Judge hears motion to dismiss SXSW civil lawsuits

AUSTIN -- South by Southwest says "it's not our fault."

The festival's attorneys were in civil district court Thursday trying to get a judge to dismiss five lawsuits that claim festival organizers are at fault for the tragic crash in March 2014.

Rashad Owens is accused of running through a crowd of people, killing four and injuring 21 others, and several of the victims say negligence by festival organizers is partially to blame.

Defense attorneys filed what's called a 91a, a relatively new motion that would dismiss the cases all together. The plaintiffs' attorneys argue they've filed the wrong motion to try and eliminate these lawsuits and the trial should proceed.

Defense attorney Pete Kennedy claimed SXSW did not know this violent type of crime would happen because nothing like it had ever happened before and according to the way the petition is worded that's what they have to prove.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Bill Curtis, says the motion filed by the defense is only applicable when a lawsuit is frivolous or incredulous, and this is not one of those instances.

"The allegations in this case are straightforward," Curtis said. "If you throw a party in the street and you invite people to come to that party in the street and you try to design a plan to keep the cars out of the street you have to do so in a proper fashion."

SXSW lawyers said they aim to dismiss not only the five lawsuits included Wednesday, but three others. Each one, says festival planners, should have used water filled barriers to close off the streets, as they did in some areas this year.

An email obtained by KVUE shows that SXSW did look into the cost of renting those barriers in 2014 but they were not in place where Owens is accused of running through a crowd of people.

Court records show Rashad Owens blood alcohol content was 0.114 at the time of the accident in March 2014, well above the legal limit. He's charged with two counts of capital murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He has a hearing in May, and a judge says they are still aiming for the trial to start at the beginning of November.

The judge told the court she will make her decision on this case by May 8.


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