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State fair settlement fails

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Mid-America Sound Corp., one of two companies that offered an additional $7.2 million to victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, announced it will not proceed with its offer after deciding not enough claimants accepted the settlement arrangement.

Mid-America and James Thomas Engineering offered the additional funds in exchange for a sufficient number of victims releasing both companies from lawsuits. Mid-America decided that although 51 of the 62 eligible claimants accepted the offer, that number wasn’t enough to proceed with the settlement.

The company announced it was withdrawing its offer Wednesday evening. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the state will proceed with distributing the $6 million in supplemental state-provided funds to the victims and will seek to facilitate discussions between the claimants and James Thomas Engineering.

“Because State Fair victims said they needed financial assistance sooner rather than later, my office made an effort to facilitate a private settlement to increase the relief available. It was worthwhile to try to bring the claimants and defendant companies together; but since the parties did not reach an agreement, we will move to distribute the original $6 million the Legislature appropriated, well before the January 2013 deadline, and we will continue to look for opportunities to serve the victims,” Zoeller said in a statement released Wednesday night.

Because the agreement fell through, claimants can still pursue lawsuits against Mid-America or other defendants not a party to settlement agreements.

Zoeller had attempted to resolve indemnification claims made by Mid-America against the state. The company claims in legal pleadings that the state must cover its legal costs in lawsuits related to the stage-rigging collapse, which the state denies. A bill passed by the General Assembly this year gave the AG’s office the ability to resolve those claims. It also contained language stating that claimants who receive supplemental funds may not sue the state under an indemnification claim.

James Thomas Engineering is not suing the state.

“On a personal note I will admit to some disappointment, but I believe the public-private effort was nonetheless worthwhile. Without putting the State at any risk, we provided an opportunity to speed more than twice the funds to the victims, which has always been my focus. It's not my role to assign blame that an agreement was not reached, but I will continue to offer whatever assistance my office can provide,” Zoeller added.

The attorney general’s office will circulate additional information to eligible claimants and their attorneys this week information about distribution of the $6 million.

 

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