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