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Class-action lawsuit filed over State Fair tragedy

August 23, 2011
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Authorities examine stage rigging that collapsed during a concert at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 13, killing five people. (AP Photo)

A lawsuit seeking class-action status filed by an Indianapolis law firm is the largest legal action to arise so far from the collapse of a concert stage at the Indiana State Fair.

The 18-page tort notice, filed Monday by Cohen & Malad LLP, claims the state of Indiana and several other parties, including two businesses, were negligent in their handling of the Aug. 13 event and in failing to ensure the safety of the stage.

The incident claimed the lives of seven people and injured dozens of others who were at the fair to watch a concert by country-music group Sugarland.

Class actions typically are filed by attorneys who bring a claim on behalf of at least 40 people.

“Here, you’ve got hundreds,” Irwin Levin, managing partner at Cohen & Malad, told IBJ Tuesday morning. “There are so many people who were there and hit by debris—some injured seriously and some with just emotional damage.”

Levin said his firm is waiving any fee it might earn from the lawsuit in order to maximize the limited amount of funds recoverable from the state.

A state law limits individual damage claims against the state to $700,000 and overall claims to $5 million per event. The state, however, can waive the cap, and Levin said he will encourage it to do so.

The cap does not pertain to any private company that may be the target of a lawsuit.

Other state entities named are the Indiana State Fair Commission, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.  

Besides the state, Cohen & Malad’s class action names Greenfield-based Mid-America Sound Corp., the company that installed the stage rigging, and Los Angeles-based Live Nation Worldwide Inc., the promoter of the Sugarland concert.

Cohen & Malad filed the class action in Marion Superior Court on behalf of Angela Fischer, an Indianapolis resident who attended the concert and continues to suffer emotional trauma, Levin said.

“She literally saw people die,” he said. “She saw injuries that were so graphic that we can’t even describe them in the complaint.”

Cohen & Malad has a national reputation for representing individuals in class-action lawsuits.

The class action follows another tort claim notice filed by the widow of a 49-year-old man killed by the falling stage.

Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is representing the family of Glenn Goodrich, said the family has filed the notice against the state regarding intent to file a lawsuit. The suit was not a class action.

Goodrich, a security worker employed by ESG Security who was working at the show, was critically injured in the incident and died hours later.

At least two other lawsuits were filed on behalf of other victims last Friday.

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