Since I graduated from Boston College Law School in 1994, my practice has focused on the legal issues that arise during the production of live sports and entertainment events. Here is a brief summary of my qualifications and expertise.
Origins of an Event Safety Practice
In 2002, I litigated a case in which a young man nearly died in a crowd crush during a large music festival. Through two years of exhaustive discovery, which included deposing the rap performer Eminem, I learned how national event organizers addressed reasonably foreseeable risks, and I was exposed to the body of literature regarding crowd management, emergency planning, risk management, and biomechanics which have been incorporated into important treatises, industry codes, and regulations. Here is a video about my “Eminem case.”
Immersion in the Event Industry
For ten years beginning in 2006, I was a member of a leading trade organization for venue managers and their security providers, now known as the International Association of Venue Managers. As a practicing attorney knowledgeable about special event risk management, I was invited to join the faculty of IAVM’s Academy for Venue Safety & Security, where I taught about risk and safety to the operational leaders of stadiums, arenas, performing arts centers, convention facilities, and other public accommodations.
In 2011, following the Indiana State Fair outdoor stage roof collapse, I joined other event industry professionals to form the Event Safety Alliance. ESA focuses on creating and teaching reasonable operational practices and decision-making criteria for all kinds of live events. I have been ESA’s vice president since its inception. Among other projects, I contributed to the Event Safety Guide, a thirty-five chapter treatise for industry professionals, I was principal author of three rounds of reopening guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I led the nearly four-year drafting and approval process that yielded ANSI ES1.9-2020, Crowd Management, which is the United States’ authoritative guidance on that subject. I also co-host the Event Safety Podcast, and I am a frequent author and presenter regarding risk and safety at live events.
In 2015, I created a course called “Risk Management in Venues,” a joint offering of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and W.P. Carey School of Business. The headlines provide a steady stream of new cases through which we consider venue and event professionals’ legal duty of care and the merits of various tort and contract claims arising from live events. In 2018, I created a related course in “Sports Facilities Management” that focuses more on helping event professionals identify operational decisions that would be legally defensible under their own circumstances.
It All Fits Together
As an experienced litigator who is embedded in a highly specialized industry, there are many things I can do for a client.
- Contracts. I draft and revise contracts for employers and contractors all the time. I know the traps common to event work, such as one-sided indemnity provisions, subjective cancellation clauses, and impenetrable force majeure language.
- Safety Plans. As a member of the risk management team, I create event safety plans for venues and festivals that apply the applicable legal duty of care and industry guidance. I also write the crowd messaging and worker education to support these plans, and I record training videos to prepare stakeholders to implement the new provisions.
- Expert Witness. Ideally, I get hired as part of the event-planning process so I can help identify and mitigate the reasonably foreseeable risks. But when litigation has already begun, I use my advocacy skills to explain and apply the standard of care to the facts of the case. I have served as an expert witness for plaintiffs and defendants throughout North America, including cases arising from the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage roof collapse and the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. My legal training helps me understand laws and regulations, I am familiar with (or have written) the leading industry safety treatises, I write a citation-filled expert report, and I persuasively advocate for my position in deposition or at trial.