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An Evening Out Turns Tragic

A man attending a concert at a venue in Baltimore was unaware his life was about to drastically change. He turned away from the band to speak with a friend just as another patron climbed onto the stage where the musicians were playing. That patron ran across the stage and dove into the audience. Because he was turned away from the band, the man never saw the stage-diver coming toward him, striking him in the head and neck. Despite being rushed to a nearby hospital’s Shock Trauma unit, and undergoing two surgeries, he was left confined to a wheelchair due to spinal cord injuries. Seeking justice for his life-changing injuries, he turned to Hyatt & Weber’s personal injury team.

The musical venue stated that it was not liable, claiming it had no control over patrons in the establishment. It also claimed that it had posted signs in the venue prohibiting stage-diving.
The insurance company for the music venue claimed that if the venue was found to be responsible, the policy of insurance provided only limited coverage. The insurance company also claimed that the stage-diving incident would be considered an assault or battery, for which the policy provided only limited coverage.

It was agreed to arbitrate the issues before a panel of three retired judges rather than to try the matter twice, once on liability and once on insurance coverage.

With regard to the issue of liability of the venue, Hyatt & Weber’s attorneys were able to establish, through the venue’s employees, that the employees and management were aware that stage-diving occurred on a regular basis. In fact, it was considered part of the culture of the music at the venue. Our lawyers found the venue’s website, as it existed at the time of the event, showed stage-diving as part of the events promoted.

The venue’s security personnel admitted they were never instructed to prevent or even discourage stage-diving unless the band requested that patrons be kept off of the stage. In those instances, security would remove the temporary stairs attached to the stage and would assign security personnel on each side of the stage. These preventative measures had proven to be effective in the prevention of patrons getting onto the stage. All parties agreed that because the band playing on the night in question had not asked to keep the patrons off of the stage, no steps to prevent access to the stage were considered.

As for the assault or battery limited liability coverage that the insurance carrier claimed to be applicable, Hyatt & Weber’s legal team established that there was no assault. The client never saw what hit him, so there was no apprehension of contact, a requirement for a finding of an assault. Our lawyers also established that there was no battery as the stage-diver stated that he had no intent to harm anyone, much less our client. The stage-diver stated he had been going to this venue for six years, had repeatedly seen and participated in stage-diving in the past, and did not see his actions as offensive or threatening. He had not contemplated the possibility of injuring someone by his actions as the actions seemed to be encouraged by the venue.

The three-judge panel found the music venue liable for the incident and that our client was entitled to full coverage under the venue’s policy of insurance.