Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse: Sugarland Attorneys Offer Strange Defense

Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse: Sugarland Attorneys Offer Strange Defense
Sugarland (Wiki Image: Craig O'Neal)

Attorneys for the mega country duo act Sugarland may have unwittingly put a stake through the heart of their musical careers. Apparently attorneys feel that some of the blame for the carnage that occurred after the Sugarland stage collapsed is squarely on those who were killed or injured. I don't know about anyone else, but I think people who attend concerts should have a reasonable expectation that their safety has been considered by those promoting them.

As we know, those reasonable expectations were not considered if the allegations are correct that the stage that night was improperly rigged. Now I am no expert in the field of outside attraction engineering, but I do know that there are many materials available and suitable for outdoor concerts. I also know that there are accepted standards when it comes to constructing an outdoor stage and what they should be able to withstand from a weather event. How attorneys, then, could suggest that fans of Sugarland placed themselves into imminent danger or must assume some of the blame just doesn't hold water in my opinion.

Look, no one could foresee the magnitude of a weather event with clear certainty, although Indiana State Fair officials were well aware of the possibility of 70 mile per hour winds just prior to the collapse. Okay the lawyers may have a right to invoke an Act of God defense, but that doesn't mean that relieves promoters or artists from taking certain precautions. The bottom line here is that bad weather does, in fact, occur and they must be prepared for that likelihood and/or emergency contingencies.

Now, I am sure most concert goers could attest to the realization that some places are clearly better than others for entertainment. But it is no accident that those places which have the best reputations are also the same ones who place a high value on the safety and comfort of their customers.

Whether the tragedy at the Indiana State Fair could have been averted is anyone's guess. However, what needs to be answered here is whether or not shortcuts were taken. And that includes everything from stage rigging to sufficient warning being given attendees by Fair Officials to clear the area after learning of the winds in the area.

I have no doubts that there is enough blame to go around but I certainly wouldn't put on those who attended -

especially those killed or hurt!


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  • As usual, it doesn't pay to get overwrought with news reports written by legal ignoramuses.

    Apparently all that happened here is that someone filed a complaint, and this defendant answered stating an "assumption of risk" defense. Any defendant can't raise a defense unless it is alleged in the answer.

    Your statement "Look, no one could foresee the magnitude of a weather event with clear certainty" indicates what the real factual issue will be at trial; i.e., someone must have foreseen it or violated standards meant to forestall it to be found liable. Expert opinion on the engineering standards will be required, although I don't know how relevant that would be to the band's liability (as opposed to that of the contractor or the operator of the state fairgrounds).

    As far as whether assumption of risk is applicable, this probably isn't much different than having to sign a waiver (an "express assumption of risk") before doing anything at a park district or health club, or even being hit by a baseball or bat at the old ballpark.* Anyway, the jury decides.

    *Ex Posts Facto posted about that about a year ago when the guy fell over the wall in a ballpark and was killed.

  • In reply to jack:

    I am sure you right given your legal knowledge, unfortunately it sometimes eludes regular folks. The implication made by Sugarland's attorneys is what we have come to accept of the legal profression - always looking for a way out for their clients and their responsibilities.

    As an ex engineer I am fully aware of the safety factors involved in structures. It appears that the riggers really blew it - but and here is the big but - Sugarland also apparently went on the road with a stage that wasn't designed for how it was used. At least that is what I read and if that is the case - then they too become part of the suit. Of course they also wanted to continue on with a show that should have by all rights been cancelled - that becomes a factor along with everyone else involved in this thing.

    In the end it comes down to money and limiting the damages - but that doesn't make it right either. The fact that briefs must be filed and the terminologies used like assumption of risk are understandable - but the bigger picture is what it is isn't it? Again - it is about the money.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Other than criminal law, youth, and maybe amicable divorce, anything else in court is about the money. Similar to the Illinois "civil union companion" who is suing for wrongful death, even though Indiana doesn't recognize civil unions.

    Even your description of the circumstances indicates that the band shouldn't just say "we aren't defending ourselves."

  • In reply to jack:

    I suppose I can't argue with that logic Jack. Thanks as always for your comments.

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