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John Lowery
John Lowery
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Indiana Stage Collapse: Who's At Fault?

10 comments

Tragedy has struck the Indiana State Fair. Failure to adequately secure a concert stage rigging caused its collapse in the face of strong winds just before the country music duo Sugarland was to perform. (Photos here). According to press reports, at least three people died and dozens more were injured when the temporary structure came crashing down upon fans waiting to see the award winning group consisting of singer-songwriters Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. Soon, the attention will turn to blame and legal liability. Ultimately the concert promoter, who typically provides the staging, will bear at least partial responsibility. Since the concert was outdoors, one can presume that winds, even high ones, were foreseeable and an appropriate outdoor stage rigging should have been in place prior to fans being allowed into the area. Some artists insist their own stage and lighting structure be used and if that is the case in this instance, Sugarland and/or their tour management company may be subject to liability.

This is an interesting (and common) legal situation that arises whenever negligence causes injury at a concert. Rest assured there will be much finger pointing between the Indiana State Fair, its concert promoters and individuals charged with securing and inspecting the premises to insure patron safety. Don’t hesitate to contact a qualified lawyer if you have questions regarding concert injuries.

10 Comments

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  1. katie says:
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    have you lived in indiana long? you know our weather is extremely sporadic and mother nature is a beast.

    also know that had they said “everyone evacuate” people would have trampled others to get out and thus tragedy could’ve been far worse.

    my thoughts and prayers are with my fellow hoosiers, sugarland, sara bareilles, and they’re crews. but please, stop passing the blame and start praying.

  2. John Lowery says:
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    My point is that the weather can be unpredictable and therefore a more secure stage structure should have been in place for an outdoor concert.

  3. John Wimmenauer says:
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    Seriously … that’s what you are worried about? How about Who needs help? Who cant find a loved one ? Who needs someplace to stay near a loved one in the hospital ? Who needs transportation ?
    This world needs less of who’s fault is it and more what we can do to actually help people.

  4. John Lowery says:
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    Of course those are concerns and those of us who pray should remember those affected, but this is a legal blog and people come here looking for answers to legal questions. As I stated in the post, very soon attention will turn to the questions of why this happened, how it could have been prevented and who will pay for the medical bills of the injured. Those are the questions I attempt to address. This is a tragic and preventable incident that should never have happened; responsible parties shouldn’t be allowed to avoid accountability.

  5. Scott says:
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    To John W.: By determining who is at fault we do help people. The people who were hurt and killed and their families will suffer tremendous econmomic loss that will need to be paid back by those responsible. That is a very immediate concern because people are unable to work and families have lost breadwinners. Moreover, determining who is at fault and holding them accountable serves as a deterrent to those involved and others in the industry from providing unsafe structures in the future, thereby saving lives and preventing further injuries. So lawyers like this and the legal system do help people in a big way by determining who is at fault and holding them accountable. I view such lawyers as similar to police officers and prosecutors who help keep our streets safe from crime and achieve justice for the victems of it, only in the civil liability realm, which can be even more life threatening and harmful than many crimes. And the lawyers are not paid by tax dollars–it is purely private. So instead of crticizing this lawyer you should be thanking him and others like him for keeping your world safer and standing up to big corporations and other powerful forces that care more about making money than protecting you from harm.

  6. Ed says:
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    If you search Google for Indiana state fair rigging and then look at images, you will find a few of the rigging as it collapses. In those images, you can see 3 or 4 of the uprights have fully separated at the top joint. Those verticals should not have separated – they should have been able to withstand that pressure, or the metal should have bent, not snap like it did. Watching video you can see them begin to move a bit (pressure starting) then snap and separate right as the whole thing comes down. My guess is they weren’t using the proper grade bolts, which with several tons of equipment 40 feet in the air is a tragedy waiting to happen.

    It was clearly an engineering failure. It wasn’t god deciding it was time for 5 people to meet their makers and 40 others meeting a new doctor. It was a failure of equipment that needs to be studied and analyzed to determine root cause so nothing like this has to happen again.

    A nice settlement for those affected will also provide a financial incentive (pain) for those responsible so that they are motivated to not let this happen again.

  7. David Robie says:
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    From grainy cell phone videos and pics, you guys sure can make a lot of conclusions! But then again, it can’t POSSIBLY be an act of God, because he can’t be sued, can he?

  8. PM says:
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    “Failure to adequately secure a concert stage rigging caused its collapse”

    Wow, you are obviously in the wrong business as you could analyse and determine the cause this quickly. The entertainment industry needs your engineering expertise. Your talents are wasted on law and blogging.

  9. industry professional says:
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    I have been designing and setting up systems of this nature for years, The fault can be at any level.

    1) The client defines the budget and overall specs. I have often had to battle it out with clients who want to compromise the engineering to save money.

    2) The production company may compromise the design after the sell to save money. They may also not have their systems tested as specified by manufacture, and they may not be at full

    3) The equipment manufacturer may have inadequate engineering. (Though you can see that Thomas was the manufacture in the pics, they are LEAD the industry).

    4) The onsite setup crew may have made mistakes. Often times this is a crew mandated by the facility, so the facility may be at fault.

    5) The performers/label sometimes give “riders” specifying design, and everyone just follows it, so they could share liability.

    6) Aside from the production company, subcontractors could be liable in part for their contributions.

    These are just a few from the top of my head. Don’t be too quick to point fingers.

    As for bolts, I can most definitely say that they are the weakest link in this type of stress. I can assure you that rated bolts would have been used. No production company that owns that kind of system would use any less, no tech would give anything else out to crew, and the union crew would have refused to put anything else in. The use of blatantly incorrect hardware would have had to have too many unrelated people negligent to be an feasible reason. Bolts have a strong lateral shear strength, but are weakest when torqued against the threads like in this case.

    My humble opinion, as a far outsider, was that the system was improperly implemented, most likely by the designer for that particular show, by cutting corners in the use of standard redundant support systems.

    And the show should have been cancelled, and the roof lowered when threat of weather was imminent. The systems are designed for quick partial lowering in an emergency (with-in minutes). The Producer of the show in conjunction with the technical director normally make that call. I do not know what warning they had, or if they had enough. And, it takes considerably more time to re-raise it again, so the show would not be able to resume that day. It is a money call, too.

  10. Shell says:
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    I live in Indiana and I can tell you that this storm was quick and the wind wasn’t expected. We had up to 70 mph gusts of wind. Then the storm folllowed. I was told that the opening act even said that tonight is a great night for a concert. This weather is beautiful.