Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Wednesday that he plans to promptly pay $5 million -- the maximum allowed under Indiana's government liability law - to victims of the Sugarland stage collapse last month.
Zoeller's announcement was delivered the same day fair and state officials announced intentions to speed up victim payments from a separate relief fund, which contains more than $800,000 donated by private individuals and businesses in the wake of the Aug. 13 tragedy that left seven dead and dozens injured.
Strong winds blew the large stage roof and rigging, right before the country band Sugarland was to perform. Instead, the gusts caused the stage to collapse onto fans awaiting the concert. Five fans, a security guard and a stagehand have died from their injuries.
How the money will be divided and distributed between the two funds, and when money will start flowing, has yet to be determined. For victims who have exorbitant medical bills, funerals costs or injuries that prevent them from earning a living, every day that passes becomes more of a hardship, said Indianapolis attorney Carl Brizzi, who is representing Heather Goodrich, whose husband, security guard Glenn Goodrich, was one of those killed in the collapse.
How is the light bill going to be paid? Brizzi said of the Goodrich family. How is she going to buy groceries for her boys?
Under state law, the government's liability is limited to $700,000 per injury or death. But the limit in the stage collapse is that all claims for a single incident are capped at $5 million.
Byran Corbin, Zoeller's spokesman, said the move to pay out the $5 million is not an admission of negligence on the part of the state. The plan, will, however, help minimize the expense of lengthy and costly litigation.
This is a way to get early payments to the victims, Corbin said. Once the $5 million limit is reached, that is all there is.