Major Storm Moves Across Great Plains Collapsing A Stage Atop Concertgoers, Safety Measures Called Into Question

Near the end of last month your Charleston brain injury lawyers at Howell and Christmas posted a blog entry concerning a truly tragic event in which a young lady from Mt. Pleasant was killed at a music festival after a truck ran into her, and her friends’, tent. To view this past entry, scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the first link following the “More Blog Posts” section. In that post it was noted that while festival and concert promoters cannot control the weather conditions on the date of their event, they do owe a duty of care to their event’s patrons, and if an attendee suffers an injury because of the negligence of the event organizers, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed against those responsible.

With that being said, there was recent, unfortunate incident at this summer’s Indiana State Fair that has made major news headlines across the country. At the Fair on Saturday, a stage collapsed atop a crowd of concertgoers waiting for country duo Sugarland to perform, killing five people and as of Monday 25 were still hospitalized for their serious injuries. Early investigations and reports point to heavy winds with estimated gusts of 60 to 70 mph as the cause for the roofing, scaffolding, as well as lighting and sound equipment to topple onto the crowd.

However, since Saturday and as investigations by state officials continue, families of those killed and injured are looking for answers to questions such as: Was the structure safe? Why were the thousands of fans not evacuated? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? As it is now, state officials have yet to respond to grieving family members and the curious public following the story, having not said whether or not the stage’s rigging was inspected prior to Saturday. Furthermore, the spokesman for the fair has retracted an earlier statement in which he said it was the job of the state fire marshal’s office to ensure the structure was safe. But now, the fair’s spokesman saying he doesn’t know whose job it was to inspect the stage’s rigging. It seems there may have been a serious lack of communication between the State Fair’s organizers and the state officials responsible for safety inspection, whatever agency that might have been.

One piece of information that your South Carolina job accident attorneys came across that may cause legal troubles for the event’s organizers is the fact that another large music event located only 15 miles from the State Fairgrounds was canceled due to the inclement weather, successfully evacuating 6,700 people before the storm that created the melee at the fairgrounds could arrive.

This is not the first instance of wrongful death due to high winds knocking over a structure in Indiana. Last fall a student at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) was killed after a tower used to film football practices collapsed due to heavy gusts of wind. A five-month investigation into this tragic, highly publicized incident resulted in the University being fined $77,500 by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA). The total fine was determined by the sum of the following six fines: knowingly putting its employees in an unsafe situation; failure to make annual, monthly, or weekly inspections of the lifts for more than a year; failure to have the scissor lift serviced as required by the manufacturer; and failure to have the operator’s manual on the unit. Also, according to the Huffington Post, the lift was missing some warning labels, as well as having some that were faded.

In both the State Fair and Notre Dame disasters families of the deceased could pursue civil claims based on wrongful death, improper supervision, and/or premises liability. But, in the State Fair case, it is too early to tell if such legal action will be taken, as investigations are just beginning. However, in the Notre Dame case, there is no information suggesting the young man’s family has sought and form of civil suit against the University. It could be that the family and University decided to quietly settle the issue out of court. Information on high-profile settlements can be found immediately below this paragraph.

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