Judge: Sugarland must give State Fair depositions in April
Sugarland will not be forced to give depositions next week in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse investigation.
However, Judge Theodore Sosin says the band's attorneys must submit dates for depositions by Tuesday, and those dates must fall between April 1-15. The band will give the depositions via video conference.
The judge denied Sugarland's request for a protective order.
So far, we have not heard directly from Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush about what happened in the moments leading up to the stage collapse August 13, 2011.
"Ms. Nettles and Mr. Bush were at the top of the decision tree. They had the opportunity to postpone this and chose not to. We need to know why and whether that's a legitimate reason," said Ken J. Allen, attorney for the victims.
Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye accused the band of refusing to postpone the show twice that night. Mid America Sound's crew chief says he argued with fair officials and Sugarland's lighting director over concerns about the safety of his crew, some of whom were already up in the scaffolding as the storm approached.
Sosin scolded James Milstone, the attorney representing Lucky Star, Sugarland's parent company, for failing to offer up specific times.
"It is not acceptable to just not have dates," the judge said. He also objected to the idea of delaying the depositions until May, telling Sugarland's attorneys that he was against the notion that "the whole world has to stand still because of your client."
Milstone had no comment for Eyewitness News about the judge's remarks.
"We were actually surprised that there were no dates offered," said Carl Brizzi, another attorney for victims. "We understand that they're busy, but as the judge said, the world doesn't stop turning because Sugarland's going on tour."
Mid America Sound got the harshest penalties from labor investigators for safety violations. The company filed the motions against Sugarland, saying the band bears some responsibility.
"There's been good citizenship and compassionate lawyering, except Sugarland," said Robert MacGill, the company's attorney.
He said an April 17 mediation date has been set to settle some of the victim lawsuits.
MacGill called it "the last...best effort" and said they need to talk to Nettles about the settlement talks to "get her story on what happened that night. Did she (refuse) postponing the show...twice?"
Others called talks of settlement premature.
"Once we get all the facts on the table, then we'll be able to appropriate the fault appropriately. However, it is clear...one thing is clear. If, in fact, this concert had been postponed to 10 o'clock or 10:15, we wouldn't be talking today," Allen said.
Sugarland promised the judge the band would turn over its insurance information within 48 hours.
Last week attorneys for Mid America Sound asked a judge to force the singers to show up for sworn depositions, saying a five-month concert tour would make it difficult to schedule time for the statements.
Mid America owns the rigging that collapsed and received the harshest fines from State Labor investigators for safety violations.
Both Mid America and Sugarland are named in lawsuits filed by victims and the families of those who died.
Sugarland's attorneys wanted their client to give depositions in May and said the duo refuses to be bullied.
Last month, attorneys for the band placed some of the blame for injuries on the victims themselves for failing to seek shelter from the storm.