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Sony Music to pay $160m over concert shooting

Sony Music Holdings has been ordered to pay US$160 million (€152m) in damages following a fatal shooting at a Cousin Stizz concert it organised in Atlanta.

Four people were shot after a gunman opened fire just as the rapper was about to take to the stage at the 1,000-cap Masquerade venue in Underground Atlanta on 12 November, 2017. Two of the casualties – Giovan Diaz, 22, and Ewell Ynoa, 21 – died from catastrophic gunshot wounds. A 25-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with their murder.

According to court documents, Sony Music Holdings was the promoter, planner, supervisor and manager of the show, but allegedly failed to put security measures in place and carry out reasonable inspections of the venue, reports Music Business Worldwide.

The $160m was awarded by a Dekalb County, Georgia jury for Sony’s role in “failing to protect patrons” and will be used to compensate the victims’ families. The trial, which followed several years of litigation, consisted of two previously consolidated cases.

“This verdict represents an incredible day of justice for our clients and for the safety of all people that attend concerts across America,” says lead trial counsel Parker Miller of Beasley Allen. “Obviously, these types of cases do not come around often. This was a mass shooting in a crowded concert. There were multiple deaths, and Gio and Wells suffered significantly before losing their fight for life, as eyewitnesses outlined.”

“Juries don’t award these types of verdicts unless there is a confluence of circumstances, which was the case here”

Miller continues: “The trial was incredibly emotional because of what these families, and the world, lost. One of these men had been told he would be a father just a few hours before the shooting happened. Combine that with the fact the concert endangered everyone, and this defendant refused to participate in the legal process, and you get the type of verdict we saw here.”

Sony has declined to comment on the verdict.

“Juries don’t award these types of verdicts unless there is a confluence of circumstances, which was the case here,” adds Darren Summerville of The Summerville Firm. Our system has always turned to our citizens to lend a voice when a company endangers others with wholly unnecessary suffering and death. Just as importantly, ignoring the legal process always represents a risk for an entity that thinks it need not participate.”

Tiffany M Simmons, managing partner of Simmons Law in Atlanta, Georgia, adds: “There is no excuse for how poorly secured this production was. We are humbled by the jury’s decision, and we hope this sends a message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”


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