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Fatal stage collapse shows personal injury claims complexities

This blog wasn't active at the time, but we suspect readers remember the horrible day in 2011 when a concert stage collapsed at a state fair venue.

It happened in August of that year. The country music duo Sugarland was set to take the stage. But before the act began, huge winds swept through the area and toppled the stage. Seven people died and nearly 60 others were injured.

While the tragedy didn't occur here in Florida, our state is not immune from such occurrences. All one has to do is look at the most recent quarterly reports from the various theme parks to see what we mean. Some 12 people reportedly were hurt or suffered serious health problems after riding Disney World rides. There were two such reported issues at other parks. The Wet n' Wild park in Orlando recorded that an employee nearly drowned.

The 2011 stage incident happened in Indiana. But it was only this month that word came that a settlement has been reached with 19 of 20 defendants on behalf of the dead and injured plaintiffs. Attorneys for the claimants say the deal calls for a payout of $39 million. That's in addition to $11 million that the state of Indiana paid earlier to resolve claims.

Action is still pending against the one defendant who refused to sign the agreement. That case against a security company is slated to go to trial sometime in the coming year.

The reason we choose to focus on this case is that it seems to reflect well how premises liability cases can be. The storm winds were obviously a major factor in the collapse. But it took several months for investigators to conclude that the stage hadn't been properly braced during setup.

In the meantime, there were claims that fair officials erred by failing to cancel the concert because of the weather. And a report in the Ocala Star Banner in 2012 said attorneys for Sugarland even suggested that fans had assumed risk by exposing themselves to the storm.

As we note elsewhere on our website, the concept of fair warning can be a defense against premises liability claims. Still, if property owners fail to take reasonable care to keep visitors safe, victims have a right to seek compensation.

Source: Indianapolis Star, "$50M settlement reached in State Fair stage collapse," Chris Sikich, Dec. 19, 2014

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