24 Year-Old Overdoses on Ecstasy at EDC. Is That Insomniac’s Fault?

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photo: Ian T. McFarland (CC 2.0)

People take drugs at festivals.  A ton of them.  And they OD on them if they’re not careful.  But is that the fault of festival promoters like Insomniac and Live Nation?

I was actually at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas in 2015.  And I saw someone getting frantically stretchered out while he was convulsing.  It wasn’t pretty, but somehow this life-ending sequence was drowned out by noise, lights, fireworks, and people.  People hardly noticed, in fact.  And if you’ve been to a rave (or any festival) recently, you might have seen a similar scene unfold.

People take a ton of drugs at festivals.  Oftentimes sketchy ones in huge quantities.  They rarely test them beforehand, or vet the dealer.  Sometimes they overdose, other times they come close.

Which is exactly what happened to 24 year-old Nicholas Tom on June 22nd, 2015.  Basically, Tom overloaded on ecstasy and started overdosing during the event.  He died in a medical tent at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

What happened next is now the focus of a lawsuit against Insomniac Holdings LLC and its parent, Live Nation Entertainment Inc.

In the suit, Nicholas Tom’s father alleges that Insomniac was ill-prepared to handle such emergencies.  The staff was untrained, and water wasn’t even available in sufficient quantities to handle the emergency.  As Nicholas struggled with a drug overload, friends and other concertgoers frantically hauled him to the tent for assistance.  It was a life-or-death situation, and Nicholas Tom didn’t make it.

If you’ve ever been to EDC (or basically any other crowded rave or even festival), you can relate to the next sentence.  This is pulled straight from the lawsuit:

“Good Samaritan bystanders witnessed Nicholas seizing on the ground and foaming at the mouth and tried to help, but the music was too loud.”

Actually, getting to the medical tent seems like an achievement given the chaos.  But according to the lawsuit, Nicholas was left unattended for nearly an hour.  “The victim died on the floor of the medical tent after not receiving any medical care for at least one hour,” the lawsuit alleges.

So who’s fault is that?

Of course, this is all an extremely sad story.  Nicholas was at the beginning of his adult life, having just graduated from UC Irvine in 2013.  He made a really stupid mistake, and seriously paid the price for it.

But he was also the one that acquired the drugs, and made the decision to take them.  Additionally, Tom (or someone in his group) may have snuck the drugs in, bypassing standard checks at the entrance (and yes, they check).

That said, Insomniac and Live Nation aren’t stupid.  They’re undoubtedly aware that drugs are a major part of EDM culture, and a constant at their events.

But does that mean it’s their responsibility to keep people from taking them?

5 Responses

  1. asdf

    Personal responsibility is paramount, but when medical personnel at a venue do nothing for an hour (and it’s not because of some mass casualty event that prevents them from tending to everybody in a timely way) – that’s gross neglect and I’m pretty sure Insomniac/Live Nation will loose in court or settle for big bucks. Their insurance must be through the roof, considering drug abuse and casualties at EDM events are no secret – but I guess they must factor a certain number of fatalities and lawsuits into their budget.

  2. Art

    I was at EDC Vegas 2016 and EDC Orlando 2016 and I thought the festival was very well run. Everyone was searched on the way in, there was a ton of police onsite, and there was emergency staff clearly visible. At somepont it’s comes down to personal responsibility….you buy some random drug from some stranger bad things could happen. The festival is enormous, if you’re having a medical issue it’s going to take some time to get help.

  3. Paul Resnikoff

    I was searched when I came in, but it was obvious that I could have easily snuck drugs in. Of course you can also take drugs in the parking lot as well, or buy from a dealer inside. I guess a judge is going to have to determine the level of liability here, I’m not sure what the laws in Nevada say about all of this. I do get the sense, however, that Vegas is pretty lax on drugs as it’s a key component of its tourist appeal. They appear to have a pretty accommodating environment for events like EDC.

  4. Mario

    EDC Vegas is in the middle of the desert, which means you need to take care of yourself. Hydrate, eat, take breaks. Tom was a grown man who made the decision to take drugs. For anyone who is thinking of going to EDC, please be smart. Drugs can kill you anywhere, anytime. EDC is not to blame for this mans decisions. It is illegal to take drugs in the first place, and medical attention wouldn’t have been necessary if this man didn’t take drugs. It is very sad to hear a fatality at such a peaceful place, but I guess people will just never learn. Music is my drug. If thats not enough and you need more to feel the power of the music, you probably should not go.

  5. Anonymous

    It’s always a matter of personal responsibility until YOU or someone you know are the person who OD’s. While The person in question made a bad decision to do the drugs, the promotors are responsible to have sufficient medical staff on hands at all times, and in areas that can get to people with emergency situations quickly. Also any promotor who says drugs are not a part of the equation is a LIAR. I do believe there are laws in Florida that hold the promotor AND venue owner responsible in such situations, and there are also parts of the RICO act on the federal level that do as well. Not sure how Vegas law applies, but in Florida a death would mean the end of EDC, and rightfully so.