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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stage Collapse - "Owner rejects stage collapse settlement"

Tom LoBianco of the AP, who wrote the initial story about the indemnification issue, reports today that Mid-America Sound rejected the settlement plan yesterday "that would have protected the state from further legal action. ":

Mid-America Sound officials said not enough of the victims had agreed to the deal. Of the 62 claimants, which include people who were injured and the estates of those who died, only 51 agreed to the settlement by the Aug. 1 deadline.

Among those rejecting the deal were the families of three women killed when strong winds toppled the stage into a crowd on Aug. 13, 2011, according to their attorney. The temporary stage, leased to the state by Mid-America, fell shortly before country duo Sugarland was set to perform.

Mid-America spokeswoman Myra Borshoff Cook released a statement saying “the minimum participation requirements” specified in the proposed settlement weren’t met. The statement didn’t say how many of the victims were required, saying only that “a sufficient ratio of claimants from the largest claims categories” hadn’t agreed to the settlement. * * *

Attorney General Greg Zoeller had proposed the joint settlement, which asked victims to agree to settle their claims for shares of $6 million from the state and $7.2 million from Mid-America and the stage’s manufacturer, James Thomas Engineering. In exchange, the victims would agree not to seek additional compensation.

ILB: The victims were not given the opinion of simply sharing in the supplemental $6 million the General Assembly appropriated in the last session, instead they had to elect to take the whole package, or nothing.

Re the indemnification issue, the story continues:

The company’s decision Wednesday scuttles a legal strategy Zoeller pursued to protect the state from a Mid-America lawsuit claiming the state would be on the hook for any damages victims won in court against the company.

Mid-America pointed to invoices signed by State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye after the stage collapse that included legal language clearing the company of any wrongdoing. The state argues that the invoices didn’t constitute a legally binding contract, but state lawyers didn’t want to test that assertion in court.

See this August 9th ILB entry re the indemnification issue, where Mid-America claimed that a single state employee, acting on her own and probably without intent, could bind the State and make it ultimately liable for future damage claims the victims won in court against Midwest, via the boilerplate on an invoice she signed. More:
Following Mid-America’s statement Wednesday, Zoeller said the state would immediately begin distributing the $6 million that lawmakers approved this year for victims.
Here is Attorney General Zoeller's press release on the matter, issued late last evening.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 16, 2012 01:23 PM
Posted to Stage Collapse