Sugarland could face lawsuit over Indiana stage collapse

October 2011

Live events industry


One month after six fans died in the collapse of stage rigging at the Indiana State Fair in America, the family of a 22 year old fan may sue the band whose concert she was there to see. Sugarland have been named in a legal notice by Jennifer Haskell’s parents and sister, charging them with “gross negligence and/or recklessness” over the disaster. Thanks to Cass Williams for alerting us to this update.

Haskell and her friend Alina Bigjohny were both in the front row on 13 August, where Sugarland were booked as headliners for the annual State Fair. But as high winds lashed the site, the mainstage scaffolding began to buckle. Haskell, Bigjohny and others were crushed when 40,000lbs of lighting, speakers and other equipment collapsed into the crowd. Although Indiana’s attorney general, Greg Zoeller, has announced a $5m fund to benefit victims of the disaster, several families plan to sue the organizers and others involved with the event.

Now, Sugarland themselves are being blamed for the incident, together with their “members, agents and employees”. The Grammy-winning country band are one of 15 defendants named in the Haskells’ filing, seeking damages for the 22-year-old’s injuries and “wrongful death”. While a formal lawsuit has not yet been submitted, this legal notice sets the stage for further action.

Sugarland never actually performed at the State Fair. “They were in the bunkers in a prayer circle waiting to go on,” their manager recalled, the day after the disaster. “The tour manager herself held [things up] for a few minutes because of the weather. And if she hadn’t held, everybody would have been on the stage.” In the days following the collapse, Sugarland conducted several moments of silence for its victims.

Three teams of investigators are currently researching the circumstances surrounding the disaster, including a review of permits, inspections and safety plans. According to their contracts, Sugarland and the Indian State Fair were to “mutually determine” if the concert should be called off. This investigation is expected to take as long as eight months.
The Indiana State Fair was just one of several weather-related collapses at concert this summer. Five people died at Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival last month, and several people were injured in a similar incident at the Ottawa Blues festival. In early August, a heavy storm brought down the lighting rig at a Flaming Lips concert in Oklahoma.

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