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Not All Indiana Stage Collapse Claims Will Be Paid

Source: USA Today

Posted on 03 Nov 2011

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The Indiana Attorney General's Office said Tuesday the state hasn't come up with a system for dividing $5 million -- the cap on state payouts -- among 90 claims submitted over the Aug. 13 stage rigging collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

Seven people died and dozens more were injured in the collapse, which occurred after a strong gust of wind hit the fairgrounds.

Attorney general spokesman Bryan Corbin said the state is still reviewing claims and declined to speculate when it would begin doling out cash.

"This is still a very fluid process," Corbin said. But attorneys say some people who submitted claims will inevitably walk away empty-handed.

The deadline to submit the claims was Tuesday, and the attorney general's office had received 90 by the end of the day. It could receive more via mail, and it will accept them as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday.

The 90 claims cite everything from death of loved ones and serious injuries to emotional distress. The attorney general's office says that families of people who died and those who were seriously injured will get priority.

By law, the state can't pay more than $5 million total for one tragedy, and it can't pay a single victim more than $700,000.

If the state pays the maximum to the families of the seven people who died, that will take up $4.9 million of the $5 million pot, said Kenneth Allen, an attorney for the families of three people who died.

"How do you then compensate someone who says he was emotionally distressed when you've got to compare it to a claim from someone who lost her spouse?" Allen said.

However, victims have other ways to get money. A charitable relief fund has already given more than $500,000 to some victims and still has a little less than $500,000 left. The deadline to submit claims to that fund is Nov. 14.

Attorneys also are looking at the liability of others involved in the concert, including the band and the company that provided the stage.

"There's not just one pocket here," said Karen Celestino-Horseman, who represents a stagehand who sustained back and head injuries in the collapse.

In fact, she said, victims should pay close attention to the conditions that go along with money the state doles out because the state could ask victims not to pursue further legal action.

Celestino-Horseman said she's trying to do everything she can to get money for her client, 62-year-old Tony Mancuso, who was denied money from the charitable relief fund.

Mancuso's medical bills were covered by workman's compensation. But Mancuso said, he wasn't able to work for about 21/2months. And when he doesn't work, he said, he doesn't get paid.

"I'm not really looking for much," Mancuso said. "Six months from now, if my back hurts, I'd like to take a day off from work without worrying about it."