All Good Festival, Walther Productions accused of 'negligence' in wrongful-death lawsuit

Arts and CulturePrimus (music group)

A car accident that left a young woman dead at the All Good music festival in July was caused by the “wanton, reckless, grossly negligent" acts of the organizers, Maryland-based Walther Productions, the woman’s father alleges in a recently filed wrongful-death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in West Virginia’s Northern District Court, is one of two against the festival, which celebrated its 15th year in July and is known for its jam band line-ups. Another woman injured as a result of the accident has also filed a separate lawsuit. Both seek punitive damages.  

The fatal accident appears to be the first in the festival’s history. Company president Tim Walther directed questions about the lawsuit to his attorney, Bob Martin, who has not responded to inquiries. 

Nicole Faris Miller, a South Carolina 20-year-old, and friends Yen Ton and Rosie Doran traveled to West Virginia’s Marvin’s Mountaintop in July for the festival, which this year featured bands Primus, John Butler Trio and Baltimore’s J. Roddy Walston and the Business, among others. About 30,000 people attended the festival, according to state police estimates.

At the direction of festival staff, they, along with others, set up their tent at the bottom of “a steep, grass-covered hill,” according to the lawsuit filed by Kim S. Miller, Miller’s father.  

On the morning of July 17, the last day of the festival, Clay Harlin Lewin, another festival attendee, prepared to leave. He had been instructed to park his 2002 GMC pickup truck at the top of the steep hill, the lawsuit alleges. But, Lewin lost control of the truck after it lost traction on the wet grass. The truck slid down the hill and careened into other vehicles and an unoccupied tent, then it "crashed with great force" into the tent where Miller and the two other young women slept.

Miller "slowly and painfully asphyxiated due to the weight and compression from the vehicle and, thereafter, died due to the injuries she received before she could be removed from beneath [Lewin's] vehicle,” the lawsuit said.   

Ton, whose arm was crushed by the truck, was “pinned next to her best friend, Ms. Miller, while she asphyxiated and died,” according to Ton’s own lawsuit.

Kim S. Miller accuses the festival and its organizers of negligence by failing to properly protect attendees like his daughter and to provide a safe area for them to park and set up their tents.

Their oversight “created a situation that the [organizers] knew was extremely and inherently dangerous.”  Lewin is also accused of negligence in the lawsuit.

Parking and tents are held in separate spaces at Marvin’s Mountaintop, according to All Good’s website, because of the rugged terrain. “In some cases, vehicles cannot be directly next to tents, but will be as near as possible,” the website says. At this year’s event, though, there was no separation in some cases between tents and cars, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.  

Miller seeks unspecified compensation for his daughter’s hospitalization and burial, physical pain, suffering and mental anguish. Ton, who also accuses the festival’s organizers and Lewin of negligence, seeks unspecified compensation for physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfiguration and medical expenses.

Walther Productions, a Maryland-based promoter that often books shows at Rams Head Live, the 8X10 and Washington's 9:30 Club, is named a defendant, alongside president Tim Walther, Marvin’s Mountaintop and several of the festival's vendors, including parking and security operators, among others.  

Walther did not answer questions about the lawsuits or the effect they would have on next year’s festival. Martin has not responded to requests for comment. 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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