Court Dismisses South-by-Southwest Drunk-Driving Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a decision in a wrongful death case arising out of a drunk-driving accident that occurred at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case, which was brought against the venue organizers as well as the City where the festival occurred, should be permitted to proceed toward a jury trial over the defendants’ summary judgment motion. Ultimately, the court determined that the case should be dismissed against each of the defendants, albeit for different reasons.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed when a drunk driver fleeing from police drove through a barrier and into a crowd of people at the city-wide SXSW festival. Due to the multi-venue nature of the festival, festival organizers needed to apply for several use permits from the city. In particular, the use permit stated that “[a]ll traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.”

Evidently, festival organizers closed three linear blocks, installing traffic barriers at each intersection. A police officer was also placed at each intersection to keep watch. However, the barricades failed to stop a drunk-driver from crashing through them and driving into a crowd of people. The plaintiff’s spouse was among four who were killed.

The plaintiff initially filed a case against the SXSW festival organizers but later amended her complaint to add the City of Austin.

The Plaintiff’s Claims against the Festival Organizers

The court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against the festival organizers, finding that the plaintiff failed to prove that the city relinquished control over the intersection. The court explained that a premises-liability plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendant exercised control over the premises. As a general matter, cities control public roads, unless that control is delegated to a third-party. Here, the court noted that the use permit issued by the city required the organizers comply with the “approved traffic control plan.” This, the court held, showed that the city – and not the festival organizers – retained control over the intersection.

The Plaintiff’s Claim against the City

The court also dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against the City of Austin. The court noted that crime is common in a large city, and a city government cannot be expected to protect against all forms of crime. The court explained that it is only when a city knew or should have known of an “unreasonable and foreseeable risk” that a city can be held liable for the criminal acts of a third-party. Here, the court held that the plaintiff failed to prove that this type of drunk-driving accident was foreseeable and thus, dismissed the plaintiff’s case against the city.

Have You Been Injured in a Drunk-Driving Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident, there may be multiple parties who can be held accountable, including one or more government entities. The dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience handling all types of Maryland injury claims and have a proven track record of success. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

City May Be Liable for Injuries Following Accident Caused by Fallen Stop Sign, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 4, 2018.

Can Maryland Injury Victims Stack Insurance Policies?, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 25, 2018.


Contact Information