Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse (And the Brutality of Damage Caps)

Back in August a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair as the band Sugarland was about to take the stage. Seven were killed and dozens more injured. And now the State of Indiana is waltzing away from that tragedy having paid a mere $5M in total to 63 of the 65 victims and their families. For the families of those killed, a paltry $300K. If one of those killed or badly injured was a parent, that money will vanish quickly.

Why $5M? Because Indiana decided to limit its responsibility when it handed itself this brand of immunity and protection. A State distancing itself from its own responsibilities as people are killed on its property under its watchful eye? Sounds an awful lot like the old Soviet Union. (Ironic that this tort “reform” stuff is pushed by so-called conservatives, no?) Hey, Indiana don’t need none of that stinkin’ personal responsibility crap. That’s for the little people.

So even if there were 100 victims, the answer to them would be: Too bad. Go suck an egg. Get lost.  And let’s hoist the hammer and sickle flag.

This is the brutality of arbitrary damage caps. So find your local tort “reformer” and give him a pat on the back for figuring out how to further screw the injured.

And what of the children of those killed or badly injured? What happens to schooling, healthcare and home? By tossing these children aside like so much waste — and make no mistake about it that’s what Indiana is doing — are they more likely to become productive members of society or less likely?

Welcome to Indiana. It’s also like the Dark Ages. But with basketball.

Tags:

7 Responses Leave a comment

  • John Day 2011.12.22 at 07:13 | Quote

    If this would have occurred in Tennessee, the cap on damages against the State of Tennessee would be $300,000 per person, no more than $1,000,000 for the entire event.

    That a government would limit its liability for harming its own citizens is a moral outrage.

  • Tom Z 2011.12.27 at 12:37 | Quote

    An article written like a true personal injury lawyer! Only $5M!! Oh, the horror!

    Not one single word about why the state of Indiana should pay anything at all here.

    Not one single word about the dozens of other parites being sued over the exact same accident.

    Not one single word about the 40+ other lawsuits that have been filed against Sugarland, producers, or even (OMG did they actually sue these people) the people who physically setup the stage that collapsed.

    Not even a single word about the over $550,000 in money, donated by private Indiana residents, which is being paid to the victims.

    Keep your lawsuit lottery ideals in New York. Insulting Hoosiers with your snarky Dark Ages comments makes you look more like an ambulance chaser than a crusader for the truly injured.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2011.12.27 at 12:50 | Quote

    Insulting Hoosiers with your snarky Dark Ages comments…

    Actually, I thought Soviet-style immunity and protectionism was a more apt analogy. But Dark Ages fits.

    Only $5M!! Oh, the horror!

    OK, I think it’s pretty clear it wasn’t one of your relatives killed or crippled. I have every confidence you would sing a different tune under different circumstances. That $5M is a paltry sum when divided up amongst so many. And it would be even more paltry with more victims as the gross amount is an arbitrary cap.

    Not one single word about why the state of Indiana should pay anything at all here.

    That’s true, as I’m not the one litigating it. But given that it was a STATE fair, I have to assume that, at a bare minimum, there was state oversight of what was being done in the state’s name.

    Not even a single word about the over $550,000 in money, donated by private Indiana residents

    I have nothing bad to say about charity. This post wasn’t about charity. It was about immunity and protectionism.

  • Richard A Harrison 2011.12.28 at 09:22 | Quote

    I generally enjoy your blog, but this post seems to me to confuse two wholly unrelated issues – damages “caps” in the sense that they are discussed in the context of “tort reform” and sovereign immunity, which is a concept as old (older actually) than the nation. I live and practice in Florida where we have sovereign immunity and a statutory waiver of $100k/person or $200k/occurence. I suspect many states (if not most) have similar provisions. But this has nothing to do policy-wise with the general tort caps that are being considered for suits against private defendants. Sorry, you lost me on this one.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2011.12.28 at 10:43 | Quote

    this post seems to me to confuse two wholly unrelated issues – damages “caps” in the sense that they are discussed in the context of “tort reform” and sovereign immunity, which is a concept as old (older actually) than the nation.

    Yes and no.

    The issue (for me) isn’t whether a state has a right to give itself immunity, but whether that is fair to the populace.

    Hence my comments that immunity and evasion of responsibility are very Soviet-like.

  • Richard A Harrison 2011.12.28 at 10:52 | Quote

    @Eric Turkewitz

    Understood, but these are still two completely unrelated matters from a policy perspective. Governmental immunity serves several public purposes, among them being preservation of the state treasury. That is a bona fide governmental purpose, whetehr or not you think it is “fair.” Fair or not, it’s generally been the law for at least the past four or five centuries in the Anglo-American legal tradition.

    In contrast, a damages cap on the liability of private parties does not, by definition, serve that public purpose. Whether it serves any public purpose is fairly open to debate, and that is the basis of the current tort reform discussions playing out in many jurisdictions.

    In my humble opinion, equating the two as you seem to want to do weakens the arguments that might fairly be made in opposition to either.

Comments are closed.


The New York Personal Injury Law Blog is sponsored by its creator, Eric Turkewitz of The Turkewitz Law Firm. The blog might be considered a form of attorney advertising in accordance with New York rules going into effect February 1, 2007 (22 NYCRR 1200.1, et. seq.) As of July 14, 2008, Law.com became an advertiser, as you can see in the sidebar. Law.com does not control the editorial content of the blog in any way.

Throughout the blog as it develops, you may see examples of cases we have handled, or cases from others, that are used for illustrative purposes. Since all cases are different, and legal authority may change from year to year, it is important to remember that prior results in any particular case do not guarantee or predict similar outcomes with respect to any future matter, including yours, in which any lawyer or law firm may be retained.

Some of the commentary may be become outdated. Some might be a minority opinion, or simply wrong. No reader should consider this site (or any other) to be authoritative, and if a legal issue is presented, the reader should contact an attorney of his or her own choosing for advice.

Finally, we are not responsible for the comments of others that may be added to this site.