2016 Indiana State Fair Under Way

Five years ago, on Aug. 13, 2011, stage rigging collapsed as storms approached the Indianapolis fairgrounds, killing seven people. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a key liability case stemming from the collapse earlier this year.

The 58th Indiana State Fair is under way in Indianapolis starting today, a little less than five years after high winds from an approaching thunderstorm caused stage rigging at the fairgrounds to collapse on Aug. 13, 2011, killing seven people and injuring more than 50 others. Litigation between a rigging contractor and the State Fair Commission continued until early this year, when the Indiana Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Jan. 28, 2016, that Mid-America Sound Corporation could not claim retroactive indemnification from its liability for the collapse.

In the case, Mid-America Sound argued it was permitted to shift its liability to the State Fair Commission on the basis of an indemnification provision Mid-America inserted onto the back of an invoice and then submitted to the commission after the collapse, according to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

"My office put the victims first by fully paying out the state's maximum $5 million in liability in 2011 and then secured another $6 million in supplemental relief for victims from the Legislature in 2012. Our position was Indiana cannot indemnify a private party, nor was there any agreement here to do so," he said when the state's highest court ruled in January 2016. "We were opposed to the contractor's assertion that it could shift its legal responsibility for the State Fair tragedy onto the taxpayers, and we respect the conclusion of the Indiana Supreme Court that has resolved this legal question with finality."

Zoeller said then that the state had paid out all it can in public funds to the stage collapse victims. "The litigation surrounding the State Fair stage collapse has been the most difficult and painful of all cases during my two terms as attorney general. While it is the obligation of the attorney general to defend state clients, it does not diminish the knowledge of the pain and suffering of all those who were killed and injured that tragic day in 2011," he said.

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