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Court upholds Indiana's $5M liability cap in Ohio girl's suit over stage collapse injuries

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INDIANAPOLIS — The state won't have to pay any more damages from the 2011 deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse under a decision by the state Supreme Court.

The justices, in a 3-2 vote announced Wednesday, decided to not hear an appeal of a Court of Appeals ruling from January that upheld the state's $5 million liability cap in a case brought by Jordyn Polet of Cincinnati, who was 10 when she was hurt in the collapse.

The lawsuit argued the cap violates the Indiana Constitution and that Jordyn was treated differently than others who sued the state. She rejected the state's offer of $1,690, the only one of 65 claimants not to settle with the state.

Seven people were killed and nearly 100 were injured in August 2011 when high winds toppled rigging and sent the stage roof onto fans awaiting the start of a concert by the country duo Sugarland. The girl sustained leg and ankle injuries and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court documents. Her sister and mother suffered more serious injuries, but both accepted settlements.

One of the girl's attorneys, Robert Peck, said her injuries merited $100,000 in damages and that she should've been allowed to press her case in court.

"We're disappointed that by a single vote the court chose not to take this issue," Peck said in a telephone interview. "Our client, and others who may be injured in the future, get no compensation at all for injuries that were the fault of the state."

The order signed by Chief Justice Loretta Rush didn't explain the majority's decision. A one-sentence dissent from Justices Brent Dickson and Steven David said arguments that the liability cap is unconstitutional deserved the court's review because the girl also was denied payments from an additional $6 million for collapse victims approved by the General Assembly in 2012.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office defended the liability cap as properly set by legislators and that state government is different than a private entity.

"Taxpayers who are blameless in this traumatic disaster ought not be held financially responsible," Zoeller said in a statement.

In a separate case, the attorney general's office is appealing a state appeals court ruling from March that the state might be responsible for some legal damages faced by the company that provided the stage rigging. Mid-America Sound Corp. has argued that the state is financially responsible by contract for the cost of its defense and any judgments against it.

The state Supreme Court hasn't yet scheduled arguments in that case.

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