The tragedy surrounding “The Voice” singer Christina Grimmie’s death has led her family to seek financial retribution from AEG and the venue where she was murdered last June.
The lawsuit raises a number of questions in the entertainment world about security and how far venues should go to protect, not only the fans, but the entertainers too.
Grimmie was signing autographs at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Fla. on June 10, after she performed there with her band Before You Exit, when 27-year-old Kevin Loibl shot her before shooting and killing himself. She later died at the hospital.
The Grimmie family filed a lawsuit against The Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation Inc. and AEG which owns the venue, saying The Plaza Live neglected to offer adequate security.
“I just think the new normal, unfortunately, is that at public events you have to have a lot more security,” said Entertainment Litigation Attorney Ed McPherson, of McPherson Rane LLP based in Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, not every small venue can afford that.”
McPherson represented the band Great White that was sued by victims’ relatives after the band’s pyrotechnics started a nightclub on fire in Rhode Island, killing guitar player Ty Longly and 100 other people.
“I’ve handled quite a few tragedies,” he said.
In Christina Grimmie’s case, McPherson said that although security at The Plaza Live conducted bag checks, a simple pat-down of persons at the venue might have prevented the untimely death of the 22-year-old singer.
“A lot of concert venues, and even movie theaters, are checking women’s purses, but they’re not checking the men,” McPherson said. “I think a normal pat-down would have prevented this, and it’s very, very tragic.”
The outcome of the lawsuit depends on whether or not the Grimmie family gets a trial.
“Juries don’t always buy this,” McPherson said. “AEG is not in the business of ensuring that no violence happens. They will argue they can’t be responsible for criminal acts.”
AEG did not return calls for comment on the lawsuit.
“AEG’s lawyers will say, ‘Look, if someone really wants to kill someone, they’re going to, no matter what,’” McPherson said.
The man who shot Grimmie arrived at the venue with two handguns, extra magazines and a hunting knife, according to media reports.
“This was a random, lone freak gunman,” said Robert Smith, owner of Night Life Security Consultants in San Diego. “What could AEG or anyone else have done to foresee what would happen? Yes, we live in a different world. We have to think about terrorism. Does that mean we have to go to a full TSA at every venue?”
According to reports, the shooter was obsessed with Grimmie and many claim he went to the venue specifically to harm her.
“My opinion is they don’t have enough to get a jury verdict,” he said. “I know that AEG is going to say this is ridiculous.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Grimmie family relied on Christina’s income for their financial stability, which is why they seek financial retribution.
Smith said that pat-downs and metal detectors at venues will not stop the kind of violence inflicted on Christina.
He used the shooting death of Pantera’s lead singer Darrell Abbott (also known as Dimebag Darrell) at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio in 2004, as an example.
“Even if the venue had metal detectors, (the gunman) climbed over the wall. They weren’t going to stop him. This guy went there on a mission. He went there to kill. What would a metal detector do?” Smith asked.
It all comes down to if AEG had a duty to prevent Christina Grimmie’s death, McPherson said.
Interviewed for this story: Ed McPherson, (310) 553-8833; Robert Smith, (619) 997-6144