Constitutional Law

Suits Filed over Indiana Stage Collapse Test Civil Union Rights, Challenge Damage Cap

Indiana lawyer Kenneth Allen hopes to overturn the state’s cap on damages and establish rights for same-sex partners in lawsuits stemming from the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

Indiana caps the state’s liability for damages at $5 million for a single event, the Associated Press reports. Lawyer Kenneth Allen of Valparaiso seeks to overturn the cap in a federal suit filed in Indianapolis on behalf of six plaintiffs suing over the collapse, including the estates of three people who were killed. He argues that the cap violates the right to due process and equal protection, as well as federal laws and the Indiana Constitution, the story says.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says his office will defend the cap. He has hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to help distribute the $5 million “fairly and equitably,” he said in a statement.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is Alisha Brennon, who is also the plaintiff in a separate suit filed by Allen that seeks damages for the death of Brennon’s partner in a civil union recognized in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports. Brennon and her partner Christina Santiago were attending the Sugarland concert together in August when the stage collapsed. Santiago and six other people were killed; Brennon was among the injured.

According to the Tribune, six states allow same-sex marriage and five states have civil union laws. Indiana is not among those states.

Northwestern University law professor Andrew Koppelman told the Tribune that Brennon faces an uphill battle because Indiana does not recognize her relationship. “It shows that the law in Indiana is cruel and stupid,” he said.

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