A woman injured at a United Center concert will be allowed to continue her legal action against concert promoter Live Nation after winning an appeal. 

Plaintiff Sharon E. Jones filed a negligence complaint against Live Nation Entertainment and the United Center in Cook County Circuit Court on Nov. 20, 2013, accusing the promoter and venue of negligence for the injuries she said she sustained when she fell into a “crowd surge” at a Watch The Throne Tour concert, headlined by Jay-Z and Kanye West. 

United Center, Chicago
United Center, Chicago | Zarah Vila / Shutterstock.com

On a prior appeal, the Illinois First District Appellate Court had ordered Live Nation to answer Jones’ written questions about whether it could have predicted performer actions might lead to patron injuries. While that appeal was pending, Cook County Circuit Judge Larry G. Axelrod granted summary judgment to Live Nation. Although the appellate justices had ordered additional discovery, Axelrod denied Jones’ motion for reconsideration and that discovery never occurred. 

Jones appealed, arguing the trial court should not have granted summary judgment and that it abused its discretion by denying her motion for reconsideration. The appellate justices agreed the trial court overstepped. 

Justice Robert E. Gordon wrote the opinion; Justices Bertina E. Lampkin and Eileen O’Neill Burke concurred. 

In her appeal, Jones argued the summary judgment in favor of Live Nation was flawed because, as lessee of the United Center for the concern, it “possessed” the area where she was hurt — a flight of stone stairs she was knocked down after performers ‘encouraged the crowd to leave their assigned seats and ‘come on down’ to party,’” hurting her legs back, neck and head. 

“The trial court did not analyze breach of duty as a standalone element in its order granting summary judgment,” Gordon wrote, “because it found that no duty of care existed in the first place.” 

The justices further explained that Axelrod’s decision was based on a lack of evidence to support Jones’ claims about Live Nation’s duty of care, but it was Axelrod who “precluded (Jones) from obtaining such evidence” by pre-empting the appellate court’s order compelling the promoter to answer the written questions. 

“Without the information from discovery, there was, at the very least, an issue of material fact as to whether” Live Nation owed a duty of care. 

Live Nation said its rental agreement did not obligate it to ensure safety of spectators, that it had limited control of the venture and did not employ or control the musicians. But, as Gordon wrote, Jones “was not a party to this rental agreement. … Any dispute concerning the apportionment of liability or contract dispute regarding the particular areas of the venue of which (the United Center) did or did not relinquish control, would be for Live Nation and (arena ownership) to resolve.” 

Ultimately, using the rental agreement to determine Jones’ rights constituted the abuse of the trial court’s discretion that caused the appellate justices to rule in Jones’ favor and remand the case for further proceeding. Without answers to Jones’ written questions for Live Nation, Gordon wrote, the justices were unable to determine Live Nation did not owe a duty of care. 

“The answers speak directly to … Live Nation’s notice and knowledge of the frequency with which its performers encourage a crowd of people to leave their seats and move down toward the stage and concert attendees’ injuries that may result therefrom,” and only with that information will the circuit court be able to effectively adjudicate the complaint, the justices said. 

According to online Cook County court records, Jones was represented in the case by attorney William Jaeger, of Chicago. 

Live Nation was represented by the firm of Merlo Kanofsky & Gregg, of Chicago.

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