Live Nation is not legally responsible for a deadly 2014 shooting backstage at a Young Jeezy concert, a California appeals court says, because such an attack was not the kind of event that the concert giant should have seen coming.
In a ruling issued Tuesday (Jan. 24), the California Court of Appeal refused to revive a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Eric Johnson, Jr., an event promoter who was shot to death during an August 2014 stop at a San Francisco-area venue during Jeezy’s Under the Influence of Music tour.
Johnson’s family claimed that Live Nation had been legally negligent because it didn’t have enough security measures in place to prevent the shooting, but the appeals court ruled that the attack was not “foreseeable” — a key requirement in proving such allegations.
“A violent attack by and between artists and their guests in the backstage area of a performance is not a foreseeable occurrence against which Live Nation should have provided preventative measures of the nature plaintiffs suggest,” Justice Stuart R. Pollak wrote in Tuesday’s opinion.
In its ruling, the appeals court suggested that Live Nation likely had good reason to be worried about incidents involving the crowd, citing reports that fights had broken out at previous events. But the court said those same red flags did not exist for potential violence backstage.
“The reports did not … indicate that any of the artists or their entourages engaged in or posed any danger of violence during the tour,” the judges wrote in the ruling. “The head of security also indicated that in her more than 10 years at the amphitheater, there had not been any violent incidents backstage.”
Attorneys for Johnson’s family did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday. A representative for Live Nation also did not return a request for comment on the ruling.
The ruling in favor of Live Nation came as the company is facing a similar case over the high-profile stabbing death of Drakeo The Ruler at the Once Upon A Time in L.A. music festival in December 2021. Filed by the late rapper’s family, that case also centers on security measures Live Nation took — or didn’t take — that might have prevented a fatal assault backstage.
Johnson, 38, was shot and killed backstage on Aug. 22, 2014, at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif., a venue leased and operated by Live Nation. According to his family’s lawsuit, Johnson had been at the event to “discuss his business arrangements for Young Jeezy to appear at a concert after-party” in nearby San Jose.
According to press reports at the time, Jeezy (real name Jay Jenkins) was taken into police custody in the wake of the shooting and charged with illegal possession of a weapon. But that charge was later dropped and no additional charges were ever filed against the rapper over the incident.
“Mr. Jenkins should not have been arrested and this case should not have been prosecuted,” Jeezy’s attorney told Billboard at the time. “We are pleased it has been dismissed, although frustrated that it took the police and prosecutors months to do the right thing.”
Court records indicate that no murder charges have ever been filed against anyone over Johnson’s killing.
Earlier versions of the civil lawsuit filed by Johnson’s family directly accused Jeezy of committing the shooting, but those claims were later dropped. They were replaced by allegations similar to those made against Live Nation, claiming the rapper’s allegedly negligent conduct was partly to blame for the attack taking place.
On Tuesday, in addition to rejecting the allegations against Live Nation, the California appeals court also dismissed the claims against Jeezy. The court ruled that the family had waited too long to bring the claims, and were thus barred by the statute of limitations.
Jeezy’s attorney declined to comment on the decision.
Read the full ruling here:
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