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Indiana offers cash to Sugarland stage collapse victims

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 3:43 PM EST, Tue December 6, 2011
The stage at the Indiana State Fair collapses during a storm on August 13, killing seven people.
The stage at the Indiana State Fair collapses during a storm on August 13, killing seven people.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Families of those killed would get $300,000 each, while injured would get 65% of medical bills
  • State law limits total payout to $5 million, Indiana's attorney general says
  • Stage collapse killed 7, injured dozens waiting for Sugarland concert at state fair in August
  • Most victims are also suing the country duo and contractors involved with the show

(CNN) -- The families of seven people killed and 61 survivors injured when a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair in August are being offered a total of $5 million by Indiana's attorney general.

The settlements proposed by the state are separate from the lawsuit most of the families filed last month against Sugarland, the country duo that was set to perform just before a windstorm caused metal scaffolding to fall on dozens of fans.

The estate of each of those who died would get at least $300,000, while the injured would get 65% of their medical expenses paid out of the state's tort claims fund, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a news release Tuesday.

"No amount of money ever can replace lives lost or alleviate anguish endured by the victims of the Indiana State Fair tragedy," Zoeller said. "Because state law limits the amount the state can pay to $5 million per incident or $700,000 per individual and we are legally obligated to defend those limits, we had to make extremely difficult decisions about which injured victims would receive payment out of the limited pool of funds available."

Police tapes detail stage collapse

The estates and survivors must decide by December 12 if they will accept the state's offer or pursue tort claims in court.

Metal scaffolding supporting the stage lights fell onto the "Sugarpit," a section usually occupied by Sugarland's most faithful fans, when a storm swept through the Indiana State Fair on August 13.

A lawsuit filed last month by 48 plaintiffs contends that the band "failed or refused to cancel the Sugarland concert despite inclement weather" and that it had "ultimate control over the lighting" that fell on many of the victims.

"Sugarland had supervisory authority and discretion for stage size, lighting, instruments, trusses, sound equipment and location of sound equipment, and the stage system," the suit said.

Forecasters warned that heavy rain and strong winds would hit the fair nearly two hours before the storm moved through, causing the collapse of the stage. The National Weather Service estimated winds at 60 to 70 mph.

"Sugarland was not required to perform if Sugarland determined their performance would be impaired or prevented due to inclement weather," the suit said. "The decision whether to cancel the Sugarland concert due to weather conditions was the responsibility of Sugarland."

Sugarland's representative said the group would offer no comment about the lawsuit.

The suit also names other defendants, including Mid-America Sound, the company that rented the stage, roof and lighting system, and event promoter Live Nation.

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