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State preparing to pay maximum in stage collapse damages

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The state of Indiana is set to forgo costly and lengthy litigation and instead pay the maximum $5 million in damages allowed by law to victims of the Indiana State Fair concert stage collapse, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Wednesday.

Zoeller disclosed the decision in a written statement while announcing that Kenneth Feinberg, an expert who administered victim-compensation funds following 9/11 and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, will serve as an unpaid consultant on claims associated with the concert tragedy.

Strong winds toppled a state fair stage onto fans waiting to see country band Sugarland perform at the Grandstand Aug. 13, leading to seven deaths and leaving dozens injured.

“We want to move to pay the full $5 million that the state’s law allows as soon as an equitable formula can be devised,” Zoeller said in the statement. “My goal is to focus on the needs of victims and their families while minimizing the expense of lengthy and costly litigation.”

Indiana law caps total damages to a state entity at $5 million—an amount personal-injury lawyers have said is far too low for the injuries and deaths involved.

Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the victims, including one by Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad seeking class-action status in Marion County Superior Court against the state and companies involved in putting on the concert.

On Monday, Zoeller 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.

He 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 instead of giving the state the required 90 days to respond to the tort.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Cohen & Malad Managing Partner Irwin Levin said he has the utmost respect for Feinberg.

“We have been beseeching the state to move as quickly as possible to give full compensation to the victims,” he said. “We hope that Ken Feinberg will encourage the state to increase the fund voluntarily so victims will be paid full compensation, and to do so quickly.”

Because of the state cap, which also limits individual claims to $700,000, several other parties besides the state fair have been named as defendants in the negligence suits.

Among those named are Mid-America Sound Corp., Lucas Entertainment Group LLC, Live 630 Group, Live Nation Touring and ESG Security Inc.

Zoeller said in announcing Feinberg’s role that developing a process to resolve claims would provide victims and families with “certain and prompt payment.”

"In light of the urgency for victims of the State Fair tragedy and the statutory limits on compensation, the advice of Mr. Feinberg who has faced these circumstances before will be invaluable in developing this claims process effectively,” Zoeller said.

Separately, Feinberg also will work with the Indiana State Fair Commission to distribute private donations made to the Indiana State Fair Remembrance Fund.

As of Wednesday, the fund had raised about $800,000, officials said.



 

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  • Logic
    Tim, I agree: Not sure what the taxpayers have done, nor the state of Indiana, particulary to pay money to this Angela Fischer, her attorneys, and those like her who were "emotionally traumatized" by this. Everyone was emotionally traumatized. No amount of money will ever bring back the ones who were killed in this horrible, tragic accident. Many are just trying to profit. I have been traumatized witnessing traffic accidents, hurricane damage, etc. That doesn't mean some state or entity should give me a lot of money. Angela Fischer, go get some therapy and leave the taxpayers and the state out of your trauma.
  • The State??
    Everyone below that keeps using the word state, needs to substitute "Indiana Taxpayer". Unfortunate as it is, as an Indiana taxpayer I am not sure what I did to cause the stage to collapse and not sure why I should be liable
  • Do the right thing
    The state needs to step up and do the right thing. Five million is laughable considering the number injured. The fair and the state need to do what is right and put this behind them fast. Twenty million is more like a number they should be putting out for the victims. Dollars can never bring back the people lost, but five million is a joke in my opinion. Change the cap law and earn some respect from the public. Man up.
  • Wolfithius
    Beautifully said, Wolfithius. There will always be people, such as Michael, using any situation and naming parties not even involved in those situations to make a buck. Thank you for calling him out on what he undoubtedly thought would be a majority opinion.
  • Payout
    Thanks Micah, but above it says "We want to move to pay the full $5 million that the state’s law allows as soon as an equitable formula can be devised,” Zoeller said. It sounds like they are ready to pay.
  • Functionally different
    CK- the way it works is that in order to sue the state, you have to file under the Tort Claims Act. That gives the state time to see if it can remedy the tort without engaging in litigation (which tends to be far more expensive). The state isn't admitting liability by reviewing the tort claim; instead, it is weighing its options. After it acts, or after a set period of time elapses, the plaintiffs can sue the state in court. However, the plaintiffs have to file under the ITCA first.
  • Poor, Michael
    Michael, the world must be a miserable place for you. You have already passed judgement on everyone. Walking this earth and seeing how someone must be at fault for all that is wrong with the world must be depressing for you.
    • fair
      The state,fair, promoters, manufacturer of stage, and the ones who assembled the stage should be on the hook for this one if anyone at all. Why is the public collecting money for the state's legalities??
    • Then again...
      While I agree with your general thought (take responsibility-get out of the rain!), the fact is that the "storm" had not yet arrived. The wind came ahead of the storm. The videos show that many people were in the process of leaving. Additionally, it was not lightning or hail that hurt and killed the people. It was a man-made structure that most people would have reasonably believed would withstand such a storm. After all, storms do come and go and the stage needed to last through the entire fair. The entire thing is a tragedy for every person involved.
    • No time
      Suzy, you are way off on your comment. I was on the track. This wind was well in front of the storm and really came from no where. I am not saying it is the state's fault but you are being insensitive.
    • State admitting fault
      So does this mean that the state is admitting fault? Is there a lawyer out there not involved in these cases that can comment? What does this mean?

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