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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. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

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  4. Dear Fan, let me help you correct the title to your post. "ACLU is [Left] most of the time" will render it accurate. Just google it if you doubt that I am, err, "right" about this: "By the mid-1930s, Roger Nash Baldwin had carved out a well-established reputation as America’s foremost civil libertarian. He was, at the same time, one of the nation’s leading figures in left-of-center circles. Founder and long time director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Baldwin was a firm Popular Fronter who believed that forces on the left side of the political spectrum should unite to ward off the threat posed by right-wing aggressors and to advance progressive causes. Baldwin’s expansive civil liberties perspective, coupled with his determined belief in the need for sweeping socioeconomic change, sometimes resulted in contradictory and controversial pronouncements. That made him something of a lightning rod for those who painted the ACLU with a red brush." http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/roger-baldwin-2/ "[George Soros underwrites the ACLU' which It supports open borders, has rushed to the defense of suspected terrorists and their abettors, and appointed former New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board." http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1237 "The creation of non-profit law firms ushered in an era of progressive public interest firms modeled after already established like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") and the American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") to advance progressive causes from the environmental protection to consumer advocacy." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_lawyering

  5. Mr. Foltz: Your comment that the ACLU is "one of the most wicked and evil organizations in existence today" clearly shows you have no real understanding of what the ACLU does for Americans. The fact that the state is paying out so much in legal fees to the ACLU is clear evidence the ACLU is doing something right, defending all of us from laws that are unconstitutional. The ACLU is the single largest advocacy group for the US Constitution. Every single citizen of the United States owes some level of debt to the ACLU for defending our rights.

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