Personal Injury

Falling concert equipment leaves Texas lawyer with traumatic brain injury

AUSTIN, Texas — An attorney who received a serious head injury at concert in Austin, Texas, on March 18, has filed a lawsuit against the event organizers, operators, and host, alleging he “no longer possesses the mental capacity or thought processes necessary to effectively represent his clients.”

Richard Patrick Fagerberg, 41, attended a concert lineup that was part of the annual SXSW music festival at Stubb’s Bar-b-q when the life-changing injury occurred. The English band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark had just taken the stage when a large mechanical arm that was being used to shoot video crashed into the crowd.

Four people, including Mr. Fagerberg, were struck by the 350-pound boom. Mr. Fagerberg was knocked unconscious and received a large gash on his head. He was taken the hospital for treatment. By the next morning, the lawsuit says, he was having difficulty speaking and expressing his thoughts. Soon after, realizing he could no longer speak and think clearly, Mr. Fagerberg closed his criminal defense practice. He now seeks damages to cover medical expenses and loss of earnings, which his lawyer says could easily amount to millions of dollars.

The lawsuit’s defendants are Stubb’s Bar-b-q (the venue where the incident occurred); concert event producer South by Southwest (SXSW); Steve Madden Ltd., a New York shoe company that sponsored the lineup on the night of the accident; Michael Brown, the cameraman and operator of the boom that crashed; and OnSlot Creative, the New York company that hired Mr. Brown to film the concerts.

The more recent collapse of a concert stage and rigging at the Indiana State Fair, which killed seven people and injured many others, has turned a spotlight on concert safety, especially for outdoor venues where tons of stage, lighting, and video equipment are trucked in and set up with little to no safety oversight. While Stubb’s serves as a regular venue for live musical performances, there is some question about the safety of the video equipment set up to film the lineup on the night of the accident and the operator chosen to shoot the event.

According to the lawsuit, OnSlot hired Mr. Brown to film the event after he responded to an online ad seeking a camera operator who would be paid $50 per day plus meals. A report by Austin’s American-Statesman said that Mr. Brown “had trouble operating the equipment earlier in the evening” and that at one point, the lawsuit says, “the crane swooped wildly,” narrowly missing the heads of audience members.

Mr. Fagerberg’s lawsuit accuses Mr. Brown of negligence in operation the equipment, and alleges Steve Madden and OnSlot were negligent in hiring him. As for Stubbs and SXSW, the lawsuit alleges they did not exercise “ordinary care” to keep the venue and event safe for patrons.

SXSW spokesman Roland Swenson told the American-Statesman that the event officials “did not know about this video shoot” and said they were “pretty upset.”

“This is our 25th year, and we’ve never had anyone permanently injured,” Mr. Swenson told the Statesman. “It’s disheartening.”


In suit, lawyer says SXSW injury has halted his practice

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