Indiana AG: 64 Claimants Accept State Fair Settlement Offers

December 22, 2011

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that 64 of the 65 claimants who were offered settlements in the Indiana State Fair tragedy have accepted their settlement offers. Checks will be issued by the end of December that will pay out the entire $5 million in tort claim funds the state has available by law.

“Deciding on compensation for the victims of the State Fair tragedy is one of the most difficult duties the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has ever undertaken. From the start we knew that no matter how we divided the $5 million available, it could never replace the seven lives lost nor erase the pain of the injured and grieving. We did all that was possible to treat victims equitably and to assist them with their medical and financial needs within the amount the law allows,” Zoeller said in an announcement released by the AG’s office.

A stage rigging collapse on Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair proved deadly. Seven individuals were killed and more than 100 were injured in the incident.

A total of 114 individual claimants — including the representatives of the seven deceased — filed a total 101 claims and utilized a customized State Fair claim form the AG’s office developed. The state also retained a claims management firm, JWF Specialty Co., to receive and review the claims and follow up with claimants to obtain additional medical documentation.

The estates of the seven deceased victims were guaranteed settlements of at least $300,000 each. Another 58 claimants who were most seriously injured and met at least one other protocol criteria were offered payments equal to approximately 65 percent of their medical and hospital bills submitted to date. Since that amount will exhaust the rest of the $5 million the state has available, claimants with non-physical injuries did not receive settlement offers under the protocol.

To be offered settlements, claimants or their attorneys were required to submit documentation of hospital expenses; the form asked that documentation be attached. Offers could not be extended to any claim that lacked medical documentation or where the requested information was not provided. JWF Specialty Co. was available to answer questions from claimants and their attorneys throughout the process.

On Dec. 6 the state sent offer notices to 65 eligible claimants or their representatives requesting a prompt reply. Although claimants had the legal right to decline the offers, all but one accepted, including the estates of all seven deceased victims.

The remaining $1,691 that one claimant’s attorney declined was redistributed among the other 64 claimants and their offers were recalculated. By accepting offers, claimants sign settlement documents releasing the Indiana from future liability. That does not prevent claimants from pursuing separate legal actions against other private entities over the stage rigging collapse.

After offers were extended, three claimants identified conflicting medical billing data that had been previously submitted to claims manager JWF Specialty Co. during the claim-filing period.

The disputed claims were carefully reviewed, and the state and JWF agreed to resolve the disputes in favor of the claimants, meaning their offers were revised upward by a combined total of $33,027.31.

Since by law the state’s cap per incident is a total $5 million and cannot exceed that, JWF Specialty agreed to pick up the difference and pay the increased offers to the three claimants out of its own funds.

The AG’s office said it participated in mediation with a group of approximately 30 attorneys and law firms representing many claimants and reached tentative accord on the protocol during the process of calculating settlement offers. Settlement offers are with the consent of the governor’s office.

Source: Indiana Attorney General’s Office

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