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Another lawsuit filed in Indiana fair stage collapse

August 29, 2011

 The family of a Fort Wayne woman killed when a stage collapsed in strong wind at the Indiana State Fair filed a lawsuit Monday alleging gross negligence and recklessness by the promoters and producers of the concert.

The lawsuit was filed in Marion Superior Court on behalf of the estate of 23-year-old Alina Bigjohny and her parents, Robert and Polly Bigjohny. The Indianapolis Star reported the lawsuit contends fair and concert organizers failed to warn fans waiting for country band Sugarland to perform of an approaching storm. The stage rigging collapsed into the crowd following a 60- to 70-mph wind gust.

"Without question there was gross negligence on many levels, from the state of Indiana on down," attorney Kenneth J. Allen of Valparaiso said at a news conference Monday. "Multiple entities had the opportunity to prevent this occurrence, to prevent these people from losing their lives and being harmed in the way they've been harmed."

Bigjohny was a 2011 Manchester College graduate who was recently hired to teach seventh-grade English in Muncie. She attended the concert with a friend, Jennifer Haskell, who died of her injuries six days after the Aug. 13 collapse that killed seven people.

Among those named in the lawsuit were Mid-America Sound Corp., Lucas Entertainment Group LLC, Live 630 Group, Live Nation Touring and ESG Security. Linda Jackson, a spokeswoman for Mid-America, said the company had no comment.

Joe Robinson, chief executive officer of ESG Security Inc., said he was surprised his company was named in the lawsuit.

"We absolutely had nothing to do with the decision-making process of whether the concert was to go on or not," he told The Associated Press.

The AP left messages seeking comment Monday at the offices of the other companies named in the lawsuit.

Allen also has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of 42-year-old Tammy VanDam of Wanatah, who was killed, and her same-sex partner, who was injured.

LaPorte County Judge Thomas Alevizos ordered the state last week to preserve the wreckage from the collapse as evidence. Alevizos also issued an order for the state to follow the protocols put forth by the engineering firm the state has hired to investigate the collapse.

Former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi has filed a notice with the state that he will be seeking damages for the family of Glenn Goodrich of Indianapolis, a 49-year-old security guard killed by the collapse.

Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad is seeking class-action status for a lawsuit filed in Marion County Superior Court against the state and companies involved in putting on the concert.

But on Monday Indiana's attorney general asked a Marion County judge to dismiss that suit, which was filed on behalf of Indianapolis resident Angela Fischer, who says she was emotionally traumatized by the deadly accident.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the law firm failed to follow the legal process in suing. He said Fischer's lawyers notified his office with a tort claim Aug. 22 of their plans to sue the state, and then filed suit the same day.

Zoeller said Indiana law declares the state cannot be sued until it has had 90 days to review and approve or deny a tort claim.

"This is not a reflection on the plaintiff's claim, but there are deadlines and a process that must be followed under Indiana law. We can't have one claimant try to cut in line when other claimants are following the rules," Zoeller said in a statement.

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