Another $13.2M available for Indiana State Fair victims
The families of the seven who died and more than 50 others who were injured in the August 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair have been waiting months for a new round of payments from the state. On Friday it was announced that $13.2 million in new funds would be made available.
The $6 million in additional compensation was approved by Indiana lawmakers, with another $7.2 million from two of the companies found most culpable for the structural collapse.
But there's a big catch. The $6 million from the state is tied up with the $7.2 million. Victims can't get the public funds promised without agreeing to the private funds and letting Mid-America Sound Corp. and James Thomas Engineering off the hook.
"This is really our office playing a role between the two sides to try to expedite relief to the victims," said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller as he made the announcement.
Mid-America Sound and James Thomas Engineering, the owners and manufacturers of the rigging that fell, were slapped with hefty fines for serious workplace violations, and a faulty design.
Now the attorney general is bringing them on board with the state's settlement. But if victims want the additional public funds, they must agree to the private funds and also relinquish the right to sue Mid-America or James Thomas Engineering for further damages.
"It's true this is to avoid litigation, so you can't accept these funds and still sue," Zoeller said.
State Representative Ed Delaney credits Zoeller's creativity, but says this is not what lawmakers had in mind.
"No," he said emphatically.
Delaney pushed lawmakers to approve more money to cover the state's liability alone, but got just $6 million.
"That's not what this is, a public-private partnership," DeLaney told 13 Investigates. "This is an after the fact attempt to deal with a disaster and it's not ultimately the function of the state to protect private companies," he said, taking issue with the idea.
The vote to give additional compensation ensures:
Another $400,000 to the families of the seven who died, putting their payouts at the state's maximum amount; and to pay 100 percent of the medical bills of those with non-permanent injuries.
Victims like high school graduate Bradley Humphrey, now paralyzed, would have to arbitrate his own settlement.
Many others would likely get nothing.
"Without this public-private partnership, this settlement that ties the two together we may not have sufficient resources," explained Zoeller.
"We have a constitutional provision that says basically we're not suppose to settle individual cases and we seem to be dangerously close to doing that, don't we?" questioned DeLaney.
Victims and their attorneys who opt for the settlement can sign a new release form and application beginning next week. All applications must be received by July 13th to be eligible.
While the attorney general believes the offer will get victim support, he says if the majority refuses it, his office will then offer the $6 million in state funds alone. The money must be distributed by the end of the year.