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October 27, 2020

Plaintiffs’ daughter died after taking an illegal drug at a music festival. The concert organizer argued it owed no duty of care to music festival attendees. The trial court granted summary judgment for the concert organizer. The California Court of Appeal reversed, holding that “[b]ecause of its special relationship with festival attendees, an operator of electronic music festivals . . . owes a duty of reasonable care to festival attendees.”

The court summarized its reasoning as follows:

“Once they passed through security and entered the large enclosed grounds for the 11-hour festival, the festival attendees were dependent on [the concert organizer]. In the event of a medical emergency, [the concert organizer] 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 [the concert organizer] to provide adequate security. Based on its prior experience with producing similar festivals, [the concert organizer] knew that a ‘major risk’ of conducting an electronic music festival was that attendees would ‘consume illegal substances’ and suffer ‘negative effects,’ including ‘overdose[s].’ Recognizing the ‘high degree’ of foreseeability of illegal drug use and medical emergencies, [the concert organizer] ‘retained security and medical vendors and coordinated with local public agencies to use reasonable measures to implement security and medical plans for the safety of attendees.’ [The concert organizer] assumed the burdens of detecting unlawful drugs and providing medical care to attendees.”