Class-action lawsuit filed over State Fair stage collapse

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A class-action lawsuit filed by an Indianapolis law firm is the largest legal action to arise so far from the collapse of a concert stage at the Indiana State Fair.

The 18-page tort notice, filed Monday by Cohen & Malad, claims the state of Indiana and several other parties, including two businesses, were negligent in their handling of the Aug. 13 event and in failing to ensure the safety of the stage.

The incident claimed the lives of seven people and injured dozens of others who were at the fair to watch a concert by country-music group Sugarland.

Class actions typically are filed by attorneys who bring a claim on behalf of at least 40 people.

“Here, you’ve got hundreds,” Irwin Levin, managing partner at Cohen & Malad, told IBJ Tuesday morning. “There are so many people who were there and hit by debris — some injured seriously and some with just emotional damage.”

Levin said his firm is waiving any fee it might earn from the lawsuit in order to maximize the limited amount of funds recoverable from the state.

A state law limits individual damage claims against the state to $700,000 and overall claims to $5 million per event. The state, however, can waive the cap, and Levin said he will encourage it to do so.

The cap does not pertain to any private company that may be the target of a lawsuit.

Other state entities named are the Indiana State Fair Commission, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.  

Besides the state, Cohen & Malad’s class action names Greenfield-based Mid-America Sound Corp., the company that installed the stage rigging, and Los Angeles-based Live Nation Worldwide Inc., the promoter of the Sugarland concert.

Cohen & Malad filed the class action in Marion Superior Court on behalf of Angela Fischer, an Indianapolis resident who attended the concert and continues to suffer emotional trauma, Levin said.

“She literally saw people die,” he said. “She saw injuries that were so graphic that we can’t even describe them in the complaint.”

Cohen & Malad has a national reputation for representing individuals in class-action lawsuits.

The class action follows another tort claim notice filed by the widow of a 49-year-old man killed by the falling stage.

Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is representing the family of Glenn Goodrich, said the family has filed the notice against the state regarding intent to file a lawsuit. The suit was not a class action.

Goodrich, a security worker employed by ESG Security who was working at the show, was critically injured in the incident and died hours later.

At least two other lawsuits were filed on behalf of other victims last Friday.

This story originally ran in the Aug. 23, 2011, IBJ Daily. The Indianapolis Business Journal is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.