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Sugarland lawyers: Fans share blame for injuries in Indiana stage collapse

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:14 AM EST, Wed February 22, 2012
iReporter Agnes Schade captured this photo after wind caused a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011.
iReporter Agnes Schade captured this photo after wind caused a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sugarland attorneys: Fans injured in stage collapse at Indiana State Fair share some blame
  • NEW: An attorney representing a victim's family slams Sugarland for "spin doctoring"
  • "Single most important thing to Sugarland, are their fans," says the band's manager
  • Documents reveal differing accounts of what happened before the August 2011 stage collapse

CNN affiliate WRTV has more on the story.

(CNN) -- Attorneys for country duo Sugarland say some concertgoers' injuries from a deadly stage collapse last year at an Indiana State Fair were "their own fault" and they "failed to exercise due care for their own safety," according to court documents.

Several families of victims from the August incident have filed a lawsuit against Sugarland, contending it was negligent in the stage collapse that left seven people dead and more than 40 injured. The incident occurred after a storm toppled scaffolding just as the country band was about to take the stage.

In its response obtained by CNN affiliate WRTV to the lawsuit, Sugarland's attorneys denied negligence claims, calling the incident "a true accident, or act of God."

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The band also said "they had nothing to do with the construction of the venue" and did not have the final say if the show should happen or not.

Carl Brizzi, an attorney representing Heather Goodrich, who lost her husband in the collapse, blasted Sugarland's comments.

"Sugarland's response is a carefully crafted legal document that inappropriately attempts to distance the band from the responsibilities incumbent upon the show performers as to the safety of their fans ... And this spin doctoring of Sugarland's role in the case is both offensive and outlandish," he said.

Gail Gellman, the band's manager, said the group was upset that people want to point fingers and try to sensationalize the disaster and released a statement, trying to clarify the claims made in the lawsuit.

"The single most important thing to Sugarland, are their fans ... for anyone to think otherwise is completely devastating to them," the statement read.

Earlier this month, Indiana State Fair Commission paid a $6,300 fine imposed after state workplace safety regulators concluded the fair failed to conduct an adequate safety evaluation at the fairgrounds.

The Indiana Department of Labor has also announced penalties totaling $80,800 in the incident, saying various companies and the state fair itself failed to comply with safety precautions.

Court and state documents reveal differing accounts of what happened.

In an affidavit from a lawsuit against one company, the fair's executive director says she twice sent the show's promoter to talk to Sugarland in an effort to delay the show.

Twice the answer came back -- we want to go on, according to the deposition by Cynthia Hoye, the executive director of the state fair, according to the court filing.

But in a separate document contained in a state report on the incident, Sugarland tour manager Helen Rollins said no one asked the band to delay its set.

The lawsuit, filed last November, seeks unspecified damages, WRTV reported.

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report.

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