January 30, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 30


January 27, 2023

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State Liability Cap Leaves Lawyers Looking for Damages Elsewhere Following the Seventh Death from the Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse

The Indiana State Fair stage collapse last week has now claimed a seventh victim. Meagan Toothman, a 24-year-old cheerleading coach from Cincinnati, will be taken off life support later today after doctors remove her organs in “a surgery that will provide gifts of sight, health, and life to dozens who are in need,” according to a statement from her family.

The event will forever serve as a reminder of just how bad things can go when organizers do not put safety at a premium. And now because Indiana state law caps damages that it can incur, it is also likely to also become an example of wide-ranging lawsuits filed against all those involved in a tragedy.

Reports Property Casualty 360:

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that Indiana law limits individual damage claims against the state to $700,000 and overall claims to $5 million per event.

Legal experts said that could result in several other entities aside from the state fair becoming targets of negligence lawsuits, including the designer and builder of the stage and the promoter of the Sugarland concert.

“I think there will probably be a large number of defendants listed, just because there’s a limited pot of money,” attorney Tom Schultz said.

Based upon the reported instances of shoddy management we have heard (the stage likely was never inspected, the were no storm warnings relayed to concertgoers and one meteorologist’s advice to cancel the fair was ignored), there are likely a lot of people to blame.

And it sounds like there are several plaintiff attorneys ready to find damage over and above the $5 million limit.

Dan Chamberlain, a partner at the Indianapolis personal-injury firm of Doehrman Chamberlain, said his firm could sue on behalf of one victim within the next week.

“You’ve got 50 people injured, five who have been killed, and you’ve got $5 million in coverage,” Chamberlain said. “It’s nowhere close to fairly and adequately compensating the families.”

In addition to any potential challenges to the $5 million cap that lawyers will file, there is also a case that may challenge the legality of Indiana’s same-sex marriage law.

Risk Management Magazine and Risk Management Monitor. Copyright 2023 Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume I, Number 235

About this Author

Senior Editor

Jared Wade is the senior editor of Risk Management magazine and the Risk Management Monitor blog.