Will This $1 Million Court Ruling Stop Musicians from Stage Diving?

Fishbone ordered to pay woman hurt at a 2010 concert.
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Iggy Pop

We're unsure who was the first musician with the bright idea to hurl themselves off the stage into the crowd, but according to the authoritative source known as Wikipedia, the practice was popularized by Iggy Pop. Four decades after the punk pioneer plopped his Popsomeness on the people, stage diving remains a prominent feature at live concerts. Will that ever change?

On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania federal judge ordered Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Fishbone and its lead singer Angelo Moore to pay a woman nearly $1.37 million over a stage dive gone wrong.

The dispute stems from a February 23, 2010 performance by the band at the World Live Cafe in Philadelphia. Moore dove into the crowd and knocked 46-year-old Kimberly Myers to the ground, causing a skull fracture. The woman was transported to the hospital and reported various lingering medical symptoms.

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Myers first sued in 2010 and came to settlements with Fishbone's management company and the concert promoter. She sued again in 2012 for negligence and Moore failed to respond to the complaint. As a result, a default was entered, and a hearing was conducted to determine damages.

In U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois' decision awarding damages, his findings of fact are informed by Moore's deposition testimony in the earlier lawsuit.

For example, the judge says that Fishbone has partaken in stage diving since the 1980s (when the band first hit it big) and continues to do it even after the 2010 incident. Moore doesn't give audience members any advance warning because as the musician testified, "That gives away the whole…theatrics or the spontaneity."

Nevertheless, Moore also testified that every couple of months an ambulance is called to the concert venue. And what has Moore learned about the risks of stage diving? Number 1: "The risk that you might hit the floor," Moore said. Anything else? Lawsuit "predators," he added.

Moore was also asked during his deposition whether he did any drugs for the World Cafe Live show. No answer. "The Court infers from Moore’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment that his testimony would have been unfavorable to his interests," writes the judge.

Myers' medical bill came to $15,846 in out-of-pocket expenses. The plaintiff estimated that future medical costs would run to $351,299. The court awards compensatory damages in those amounts.

But Judge DuBois also says that she is entitled to an award of noneconomic damages for future pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, loss of the ability to enjoy the pleasures of life and disfigurement. Price tag? $750,000.

But that's not it. "The Court concludes that punitive damages should be assessed solely against Moore," writes the judge. "Moore, who refused to answer questions at his deposition regarding his use of illicit drugs on the date of the incident in question, intentionally dove from an elevated stage despite knowing that stage diving in and of itself poses a serious risk of harm to audience members. Further, Moore exhibits little remorse or impetus to change his conduct."

Add another $250,000 to the tab.

UPDATE: Fishbone gave us this statement:

"Due to legal circumstances, we are limited in our response to the recent court ruling. We do not endorse or encourage disruptive behavior that results in injury. We do endorse self expression and feel strongly that self expression is a powerful form of artistic release, as it defines the punk rock subculture we, and hundreds of bands have been a part of since the late 1970's. We do not encourage people to come forth and participate in, for example, a mosh pit, if it is not something they are familiar with or beyond their comfort level. Our many fans are familiar with our show. The claim against us outlined what was a very unfortunate and accidental circumstance experienced by someone who had never been to a Fishbone concert. We'd like to encourage a discussion by fans, nonfans, the venues and promoters about artistic expression at concerts and how to move forward from here."

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner