The first of what is sure to be multiple wrongful death cases has been filed following the collapse of a stage in Indiana. What makes this case particularly interesting is that it also touches on the issues surrounding same-sex marriage in the state.
The suit was filed by 49-year-old Beth Urschel on behalf of her life partner of 10 years, 42-year-old Tammy VanDam. VanDam was killed in the stage collapse, and Urschel herself suffered a number of injuries including a crushed leg and the loss of several toes.
The lawsuit names a number of defendants, including Live 360 Group, Live Nation Entertainment and Mid-America Sound Corp. The Indiana State Fair Commission and the State of Indiana both have been named as well in the interest of evidence preservation. The suit is set at a whopping $60 million, and alleges that the entire tragedy was completely preventable, resulting from negligence and shoddy construction.
The case alleges that the stage was built without an appropriate construction permit, was disastrously overloaded with sound and performance equipment and that it did not meet OSHA guidelines for a venue construction. Further, the suit states that event organizers were clearly warned about incoming thunderstorms as much as an hour before the collapse, and that no action was taken to suspend the venue despite said warnings.
Where the case gets interesting is that the suit also includes demands for the state to surrender VanDam’s body to Urschel. Indiana does not recognize same-sex commitments, and have thus far refused to allow Urschel access to the body or to make the appropriate arrangements for her partner’s funeral. Instead, the body remains in the custody of the state at the morgue.
The amount sought breaks down into $50 million for VanDam’s 17-year-old daughter and $10 million in punitive damages to be awarded to Urschel.