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State preparing to pay maximum in stage collapse damages

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The state of Indiana is set to forgo costly and lengthy litigation and instead pay the maximum $5 million in damages allowed by law to victims of the Indiana State Fair concert stage collapse, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Wednesday.

Zoeller disclosed the decision in a written statement while announcing that Kenneth Feinberg, an expert who administered victim-compensation funds following 9/11 and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, will serve as an unpaid consultant on claims associated with the concert tragedy.

Strong winds toppled a state fair stage onto fans waiting to see country band Sugarland perform at the Grandstand Aug. 13, leading to seven deaths and leaving dozens injured.

“We want to move to pay the full $5 million that the state’s law allows as soon as an equitable formula can be devised,” Zoeller said in the statement. “My goal is to focus on the needs of victims and their families while minimizing the expense of lengthy and costly litigation.”

Indiana law caps total damages to a state entity at $5 million — an amount personal-injury lawyers have said is far too low for the injuries and deaths involved.

Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the victims, including one by Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad seeking class-action status in Marion County Superior Court against the state and companies involved in putting on the concert.

On Monday, Zoeller asked a Marion County judge to dismiss that suit, which was filed on behalf of Indianapolis resident Angela Fischer, who says she was emotionally traumatized by the deadly accident.

He said the law firm failed to follow the legal process in suing. He said Fischer's lawyers notified his office with a tort claim Aug. 22 of their plans to sue the state, and then filed suit the same day instead of giving the state the required 90 days to respond to the tort.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Cohen & Malad Managing Partner Irwin Levin said he has the utmost respect for Feinberg.

“We have been beseeching the state to move as quickly as possible to give full compensation to the victims,” he said. “We hope that Ken Feinberg will encourage the state to increase the fund voluntarily so victims will be paid full compensation, and to do so quickly.”

Because of the state cap, which also limits individual claims to $700,000, several other parties besides the state fair have been named as defendants in the negligence suits.

Among those named are Mid-America Sound Corp., Lucas Entertainment Group LLC, Live 630 Group, Live Nation Touring and ESG Security Inc.

Zoeller said in announcing Feinberg’s role that developing a process to resolve claims would provide victims and families with “certain and prompt payment.”

"In light of the urgency for victims of the State Fair tragedy and the statutory limits on compensation, the advice of Mr. Feinberg who has faced these circumstances before will be invaluable in developing this claims process effectively,” Zoeller said.

Separately, Feinberg also will work with the Indiana State Fair Commission to distribute private donations made to the Indiana State Fair Remembrance Fund.

As of Tuesday, the fund contained $242,404. The tally doesn't include donations expected from a concert by Train and Maroon 5 that was moved from the state fairgrounds to Conseco Fieldhouse.

This story originally ran on IBJ.com. The Indianapolis Business Journal is a sister publication to Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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