous, if any, connection between any acts by Live Nation and [Katie’s] voluntary, ill-advised decision to proactively seek out and consume [E]cstasy, and in light of the profuse evidence reflecting the painstaking efforts taken by [Live Nation] to ameliorate the effects of any self-destructive acts or neglect by attendees, even if [Live Nation] owed some hypothetical duty to [Katie], the Dixes cannot prove [Live Nation] breached such hypothetical duty.”

Finally, although it did not submit any expert witness testimony, Live Nation argued that, even if a duty existed, “[the Dixes] cannot demonstrate that any act of [Live Nation] was a substantial factor in causing [Katie’s] death from [E]cstasy overdose.” Live Nation contended that “no connection exists, direct or indirect, between any act or omission on part of [Live Nation] and [Katie’s] unfortunate overdose.”

Dix v. Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. (Oct. 26, 2020, No. B289596) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 1005, at *11-12].

The Court did not find Live Nation’s arguments to be compelling, holding:

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. In the event of a medical emergency, Live Nation controlled not only if and when attendees would receive medical care, but also the nature and extent of the care. Attendees could not summon their own medical care. Attendees also depended on Live Nation to provide adequate security.

Dix v. Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. (Oct. 26, 2020, No. B289596) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 1005, at *24-25].

Because of its special relationship with festival attendees, an operator of electronic music festivals like Live Nation owes a duty of reasonable care to festival attendees. Whether Live Nation breached its duty and caused Katie’s death are for the jury to determine.

The case was reversed and remanded.

 

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Mr. Serrano has been admitted to practice before California State and Federal Courts. He was named to the Super Lawyers’ 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 Southern California Rising Stars List, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5% of attorneys in Southern California each year. View Attorney Jean-Simon Serrano's Attorney Bio Here.

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