A jury in Georgia has ordered Sony Music to pay $160 million in punitive damages following the fatal shooting of two attendees during a Cousin Stizz concert in 2017. The concert at the Masquerade nightclub in Atlanta’s Underground development on Nov. 12, 2017 saw a gunman open fire, injuring four people. Giovan Diaz and Ewell Ynoa, who were 22 and 21 at the time, died from “catastrophic injuries” sustained that night, according to separate complaints filed by the victims’ estates in 2018. The shooting took place right before Stephen Goss, known professionally as Cousin Stizz, made his appearance on stage.
— Cousin Stizz (@CousinStizz) November 13, 2017
Two other concertgoers were also shot by the suspect, but not fatally injured. The shooter was not caught in the moment, but he was later arrested and identified by police as 25-year-old Jonathan Bautista. In a tweet sent shortly after the shooting, Cousin Stizz posted his condolences to those killed. “Completely heartbroken. Before I hit the stage in Atlanta tonight, there was a shooting in the crowd, two people died and two others were injured…I’m in shock and at a loss of words for the senseless violence,” he wrote.
The lawsuit was filed by the Beasley Allen Law Firm in June 2018. Sony, RCA Records, Live Nation and Masquerade were all named as defendants as they failed to ensure that the premises and concert were safe for guests at the venue. In a statement, Beasley Allen explained how the verdict was reached. “Obviously, these types of cases do not come around often. This was a mass shooting in a crowded concert,” the firm said. “There were multiple deaths, and Gio and Wells suffered significantly before losing their fight for life, as eyewitnesses outlined. The trial was incredibly emotional because of what these families, and the world, lost.”
Allen continued: “One of these men had been told he would be a father just a few hours before the shooting happened. Combine that with the fact the concert endangered everyone, and this defendant refused to participate in the legal process, and you get the type of verdict we saw here.”
The funds are to be used to compensate the victims’ families. Sony has yet to comment on the verdict.