FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2011 file photo, fans waiting to see Sugarland attempt to hold up the stage after high winds blew it over and onto fans sitting in the track of the Indiana State Fair Grandstands. Parties are reported to be close to settling a class-action lawsuit filed by victims of the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Matt Kryger, File)
INDIANAPOLIS — A lawsuit filed by victims of the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse appears to be nearing a settlement, a mediator's report indicates, more than three years after the fatal accident that killed seven people and injured more than 40.
John Van Winkle mediated the talks between the state of Indiana, its co-defendants — Live Nation Worldwide, Dave Lucas Entertainment and Mid-America Sound — and at least 11 plaintiffs who opted out of an $11 million state payout. He noted the progress in a report to Marion Superior Court Judge Theodore Sosin filed Saturday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report Tuesday.
"At or after the mediation sessions of May 5th and 6th, the plaintiffs and all but one of the defendants reached agreements to settle or agreements in principle to settle," Van Winkle wrote, without identifying the holdout defendant.
The parties in the case are trying to "finalize releases and other settlement documentation," Van Winkle said.
"Because of the number of parties involved, to facilitate the finalization of the agreements, the court might consider settling a deadline of fifteen or thirty days for the parties to complete the settlements," Van Winkle wrote.
The case consolidated 11 separate lawsuits, with plaintiffs including the estates of three people who died in the collapse.
Scott Starr, an attorney who represents plaintiff Lisa Hite of Logansport, Indiana, said he could not discuss the details of proposed settlement but said it was "the best that could be accomplished under the circumstances."
Hite has had three surgeries for a severely broken foot, he said.
"Unfortunately, the defendants' ability to pay and various insurance coverages available to pay were not adequate to fully compensate everyone for all of their injuries. But the settlement will enable the victims to receive some consideration now as opposed to waiting years, which would have occurred with more protracted litigation," Starr said in a telephone interview.
The August 2011 collapse occurred amid high winds that toppled rigging and the stage roof onto fans awaiting the start of a concert by the country duo Sugarland. Mid-America, an event production company, owned the roof and rigging used to hold the lights and sound equipment that crashed onto the stage and crowd. The accident led to new regulations on the erection of rigging for outdoor events.
Kenneth J. Allen, who represents other plaintiffs in the case, emphasized that a settlement isn't final yet.
"There's a lot of things that have to be worked out, whether it happens or doesn't happen," Allen said.
Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General's Office, said in an email that "discussions are continuing and the process is fluid and ongoing."
"As has been our goal from the outset, we encourage the remaining litigants to settle their issues promptly for the benefit of the victims and their families," Corbin said.
A spokeswoman for Mid-America had no comment on the report. Live Nation declined to comment. A contact at Dave Lucas Entertainment could not immediately be found.
Performer Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland also had no comment.
Associated Press writers Rick Callahan and Charles D. Wilson in Indianapolis and Chris Talbott in Nashville contributed to this report.
All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.