Judge: State Not Liable For Company in Rigging CollapsePosted: Updated:
A Marion County judge has ruled against Mid-America Sound Corp. in a case related to the 2011 stage rigging collapse at the Indiana State Fair. The company supplied the equipment and claimed the state should cover its legal defense and other costs. The court has ruled the state is not responsible for defending or assuming the private company's liability. March 11, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS – In an important legal victory for the State of Indiana, a Marion County court has ruled the State is not responsible for defending or assuming the liability for the private company that supplied the stage rigging that collapsed at the Indiana State Fair on August 13, 2011.
In ongoing litigation stemming from the seven fatalities and multiple injuries in the stage-rigging collapse, Marion County Superior Court 2 Judge Theodore Sosin ruled against Mid-America Sound Corp. and in favor of the Indiana State Fair Commission. Mid-America Sound had claimed it had a contractual right to be indemnified by the State – that is, the private company claimed that its civil liability and legal defense were the State’s financial responsibility – something the State vigorously denied. In denying Mid-America’s motion for partial summary judgment and granting the State’s motion, the court ruled Monday that the State Fair Commission is not responsible for indemnifying or defending the private company.
“Victims of the State Fair tragedy still can pursue this company for a judgment in civil court, but the court made it clear that the company cannot transfer or shift its liability or legal expense to the State and taxpayers. This is an important ruling that upholds the prohibition set in statute that the State cannot indemnify a private company," said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office represented the State and coordinated the fight against the indemnification claim.
Legal proceedings will continue between victims and private companies in the consolidated litigation over the stage-rigging collapse, a case known as Polet et al v. Mid-America Sound et al.
As state government’s lawyer, Zoeller noted the State of Indiana already paid out its full $5 million in liability, up to the tort claim cap allowed by law, in the initial December 2011 settlement with 62 victims. Intended to rush needed funds to State Fair claimants who had ongoing needs, the 2011 settlement plan was developed with the guidance of Kenneth Feinberg, the nationally-renowned expert who designed compensation plans for victims of 9/11 and the Gulf Oil Spill -- and, more recently, oversaw donations for victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy.
One year after its initial $5 million settlement, the State of Indiana in December 2012 distributed another $6 million in supplemental relief the Legislature had approved to 59 victims. In total, the State paid $11 million in public funds to State Fair victims, not counting private charitable efforts.
When an attempt to structure a private settlement offer for victims with Mid-America Sound Corp. failed in August 2012, the Attorney General’s Office then defended the State in court against the company’s claim of indemnification. Following a February 24 hearing on the legal issue, the State won in the court’s order of Monday. Zoeller said his office will continue to aggressively defend the State if there is an appeal.
“As litigation between victims and private companies moves forward, the Office of the Attorney General will continue to appear and represent the interests of taxpayers, the State and the public as a whole, and we still encourage the private entities to attempt to resolve their legal disputes to the benefit of State Fair victims and their families without tying them up in court for years,” Zoeller said. Source: Office of the Indiana Attorney General