A Travis County judge has dismissed a flurry of claims brought against South by Southwest, the city of Austin and other defendants from victims of a 2014 crash during the international music festival that killed four people and injured 20.
The lawsuits — brought by six plaintiffs, including those injured and family members of those who died — amounted to the largest case arising from the incident in which Rashad Owens drove through barriers and plowed into festivalgoers as they walked in a crowded, closed-to-traffic street.
The suits had claimed festival organizers and other defendants were negligent, asserting they should have known Austin’s culture of partying endangered pedestrians strolling through downtown streets.
“SXSW has the deepest sympathy for the victims and all affected by Rashad Owens’s crimes,” SXSW attorney Peter D. Kennedy said in a statement Friday. “We appreciate the court’s attention to this matter, and we will continue to look to the judicial system to resolve the few remaining cases.”
Trey Crawford, a Dallas attorney who represented victims, said he is disappointed by the ruling and would appeal.
State District Judge Karin Crump didn’t elaborate on her decision to dismiss the cases, which had begun with six separate lawsuits that were later consolidated.
A couple of lawsuits remain against SXSW in state district court in Travis County, as well as one in Travis County probate court.
Last fall, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel threw out a separate lawsuit filed by the family of Steven Craenmehr, who died in the 2014 crash. The suit claimed the festival should have anticipated the danger because 153 people were hit by cars during previous SXSW festivals.
Yeakel said the incidents weren’t frequent enough to be anticipated by SXSW, KVUE-TV reported at the time.
In addition to Craenmehr, Jamie West, 27, died at the scene. Sandy Le, 26, and DeAndre Tatum, 18, died in the days that followed.
The suits said organizers and officials had information that should have prompted them to do more to protect festival attendees.
They claimed the city’s alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing — with the downtown area leading the way — and that Austin residents spend more on drinks per capita than other Texas cities. They state that police made more than 500 arrests for driving while intoxicated in the downtown area during SXSW in recent years.
The incident happened as Owens tried to escape from police officers, eventually crashing through traffic barricades and driving through a crowd of people. Owens was later found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.