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Rave Promoter, L.A. Coliseum Being Sued by Parents of Ecstasy Overdose Victim Sasha Rodriguez

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Thu, Sep 8, 2011 at 4:03 PM

click to enlarge Sasha Rodriguez.
  • Sasha Rodriguez.
Updated with reaction from the promoter, whose attorney calls the suit "completely without merit." First posted at 11:29 a.m.

The parents of late teenager Sasha Rodriguez, who died of an ecstasy overdose after attending 2010's Electric Daisy Carnival rave at the publicly run L.A. Coliseum, planned to file suit today against the promoter, the L.A. Coliseum Commission and ex-Coliseum official Todd DeStefano and his private events company.

The suit seeks damages for "personal injury and wrongful death."

The lawsuit, obtained by the Weekly prior to filing, argues:

-That, at 15, Rodriguez was let into the second day of the June festival despite its marketing as a 16-and-older party.

-That she took ecstasy but that it took staffers 20 minutes to respond to her overdose as a result of crowds and understaffing.

-That the promoter, Insomniac, " ... has and continues to put its corporate profits ahead of the safety of the rave attendees."

-That Insomniac's "raves remain virtually synonymous with possession, distribution and consumption of illicit drugs, predominantly MDMA or 'Ecstasy.'"

click to enlarge Ravers at EDC. - CESAR SEBASTIAN
  • Cesar Sebastian
  • Ravers at EDC.

The suit quotes the Weekly: " ... The government-hosted megaraves are emerging as a unique Los Angeles phenomenon; vast, officially backed places for young people to party, drop ecstasy and sometimes die."

The parents had already filed a $5 million claim against the city and county, ostensibly as a prelude to this suit.

The filing doesn't mention a dollar amount.

EDC in June of 2010 sparked controversy after officials such as L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, reacting to Rodriguez's death, called for a review of hosting such events at a public venue.

Following a Los Angeles Times look into the party and how it was approved it was revealed that Coliseum official Todd DeStefano was allegedly also working for the promoter even as Insomniac lobbied for approval of a 2011 version of the party which, subsequently, was not approved.

The suit claims that DeStefano's alleged double dipping had him put "his own personal and event consulting business' and his secondary employers,' including Insomniac's, financial profits ahead of the safety of EDC attendees ... "

EDC moved its June festival to Las Vegas, but its honcho, Pasquale Rotella, has said he wants to come back to the Coliseum.

The problems stemming from EDC recently had some leaders calling for the heads of the Coliseum's top two officials.

EDC, which takes place in other cities, had problems in Dallas this summer, where two deaths were tied to the event.

Then, in July, a DJ set that coincided with the premier of a documentary (Electric Daisy Carnival Experience) about the 2010 event ended in chaos as ravers flooded the streets near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, threw bottles at police, and failed to disperse until three hours later.

Insomniac stated it had nothing to do with the DJ's appearance, although the jock in question, Kaskade, appears prominently in the documentary, and despite our reporting that a permit service source told us the spin session had been planned as part of the premier.

Update: Plaintiffs' attorney Steven D. Archer told us today that the suit has been formally filed. He said negotiations with the targets of the suit were unfruitful.

"We did make every effort to try to amicably negotiate a solution to avoid a lawsuit

and were unsuccessful," he said. "... We had no choice."

Archer said that instead of naming the city and county, as the parents did in their original claim stemming from their daughter's death, it made more sense to go after the Coliseum Commission, which is a joint authority under the city, county and state.

Update No. 2: Insomniac issued a statement this afternoon that says the promoter vows to fight the suit in court.

The promoter's litigation attorney, Gary Jay Kaufman, says:

Claims made by lawyers to the media, or even in pleadings, are allegations and are not the same as evidence or fact. We will review the assertions made in the pleadings and respond in the appropriate forum - the courts. The case is completely without merit, and we look forward to defending the matter in court, where we are confident that Insomniac will prevail.

The Insomniac statement goes on to point the finger at the teen for taking the drug:

While Ms. Rodriguez's death is an unspeakable tragedy, the complaint fully admits that she knowingly ingested an illegal drug that she might have consumed prior to the event. As will become clear when all the facts are known, she made personal choices that we cannot control.

The response also notes that the suit gets at least one fact wrong: It connects the death of 20-year-old Irvine resident Michelle Yuenshan Lee in 2007 to Insomniac. She died of drug intoxication after attending Monster Massive at the Coliseum's sister venue, the Sports Arena, in October of 2007. Insomniac did not organize that rave.

"... This complaint is riddled with inaccuracies," the response argues. It adds:

Insomniac takes every reasonable precaution to ensure that our fans enjoy our events in a safe and secure environment. This includes working with public safety officials, law enforcement and a thorough pat down searches at the point of entry. However, Insomniac cannot control the actions of the individuals who choose to break the law and purchase and ingest illegal substances at or prior to their events.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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