Indiana State Fair State Collapse Draws Attention To Wrongful Death Lawsuits And Same-Sex Partners

The tragic stage collapse that took place at the Indiana State Fair last month has many state officials examining the law as it pertains to wrongful death lawsuits and same-sex marriages or civil unions.

The August tragedy, in which a state collapsed in high winds during a sudden storm just minutes before the band Sugarland played for the crowd, killed seven people and left 40 people with serious injuries. Among the casualties were 29-year-old Christina Santiago of Chicago, and 42-year-old Tammy VanDam of Wanatah, Indiana. Both lost their lives in the accident and both had same-sex partners who were injured.

Beth Urschel, the partner of VanDam, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state of Indiana. She and her late wife were married in Hawaii several years ago, but their marriage rights are not recognized in Indiana. Alisha Brennon, the partner of Santiago, has announced that she will file a federal lawsuit regarding the accident and regarding Indiana’s $5 million damages cap against the state of Illinois. She had her late spouse were joined in a civil union in Illinois last year.

Since some states recognize gay marriages and other do not, legal situations like the one above can become complicated very quickly. In Indiana, only immediate family – such as spouses, children, and parents – can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. But where the two lesbian couples above legally bound?

Only a few other similar cases have been seen across the country. In New York, a man initially was awarded damages in a medical malpractice case involving the death of his partner, but lost the case in appeals. In California, a woman was allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit regarding her long-time partner even though they were not legally married.

In the two cases regarding the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, we can only wait and see what the outcome will be. We do know, however, that whatever the courts decide will become a president for future cases.

Do you need a personal injury attorney following an Indiana accident? Do you think your loved one’s sudden death could and should have been prevented? Speak with an Indianapolis accident attorney today about your possible case.

Jim Keller
Partner at Keller & Keller

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