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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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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