Who is responsible when things go wrong at a public event?

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| Preston Law

With restrictions easing and large events back on people’s social calendars, it is important to remember personal safety and the safety of others when attending crowded places. What happens, though, when something beyond your control goes wrong at a large public event. Who is responsible and how can you prove that you are not to blame if you are injured at a public event?

Who bears the legal responsibility for attendees’ safety at events in Australia?

Depending on a range of factors the legal responsibility for the safety of attendees may be held by a number of different people or organisations. This includes the organisers, third party security or any other third party contractors involved with putting on the event. It is possible for a number of parties to simultaneously be responsible for the safety of attendees.

In the first instance, organisers must ensure that they have taken adequate care to minimise risks to the public and that a safe environment has been provided for attendees and anyone else involved, including workers and performers.

The onus is on the event organiser to ensure they are compliant with relevant safety obligations, in collaboration with the local council, emergency services and any other authorities. To meet these obligations, they may be required to:

  • undertake a comprehensive risk assessment;
  • hire staff trained in crowd management, security and first aid;
  • install barriers or other mechanisms for crowd control; and/or
  • develop an emergency management plan that details who is in charge in case of an emergency, how the venue will be evacuated, where medical attention can be sought and how to manage the crowd.

How is attendee safety at large events policed?

When things go wrong at large public events, it is usually presumed that the organisers of the event must be held liable. However, as with the question of who bears responsibility for the safety of attendees at large events, the answer as to how it is policed is much the same: depending on the safety responsibility that is breached, it can fall to a range of people or organisations.

For example, if seating, barricades or the stage collapse on the crowd then the party that is responsible will likely be the contractor engaged to erect them, but if attendees fall ill due to contaminated food or beverage available at the event then the contractor responsible for that aspect would be responsible. Therefore, every person or organisation responsible for safety must police their own contribution to the event.

Can I take legal action if I have been injured at an event?

If you have been injured at a public event you may be able to take civil action against the responsible party. The onus is on the claimant (the injured party that is bringing the claim) to prove that the organiser was negligent.

How is negligence proved?

To prove that negligence resulted in injury there are three elements that need to be satisfied:

  1. the injured person was owed a duty of care by the organising individual or company;
  2. the organising individual or company failed to provide care for the safety of the injured person; and
  3. the injured person suffered an injury and financial loss as a result of that injury.

It is therefore crucial that event organisers understand the extent of their duty to their patrons and endeavour to ensure all possible risks are mitigated.

If you have been injured while in attendance at a large public event, you may be able to take action against the event organiser or another party involved in the event logistics. Our compensation lawyers are experienced in dealing with public liability claims and can be contacted on 4052 0770.