Mother of injured student sues over Westfield stage collapse

The mother of a Westfield High School student injured after a stage collapse sent dozens of students falling into an orchestra pit filed a lawsuit against the school corporation Thursday for damages.

The complaint filed by Jennifer Hoffman in Hamilton Superior Court in Noblesville alleges the Westfield Washington School Corp. did not properly supervise the employee who constructed the stage, leading to her daughter's injuries, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The nature of her daughter's injuries was not immediately clear.

Hoffman is suing for injuries suffered to her daughter and for failing to provide a safe environment for students. She also is seeking damages for loss of consortium, loss of income and mental anguish.

The stage collapsed during the April 23, 2015, grand finale of an "American Pie" concert while students sang and danced. It sent dozens of students into the orchestra pit. None of the 17 injuries were life-threatening.

Following the collapse, school and police officials said auditorium director Quinten James had removed large, steel support beams from beneath the orchestra pit cover to create more room for students. He then bought materials and built a new cover for the orchestra pit, but did not ensure the new cover was properly supported and designed to hold the weight of students.

James resigned in June 2015.

School corporation spokeswoman Kate Snedeker released a statement saying it was aware of the lawsuit and will address the allegations later.

"Westfield Washington Schools has always placed the highest value on the safety of our students," her statement said.

The Indiana Department of Labor and the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined the school $11,700 in October 2015 after inspecting the stage and finding a new cover had been installed after the accident without proper safety procedures and was not strong enough to hold the weight of students. It later dropped the fines after finding a properly built and supported stage cover had been reinstalled at the high school.

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