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Settlement adds $7.2 million for State Fair stage collapse victims

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Two defendants in lawsuits over the Indiana State Fair stage collapse that killed seven and injured dozens have agreed to add $7.2 million to money the state has already distributed or appropriated, Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Friday.

Mid-America Sound and James Thomas Engineering offered the additional money to victims after mediation with plaintiff attorneys and Zoeller’s office, he said at a news conference. The money is in addition to $5 million the state provided, reaching the tort claim cap, and a $6 million one-time supplement the General Assembly approved during the 2012 legislative session.

In a news release, Zoeller said the private money will be paid upon collective support among a “sufficient” number of the 62 plaintiffs, and the additional state funds will be distributed by year’s end as the Legislature required.

Claimants who want to participate in the additional compensation – both public and private dollars – must sign a form releasing Mid-America and James Thomas Engineering from any liability and releasing the state from any legal obligations, the AG’s office said.

“This is about putting the victims first. The state's role to assist victims of the State Fair tragedy did not end when we paid out the original $5 million maximum from the tort claim fund in December. We know that claimants need additional financial help now and they can’t wait for years, so with the Legislature’s support and direction we designed a process where they can tap into additional funds. We want to provide these supplemental dollars in a prompt, equitable and respectful manner,” Zoeller said.

Zoeller declined to discuss elements of mediation that led to the settlement, but said his office also has been in mediation with additional defendants. But he said defendants and plaintiffs collaborated in “an expedited process like I’ve never seen before.”

The state’s supplemental $6 million appropriation includes an additional $400,000 that will be paid to the estates of the seven victims who died waiting for last summer’s Sugarland concert. That disbursement will bring compensation in each of those cases to the $700,000 individual tort cap.

That will leave $3.3 million of the state’s supplemental relief, which, combined with the private companies’ settlement, will leave $10.5 million that will be distributed to victims through a three-member arbitration panel.

Zoeller said that if victims were unsatisfied with the settlement, they retained the ability to bring suit against Mid-America Sound and James Thomas Engineering.

Zoeller said the settlement will curtail what could have been years of litigation that likely would have involved a future settlement. His office continues to talk with other defendants in stage collapse litigation.

“We’re not going to walk away on this,” he said.

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