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State Fair victims sue Sugarland over stage collapse

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Country duo Sugarland was named in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by 44 survivors of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse and the family members of four people who died, by far the largest claim yet stemming from the tragedy.

Attorneys representing at least 20 law firms across Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky filed the complaint, alleging breach of reasonable care to the victims in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Sugarland, producers, stage riggers and others associated with the Aug. 13 show. Stage rigging collapsed into spectators following a wind gust of at least 60 mph, killing seven people and injuring more than 40 others. Sugarland had not yet taken the stage when the collapse occurred.

Sugarland's contract specified the act had the final say on whether to cancel the concert due to weather, plaintiff's attorney Mario Massillamany of Logansport said in a news release.

"Unfortunately, this tragedy could have been prevented if the responsible parties had been concerned about the concertgoers that night," Massillamany said.

The contract reached between Sugarland's agent, Creative Artists Agency, and the Indiana State Fair Committee guaranteed the duo $300,500 to perform, $34,500 for sound, lights and catering, and 85 percent of gross box office receipts over $470,000, Massillamany said.

"This is a devastating tragedy that has impacted hundreds of people," plaintiffs' co-counsel Scott Starr said. "It is critical to help the victims pay the medical bills and other financial expenses that they have incurred from this incident."

The plaintiffs include Lisa Hite of Cass County, who was with her 8-year-old custodial granddaughter in the area immediately in front of the stage called "the Sugar Pit."

"The injuries I sustained have left me unable to provide for my family. The financial and emotional strain this has caused has left a lasting impact on my family," said Hite, who is represented by Starr and Massillamany.

Sugarland's publicist didn't immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment.

The complaint charges that Sugarland and the other entities owed a duty to provide a safe concert environment and use reasonable care in the direction, set-up and supervision of the concert.

The complaint does not name the fair or the state of Indiana among the defendants. They were named separately in at least 40 tort claims filed with the attorney general's office. Indiana law caps the state's liability for damages from the incident at $5 million.

A separate State Fair Remembrance Fund has paid about $564,000 to 28 people, and the remaining $400,000 in the state-administered fund will be paid out on a prorated basis to people who have already received money, State Fair Commission chairman Andre Lacy said Monday. Fair officials said another 28 people applied for aid but were turned down.

At least two other lawsuits on behalf of other victims of the stage collapse have been filed against Sugarland and other defendants.

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  • People Please
    For God's sake people, Sugarland did not cause the storm that wreaked havoc that night. What some people won't do for a little money. As many others have said... It was an accident. All the money in the world won't bring back those who so unfortunately lost their lives.
  • Sugarland
    This is an interesting article and after reading this, I agree that Sugarland should share in the responsibility of cancelling the concert. I can understand the fans not wanting to leave - those tickets cost a lot of money - I can understand Sugarland not wanting to cancel - they would have lost a lot of money. Hence, Sugarland should have their percent of responsibility in this as the victims did - some with their lives.
  • why?
    I too agree with Brad. I was there, I hate that people got hurt or killed, I hate it we have to live with the memory. It was an act of God and I don't understand why people insist on placing the blame, especially on Sugarland. Do people in the lawsuit really believe that there are companies, as named, that intentionally set out to hurt concert goers? File a lawsuit against God and see how much everyone gets. As the saying goes, For God's Sake, it was an accident!
  • well
    Brad good points and most of us should agree. Now that being said what about those people that died or who really need care, long term due to the fall of the stage? I agree the attorneys will make money - but some people will need help - sometimes a lawsuit is the only option.
  • Not exactly
    Brad, Sugarland might not control the weather but they do control if the show is postponed or cancelled. They did neither even though they and the Fair were advised to do so. The concertgoers were not given advance warning about the approaching storm. Remember, the winds came well before the storm.
    1. Sugarland could have stopped the conert but they did not.
    2. The equipment they required on the stage rigging (roof and sides of the stage) was not only reckless but dangerous.

    Please read the complaint before you go on a tangent.
  • I agree!
    Well Said Brad A.
  • Giving lawyers a bad name
    From the story:
    "Unfortunately, this tragedy could have been prevented if the responsible parties had been concerned about the concertgoers that night," Massillamany said.

    I know Sugarland is a powerful force in country music but I had no idea they now have control over our weather. What a crock.

    What I want to know is if "this tragedy could have been prevented if the responsible parties", why are the concertgoers not the responsible parties? Are we a nation of sheep that need to be told to seek shelter from a pending storm? This is Indiana. Was this the first storm the state has ever seen? Hardly.

    So what has happened to common sense? Or perhaps, personal responsibility for one's own safety? If a bad storm approaches the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the race, is the IMS responsible for protecting every attendee? They shouldn't be regardless of what lawyers think. Are we not capable of looking at the sky and seeing potentially threatning weather ourselves? Why are we so quick to blame someone else for our own decisions? Because lawyers will plead "our" case and many times persuade a jury of those who have become conditioned to think someone else is responsible for our lot in life and it is shameful.
    • Sugarland
      I was swimming last week and the lifeguard said we have to evacuate the pool due to lightning outside. I got out immediately. The lady next to me kept saying, while staying in the pool. "Where is the lightning, I don't see any." Some people won't listen even if their own safety is involved - thus speed limits, seatbelt laws, etc.
    • Stage Collapse
      My wife and I exercised "reasonable care" when we left the track after seeing that a storm was imminent. I still believe that the only recourse is if the stage was not erected properly. Sugarland may have had final say as to whether the show was cancelled or not but that is irrelevant. The State Fair could have delayed and evacuated the area and the damage would have been limited.
    • Lawyers
      The only ones that will make any money from these lawsuits are the lawyers.

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