Judge grants limited class certification in stage collapse lawsuit

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While she said she doubts the plaintiffs can win their case, U.S. Judge Sarah Evans Barker is allowing limited class certification in a lawsuit challenging the state’s $5 million damage liability cap. Plaintiffs incurred injuries in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse Aug. 13.

In a 28-page ruling, the federal judge in the Southern District of Indiana granted class certification for the limited purpose of determining whether the $5 million cap violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

However, Barker wrote that the court doesn’t believe the plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, given the well-established caselaw on damages caps for tort claims against governmental entities. She denied a preliminary injunction request that sought to both stop the state from settling any tort claims relating to the stage collapse and prevent the state from disbursing any of the $5 million in public funds to the stage collapse victims.

 “Given the severity of the Plaintiffs’ and other similarly situated claimants’ reported injuries, we believe the public interest would not be served by restricting Defendants’ scope of action as Plaintiffs have requested. When compared with the potential deprivation of much-needed money that the claimants are likely to suffer if a preliminary injunction is granted, the balance of hardships tips in Defendants’ favor,” she wrote.

The judge also denied an emergency motion for discovery.

Her ruling comes almost a month after an evidentiary hearing in the case, which Valparaiso attorney Kenneth Allen filed in September on behalf of six plaintiffs who were injured or killed in the stage collapse at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. This is one of many lawsuits that has been filed in state and federal courts in the three months since the deadly accident.

Barker found that plaintiffs met the class certification numerosity requirement because they could institute individual claims, and joinder of all the parties would be impractical. But the judge determined the plaintiffs fell short of meeting the class certification criteria for commonality in regard to their share of the state’s public fund and because plaintiffs haven’t shown the defendants did or intended to do anything that might connect everyone. Barker found that the named plaintiffs’ claims aren’t all substantially similar for the bulk of the lawsuit, but that they do share a typical focus for the limited purpose of challenging the Indiana cap’s constitutionality.

The judge wasn’t persuaded to involve Rule 23(b) on class certification based on the obvious possibility that some claimants might ultimately be more successful than others, but the plaintiffs do meet the requirements of Rule 23(a) on that limited constitutional question.

“Lastly, although we acknowledge the real merits of Defendants’ Eleventh Amendment and abstention arguments against class certification, our limited certification does not run afoul of these doctrines,” Barker wrote.


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  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.