Extra $13.2M for victims of Ind. State Fair stage collapse

Bryan Cohen Jun. 25, 2012, 8:34am


INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced on Friday that Indiana State Fair stage collapse victims may begin applying for an additional $13.2 million in compensation next week.

The fund available to those physically injured and the estates of the individuals who died includes $6 million in supplemental state compensation approved by the state's general assembly and $7.2 million in private money offered by companies named as defendants in State Fair-connected lawsuits. State funds will be paid out by the end of the year and the private funds will be paid out upon collective support among the claimants.

Claimants who filed tort claims notices in the fall for the state's earlier $5 million settlement phase may apply for additional funds in this round. The Indiana legislature passed a new law that would allow $6 million in public money to go to the physically injured claimants alone which also directed how it would be distributed. Physically injured and non-physically injured claimants may apply for a share of the $7.2 million worth of private funds. Claimants not eligible for the original settlement in the fall could qualify for part of the private money in this additional round, but an arbitration panel will decide whether they are entitled to the payments.

"This is about putting the victims first," Zoeller said. "The state's role to assist victims of the State Fair tragedy did not end when we paid out the original $5 million maximum from the tort claim fund in December. We know that claimants need additional financial help now and they can't wait for years, so with the Legislature's support and direction we designed a process where they can tap into additional funds. We want to provide these supplemental dollars in a prompt, equitable and respectful manner."

The private funding is offered by Mid-America Sound Corporation and James Thomas Engineering Inc., two defendants named in lawsuits by claimants related to the collapse of the stage.

Claimants who wish to participate in both public and private compensation must sign a form that releases James Thomas Engineering and Mid-America from any liability and the state from further legal obligations. Claimants who accept the settlements may still pursue litigation against various other private defendants connected to the incident. Claims must complete and return a new release form and a supplemental application that lists insurance coverage information, lost wages, out-of-pocket costs and other damages and expenses by July 13.

Zoeller's office enlisted the help of Kenneth Feinberg last fall after the Aug. 13 stage rigging collapse at the State Fair. Feinberg is a nationally-known expert who designed compensation plans for victims after the BP Gulf oil spill and the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Zoeller's office and Feinberg designed a process to distribute the original $5 million worth of Indiana tort claim funds to 62 eligible claimants. The claimants included the estates of seven victims who died during the incident.

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