Indiana Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Stage Collapse at State Fair

The first wrongful death lawsuit has been filed as a result of a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair earlier this month, alleging that the tragedy that killed six people could have been prevented. 

A $60 million lawsuit was filed on Friday in LaPorte Circuit Court on behalf of the estate of Tammy VanDam, 42, of Wanatah, Indiana, who was one of the people crushed when a storm caused a large stage to collapse during a Sugarland concert. The complaint was also filed by VanDam’s life partner, Beth Urschel, 49, who suffered severe personal injuries when the stage collapsed, including a crushed leg and shoulder, as well as the loss of several toes.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include Live 360 Group, Live Nation Entertainment, and Mid-America Sound Corp. The Indiana State Fair Commission and the state are also named in the lawsuit, but solely for the purpose of evidence preservation. The complaint alleges that poor construction and a failure to heed weather warnings led to the stage’s collapse.

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In addition to the wrongful death and injury claims, the lawsuit also aims to get VanDam’s body, which is being held at the morgue because Indiana does not acknowledge the right of Urschel to retrieve it because they are a same-sex couple. The two have been together for 10 years.

About four dozen people were injured on the August 13, when the stage collapsed. The event was caught on camera and has been repeatedly shown on national news networks.

In addition to VanDam, five others have died, including Jennifer Haskell, 22; Alina Bigjonhy, 23; Nathan Byrd, 51; Glenn Goodrich, 49; and Christina Santiago, 29. A number of people remain hospitalized due to their injuries.

The lawsuit claims that the stage was built without any inspection or permit, was overloaded with equipment and did not meet the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The complaint also accuses the event organizers of failing to heed warnings of approaching severe thunderstorms reported more than an hour before the collapse.

The state of Indiana has hired two outside investigative consultant firms to look into the causes of the deadly accident. The lawsuit wants to halt their investigation to ensure proper preservation of evidence.

The lawsuit seeks $50 million on behalf of VanDam’s estate and her 17-year-old daughter, and $10 million plus punitive damages for Urschel.


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