Archive for April, 2013

Alcohol Liabilty At Concert and Stadium Events: Who’s In Charge?

April 25, 2013

In the state of Massachusetts, a trial judge has decided that relatives of two deceased persons, ages 20 and 19 years old, and an injured person age 24, can bring a lawsuit against the Kraft Group for contributing to their deaths after a country music festival. The concert was held at Gillette Stadium on July 26, 2008. Robert Kraft is the owner of the highly successful New England Patriots football team, and the owner and operator, through his affiliated companies, of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.

The three woman were drinking in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium. The parking lot is also controlled by the Kraft Group. The Kraft Group handles parking and security at Gillette stadium for football games and other non-football events throughout the year. The plaintiffs claim that the Kraft Group failed to provide proper oversight and supervision of the parking lot and that it failed to have sufficient and proper security. The plaintiffs are likely to allege at trial that the Kraft Group knew or should have known that minors were drinking alcoholic beverages in the parking lot before, during, and after the event inside Gillette Stadium. The plaintiffs’ attorney stated that the “[v]enues for sports and entertainment have always thought they were insulated from liability…” The court’s decision will allow the case to proceed to a jury trial; it will be decided by 12 people after hearing all the facts. The case will also raise issues about providing a safe environment on one’s property when it is used for profit-making activities. The plaintiffs are also likely to allege that the Kraft Group permitted minors into the parking lot whether or not the occupants of the cars had tickets to the concert. It was in effect one big party from which the Kraft’s received compensation for parking on its property. When minors started drinking in an atmosphere in which thousands of people were drinking alcoholic beverages all day long an accident was just waiting to happen. It was not a question whether someone was going to be injured it was merely a question of when it would happen.

The case may affect the way the Kraft Group and similar operators conduct their businesses. They can no longer turn a blind eye to illegal activity on their property. A decision for the plaintiffs will likely affect the scope of alcohol consumption inside the Gillette stadium whether by adults or minors. A company in the entertainment business usually knows what type of audience it attracts. The Kraft Group should be aware about the prevalence of minors at football games and musical events. The Kraft Group must act reasonably under all the circumstances to monitor and prevent under-age drinking on property it controls. The liability of the Kraft Group is more likely than not because there had been prior complaints by others, including the town of Foxboro, about the dangerous alcoholic activities being permitted in Gillette stadium parking lots. There are punitive aspects to the case and probable multiple damages under the consumer protection laws, M.G.l..93A and 176D.

The case will likely address the issues of  excessive alcoholic drinking at tail-gait parties during football games and musical events at Gillette stadium. It likely will also raise issues about where alcoholic beverages should be permitted and what steps are mandatory to protect minors from obtaining alcohol. and Their blatant drinking in the parking lots before, during and after entertainment events was foreseable.  The case may even raise questions about serving first class passengers excessive alcohol on commercial airlines. Surely the airlines know some of their first class passengers are leaving their planes and walking to their cars inebriated and over the legal limit for operating a car. The Kraft Group makes hundred of millions of dollars every year at events which use Gillette stadium and its parking lots. It should be required, by law, to have adequate, and well-trained security to prevent the consumption of alcohol by minors, and drunk adults at events on its property.

Update: On November 5, 2013, the Boston Globe newspaper reported that the wrongful death cases against the Kraft Group were settled on the eve of trial for an undisclosed sum of money. As a result, the theory of the case against the Kraft Group will not be resolved; it was likely that the Kraft Group  would have been found negligent. By settling the Kraft Group maintains the present ambiguity in the law until a jury decides otherwise in a future case, and the jury verdict is upheld by a Massachusetts appellate court.

Copyright 2013

All Rights Reserved

Arthur F. Licata, Esq.

12 Post Office Square

Boston MA.