More claims filed against state of Indiana in stage collapse


INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana attorney general's office received five more court filings Friday that could lead to lawsuits in the Indiana State Fair tragedy. That makes a total of 14 possible suits as medical bills add up.

When the group Train turned their August concert into a benefit for the victims of the Indiana State Fair, their focus was to raise money for immediate relief. That just has not happened.

"It's frustrating. It would be very disheartening for us if we did this and just hoped to help and it doesn't get to the right place," said Scott Underwood, Train's drummer.

For weeks, the $540,000 raised by the concert was in limbo. Just this week it was moved over to the newly created State Fair Remembrance Fund with hundreds and thousands of other donated dollars.

So far, victims like Jeff Frepan, who broke his arm and can't work, haven't seen a dime of the money.

"Anything right now will help help get my bills paid. It would help if they came out tomorrow and gave a thousand bucks," he said.

According to the state, it's not clear when money will be distributed.

Two of the claims filed are on the behalf of the families of Alina BigJohny and Tammy VanDam who both died in the tragedy last month. VanDam's partner, Janeen Urshcel, also filed Friday. She was seriously injured in the collapse.

An attorney for two of the victims says with mounting medical bills and lost wages people need money sooner than later but he also acknowledges distributing the funds is not that simple.

"You have a monumental task in front of the governor and in front of the state of Indiana to try to figure out an equitable way to get the money to these folks that deserve and need it as soon as possible and to do it in a way that makes some sense for everyone involved," said Tony Patterson, attorney for the Polet family.

Patterson's clients Jill and Jaymie Polet were both severely injured requiring weeks in the hospital and multiple surgeries.

"I'm glad my mom's okay and were going to get through this. It's just been really hard," said Jaymie from her hospital bed.

For the family, waiting for the state to divvy money is difficult, especially not knowing when it might come in.

"They have not started receiving the bills yet but they're gonna be coming in very soon. I would be surprised if they didn't exceed $100,000 apiece. At this point in time it's likely more than that," said Patterson.

The state has enlisted the help of experts to determine the best way to divide the money but will not give us a timeline when that might happen. Individual fund raisers have taken place for some of the vicitims so that could be providing some monetary relief until other dollars come through.

 Right now there is a $5 million liability cap in the state of Indiana. Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) says he plans to introduce legislation that would allow the State Fair victims to collect more.

DeLaney tells The Indianapolis Star that the state has greater responsibility since it invited people to the Aug. 13 concert and didn't inspect the safety of the outdoor stage that strong winds blew onto the crowd.

But state Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley says he doesn't favor raising the cap. He describes such a move as "a call to arms by trial lawyers."

Seven people have died from the collapse. More than 40 others were injured, several seriously.

The state has 90 days to review the claims.