Insurer for Sugarland files lawsuit over stage collapse

Two years after the deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, the legal wrangling isn’t over.

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and subsidiary AGCS Marine filed a lawsuit in Marion County seeking to recover damages following the Aug. 13, 2011, collapse that killed seven people and injured dozens more. The companies insured equipment used by performers Sugarland and Sara Bareilles.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the State of Indiana, the Indiana State Fair Commission, Mid-America Sound Corp. and the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 30. James Thomas Engineering Inc. was also named.

The insurance companies said the stage and rigging were faulty and believe the state breached an oral contract with Sugarland to make sure that the state would “provide suitable staging accommodations that would protect all persons and equipment involved in the production of the performance from any inclement weather conditions.”

The lawsuit said Sugarland “sustained property damage” that the state and State Fair Commission are liable for. According to court documents, the insurers said the stage was “erected with a jersey barrier system such that it did not provide adequate resistance to minimum code specified wind speeds.”

Industry standards require systems to withstand sustained wind gusts of up to 68 miles per hour. An independent report about the collapse from Thornton Tomasetti determined that the stage rigging began to give way at 33 miles per hour and couldn’t support itself once gusts hit 43 miles per hour.

The suit seeks money to compensate the plaintiffs for the damage and recoup other costs.