Lawyers working for Sugarland have possibly put the country duo in a tricky PR position after filing legal papers that seem to argue that fans injured when that stage collapsed at last year’s Indiana State Fair were in part to blame for their own injuries, for failing “to exercise due care for their own safety”.
As previously reported, seven fans died and 40 more were injured when staging collapsed in freak high-speed winds shortly before Sugarland were due to take to the stage at the State Fair last August. Various legal claims have been made since the incident, with the band themselves being hit with litigation because their contract with the State Fair gave them the right to cancel the show in extreme weather conditions.
Lawyers for some victims have claimed their failure to exercise that clause makes them liable for the deaths and injuries caused by the stage collapse. There have also been allegations that the band knocked back proposals to postpone their performance to let the storm pass, something which might have led to the area near the stage being cleared before the high speed winds hit, though exactly what was discussed back stage before the tragedy isn’t especially clear.
Indeed there were reports it was the band’s tour manager who requested a delay in starting the Sugarland set, a decision which arguably reduced the impact of the staging collapse because fewer fans had moved close to the stage.
Some commentators have expressed surprise that Sugarland’s lawyers would even suggest fans should accept some liability for their own injuries, when it would seem more logical to try to land all the blame with State Fair organisers and the company which put up the staging.
The former have already paid out $5 million in damages to those affected by the incident, which is the most the State is allowed to pay out under Indiana State law, though word has it there are moves to make a one time exception in order to hand over more cash to those still paying medical bills in relation to their injuries. Nevertheless, lawyers for the victims are still looking for other routes to higher compensation.
As criticism emerged online and in the media to Sugarland’s latest legal filing yesterday, the band issued a vague and non-committal statement saying: “Sadly when a tragedy occurs, people want to point fingers and try to sensationalise the disaster. The single most important thing to Sugarland are their fans. Their support and love over the past nine years has been unmatched. For anyone to think otherwise is completely devastating to them.