Stage diving at University of Pennsylvania venue injures woman

Stage diving in the early '80s was a symbol of unity for punk rockers that would gather and catch audience members climbing onstage to dive off into the crowd. As time went on it was done by the performers themselves for the shock value and ultimately became a marketing tool.

The practice has recently generated a slew of lawsuits against the stage diving performers, including a case in Pennsylvania which held the band Fishbone responsible for a woman's serious injuries suffered when the singer dove off the stage onto her.

No warnings given by singer

The woman in the case of Myers v. Moore went to see a show at the World Live Café, a concert venue run by the University of Pennsylvania, which featured the British ska band, The English Beat. She did not know that the punk/funk/ska band Fishbone was the opening act, and was not familiar with their reputation for stage diving.

In the middle of Fishbone's performance, the lead singer known as "Dr. Madd Vibe" suddenly dove from the elevated stage into the audience, knocking the woman to the ground where she fell unconscious. She sustained numerous injuries including a fractured skull and clavicle, traumatic brain injuries, and post traumatic auto immune disorders.

Civil conspiracy to stage dive

The injured woman sued the band members, its management, the concert promoter and the venue for civil conspiracy, negligence and assault and battery. The venue and promoter settled with the woman for failing to warn the audience that the show would feature stage diving.

The individual members of the band, its agent and touring company did not settle; in fact, they did not answer the complaint and did not appear at the hearing, so a default judgment was entered against them. The court reviewed testimony from the band's singer in which he admitted that stage diving was a planned part of every show.

Singer not concerned with audience's safety

"Dr. Madd Vibe," the Fishbone singer, said in his deposition that the main risk he found with stage diving was hitting the floor himself, and he did not want thoughts of the audience members' safety to cloud his mind and affect his performance. He was more concerned with "predators" who file frivolous lawsuits against him.

The singer and bass player also acknowledged that it is a frequent occurrence to have an ambulance come to the concert venue where Fishbone is playing. He and the band had previously been sued for injuring someone at a Seattle show by stage diving. Yet both band members testified that they use stage diving to promote the band, putting the images on t-shirts and album covers.

Lack of remorse leads to punitive damages

Despite the dangers of stage diving, the Fishbone singer continued to stage dive at almost every performance and showed no remorse for his conduct, only apathy and hostility toward those he injured. He also refused to answer a question about whether he took any drugs before the performance, and the court took that to mean that his answers would be unfavorable to his interests.

Under all of these circumstances, the court awarded a quarter million dollars in punitive damages against the singer alone for his "reckless indifference to the rights of others" under Pennsylvania law. With the necessary medical expenses for the woman's serious injuries, the total award in the case was $1.37 million.

When injuries happen at a concert or show, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint all the parties responsible. An experienced and diligent attorney can help in holding wrongdoers accountable.