IBJNews

Indiana offers $300K to stage-collapse victims

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The state is offering at least $300,000 to families of each of the seven people who died after a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair, with more available for those whose loved ones spent days hospitalized before their deaths, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Tuesday.

The rest of the money from the state's $5 million tort fund would go to 58 other people injured Aug. 13 when powerful winds toppled the stage onto fans waiting to see country music group Sugarland. The state also reached a special agreement to pay $500,000 to a 17-year-old boy whose injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down.

If families and victims agree to the payments, they wouldn't be allowed to sue the state. Indiana law caps the state's liability at $5 million, and some victims' families have already filed lawsuits challenging that limit. The offers must be accepted or rejected by Monday.

"Deciding how much to pay the victims was extremely difficult," Zoeller said. "Having recognized the limitations, I'll say that no amount of money can ever replace the lives lost or alleviate the anguish endured by the victims of our state fair tragedy."

Zoeller worked with victims' attorneys and claims expert Kenneth Feinberg, who directed victims' payments after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Gulf Coast oil spill last year and the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.

Lawyers for some of the victims scoffed at the offers Tuesday, but acknowledged that Zoeller's hands were tied.

Lisa Hite suffered head injuries and a fractured heel but was offered about $7,000, even though her medical bills are already six times that amount, let alone her lost wages and future bills, her attorney Mario Massillamany said.

"That's woefully inadequate," Massillamany said. "Unfortunately that's the most they can offer because of the $5 million cap. We pray that the General Assembly is willing to look into this issue to help these injured victims recover some of their economic losses, to try to make the victims whole again."

The state's tort claims law is being challenged by a federal lawsuit filed by attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who represents the estates of three people killed in the collapse along with three women who were injured.

"The State has chosen to proceed with a half-baked process which fails to account for the future consequences caused by its negligence. What about future medical bills, impairment and wage loss?" Allen said in a statement Tuesday. "The State's plan considers none of these things in a careful and prudent fashion. Instead it is a series of rash decisions based on scant evidence."

Zoeller and Feinburg developed a model, based in part on medical expenses submitted to the state, that suggested paying a baseline $300,000 for each of the seven victims who died. Those who suffered physical injuries would have 65 percent of their expenses covered.

Feinberg noted that it was fairly common for victims of tragedies such as the stage collapse to receive only partial coverage for their medical bills. Money from rejected offers would be redistributed to victims using a system that would first cover the rest of their medical expenses and pay above that for those who died and suffered physical injuries.

Zoeller said the state's $5 million liability cap should be debated during the 2012 legislative session. If lawmakers do raise the cap on payouts, the victims of the stage collapse could again apply for more compensation from the state, Zoeller said, though he wouldn't say whether the Legislature should raise the limit.

"I'm not ready to say what I would recommend," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

ADVERTISEMENT