Indiana State Fairgrounds and Legal Issues and Indiana State Fair and Law and Philanthropy

Plan approved to distribute fair stage-collapse donations

September 23, 2011

The families of the seven people killed in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse will be able to claim $35,000 each from a relief fund that received private donations for the victims, under a claims process approved Friday by fair officials.

The distribution formula unanimously approved by the Indiana State Fair Commission would also allocate smaller amounts to the more than 40 people injured Aug. 13 when high winds toppled stage rigging just before the scheduled start of a concert by country duo Sugarland.

Those injured would get $25,000 if they were hospitalized for at least 10 days, with $7,500 going to those hospitalized for between four and nine days and $3,000 to those hospitalized for one to three days.

The relief fund is separate from the $5 million the state has said it will pay toward legal claims to victims of the collapse.

Attorney John Trimble, who worked with victims compensation specialist Kenneth Feinberg to develop the formula, said the deadline for making a claim is Nov. 14. Anyone who misses that deadline won't be eligible for money from the fund, Trimble said.

He said he hopes each valid claim can be approved and the money distributed within 48 hours of the time that claim is received.

"We have established a process that we hope will be simple and expedient," Trimble said.

The four-tier claims system was modeled closely on one Feinberg helped set up for the relief fund for the survivors and relatives of the 32 people killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, he said. That fund distributed $8.5 million to survivors and families of the dead.

The stage collapse victims fund has received commitments of about $840,000 — of which about $796,000 has been received to date.

Trimble said it's unclear how many people were hospitalized with injuries after the stage collapse and how many will make claims for some of the money in the fund. He said the goal is to distribute just under $700,000 of that money in an initial wave of allocations, followed later by a second wave of distributions, based on how many people meet the Nov. 14 claim deadline and how much additional money is received.

Trimble said the process includes safeguards, including requiring applicants to provide documentation of their hospitalization due to injuries caused by the stage rigging collapse. A detailed signature requirement is also in place, he said, to ensure that the correct relatives of those killed and injured in the collapse receive the money.

"We want to make sure we pay the right people so that there are not controversies later — where we've paid someone and someone else comes along and says, 'You should have paid that person,'" Trimble said.

Trimble said the claim forms and details of how the process will work will be posted by Monday on the state fair's website devoted to the stage collapse.

Under the protocols, claim forms submitted on behalf of any of the seven people who died must be signed by a personal representative or the executor of the estate of that person. Trimble said that person and a probate judge will then decide how that money is distributed on a case-by-case basis to each victim's relatives.

He said a guardian must sign on behalf of any adult who was injured but was left mentally incompetent due to their injuries. Parents will have to sign on behalf of any minors injured.

Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mitch Daniels, said the governor is satisfied with the claims process outlined and its emphasis on quickly paying out the claims to the stage collapse victims and their families.

"One of the things he wanted to make sure happened was that they reached a conclusion on the protocols quickly so that this money can start making its way to the accident victims," she said.

Officials emphasized that acceptance of the funds will not affect any legal claims by the victims. 

 

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