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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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