SXSW lawsuits proceed after judge denies dismissal request

Crews respond to the aftermath, moments after a driver plowed through a crowd during the 2014 SXSW Festival in downtown Austin. Four people were killed, 20 others hurt. (Sophia Beausoleil / KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Multiple negligence lawsuits against South by Southwest will proceed after a Travis County court judge denied the festival operators’ legal request to have those suits dismissed, KXAN has learned.

Judge Karin Crump, 250th Civil Dist. Court, Travis Co.
Judge Karin Crump, 250th Civil Dist. Court, Travis Co.

Victims’ attorney Scott Hendler tells KXAN five of eight similar lawsuits can now go ahead. A copy of the ruling from Judge Karin Crump, who sits on the the 250th Civil District Court, shows, “After reviewing the motion, Plaintiff’s Response, Defendants’ Consolidated Reply in Support of their Motion, the pleadings on file, the arguments of counsel and applicable law, the Court rules that Defendants’ motion is denied.”

Hendler says the judge also rejected a SXSW request to appeal her decision.

Attorney for SXSW, Pete Kennedy confirms to KXAN in an email that there is a sixth case pending in state probate court and a new, seventh case in district court that hasn’t been served on SXSW yet. An eighth federal case has been transferred from San Antonio to Austin, and SXSW’s date to file its initial response to the suit is Friday.

Continuing Coverage of the SXSW Crash

On March 13, 2014, an accused drunken driver trying to escape police plowed through a thin metal barricade and into a crowd of festival-goers on Red River Street, killing four and injuring more than 20 others. Attorneys for victims have argued SXSW should have known an errant driver could penetrate the festival perimeter — based on other incidents around America — and should have erected more robust barricades. During SXSW 2015, heavier, water-filled barricades anchored many access points to the festival.

“Everyone at SXSW continues to have deep sympathy for the victims of Rashad Owens’s [alleged] terrible crimes,” Kennedy wrote. “This ruling simply means the cases may proceed past the dismissal stage. We are confident that the evidence will show that SXSW is not responsible for the criminal acts of a third party. We hope that Owens’s [alleged] victims will take advantage of the SXSW Cares fund and other community resources.”

As of July 2014, the SXSW Cares Fund has received over $250,000 in donations from individual donors, corporate donors, benefit concerts, and fundraising campaigns, according to its website.

Hendler tells KXAN that the next steps in the lawsuits include the formal process of plaintiffs receiving evidence from SXSW, which involves looking at internal documents, emails and deposing witnesses.


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