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Sugarland insurer sues state fair over stage collapse

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The insurance company that covered equipment used by performers Sugarland and Sara Bareilles is trying to recover its losses from the tragic stage collapse two years ago.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., based in Novato, Calif., and its subsidiary AGCS Marine filed a lawsuit Aug. 9 in Marion County to recover equipment-related losses, which aren’t specified, from the state of Indiana, Indiana State Fair Commission, and several parties that were involved in designing and erecting the stage that collapsed Aug. 13, 2011. Seven people were killed.

Other defendants in the lawsuit include James Thomas Engineering Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn., Mid-America Sound Corp. of Greenfield, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 30, and six other firms involved in the stage design.

The lawsuit echoes findings issued last year by an independent investigator, Thornton Tomasetti, which the state fair commission hired to review the incident.

In a report that was expected to bolster victims' lawsuits, Thornton Tomasetti said the stage rigging didn’t meet industry safety standards and called the support system that was in place “grossly inadequate.” The rigging that held lights and speakers was supported by guy wires attached to concrete jersey barriers.

Parts of the support system began to give way with wind gusts at 33 miles per hour, and the system could no longer support itself at gusts of 43 miles per hour, Thornton Tomasetti found. Industry standards require systems to withstand winds of up to 68 miles per hour.

The stage collapse at about 8:49 p.m. caused substantial damage to insured video screena and to the performers' instruments and sound equipment, the suit says.

Fair organizers weren’t required to have the stage inspected because it was a temporary structure. State officials have since instituted rules governing temporary outdoor stage rigging structures.

Fireman’s alleges negligence and product liability on the part of firms involved in designing and building the stage rigging. The company also claims that the state breached its oral contract with Sugarland to “provide suitable staging accommodations that would protect all persons and equipment involved … from any inclement weather conditions.”

State fair spokesman Andy Klotz said he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit, but he noted that the fair no longer uses temporary staging of any sort.

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  • Act of God
    Terrible tragedy...not Sugarland's fault...opening act played, people were assured the show would go on...Sugarland has been paid for their equipment damage, Insurance company is filing suit as they would in any other situation, courts sort the mess out...these situations rarely make anyone but lawyers wealthy, and there are people who are entitled to damages. The State Fair is the responsible party, and Sugarland had a contract to play that night, and a show in another town the next night...but for timing, Sugarland could have been killed or injured as well...As DC Indy notes, this is just business doing business, has little or nothing to do with Sugarland except that they had their equipment insured with this company...
  • what are the odds
    The staging apparently wasn't set up as well as it should have been, but nonetheless this was a freak accident. That particular wind gust had to hit that particular part of the fairgrounds. Yes, it could have been prevented, but if any person there that night had any idea this might happen, things wouldn't have been allowed to continue. The fair should have made sure things were rigged properly and resumed concerts there the next year. They'd put on hundreds of shows there in the past with no problems, and with increased scrutiny there would be very little chance of a repeat of the accident.
  • Insurance 101
    This is commonly known as a subrogation claim. Fireman's Fund paid for damage to the band's equipment as it was obligated to do under an insurance policy it issued to Sugarland (or more likely a company that was set up to own the equipment). The policy, like most property and inland marine forms, includes a subrogation clause. That clause provides that, once the insurance company pays the policyholder for the loss, it is subrogated to the rights of the policyholder against the party(s) at fault. Simply put, it "steps into the policyholders' shoes" and sues in the name of the policyholder. So it's not even Sugarland bringing the lawsuit. Ordinary everyday business -- no drama here.
  • Sugarland
    I was there too. Frankly I am sure Sugarland did say they wanted to play but it really didn't matter what they said. The State Fair is responsible for events at the State Fair. This was tragic and I hate being reminded of it. It was a freak gust of wind but the investigation already revealed that the rigging was inadequate. If you saw how easily it came down you would agree.
  • Be careful what you say.
    As someone who was there when the stage collapsed, this was not Sugarland's fault. Considering the opening act went on because of the nice sunny weather 30 minutes beforehand, no one could have predicted what happened. It is a tragedy and people lost lives. I certainly didn't believe anything like this would ever happen. Concert sponsors came on stage and encouraged us that the show would go on regardless of the incoming storm. It truly just was a horrible, horrible accident. One I will never be able to forget. So if you weren't there, don't comment on something you know nothing about.
  • Disagree
    Did you read the article? This isn't an action taken by Sugarland. It was taken by its insurance company to recover funds paid out due to the State Fair's negligence. The company should be reimbursed.
  • This action
    This action taken by "Sugarland" is just another form of diversion in order to not accept total responsibility for this extremely avoidable deadly incident. "Sugarland" could have and should have delayed and/or cancelled their performance that dreadful night but refused to do so.

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