Sugarland, promoter settle with state fair victims

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MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Country duo Sugarland, concert promoter Live Nation and 16 other defendants have agreed to pay $39 million to settle claims stemming from the deadly 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse, lawyers for the victims and their families announced Friday.

Seven people were killed and nearly 100 were injured in August 2011, when high winds toppled rigging and sent the stage roof onto fans awaiting the start of a Sugarland concert. Two investigative reports found the stage rigging that collapsed didn't meet industry safety standards and that fair officials lacked a fully developed emergency plan. The accident led to new regulations on the erection of rigging for outdoor events.

Friday's settlement resulted from mediation that began in the spring and is in addition to an earlier $11 million settlement with the state. Some plaintiffs did not accept Indiana's settlement, but attorney Kenneth J. Allen said the latest settlement with the other defendants involves all victims. He said one defendant, ESG Security, is not part of the settlement and that case could go to trial next year if no settlement is reached.

The lawsuits against all other defendants were dismissed Friday morning, he said.

Allen said a confidentiality clause prevented him from disclosing how much each defendant agreed to pay. The money will be distributed based on the severity of injury and whether a death was involved.

"Those that have lost loved ones will never have the harm erased from their lives," Allen said.

An attorney for Live Nation declined to comment Friday. An attorney for Sugarland did not immediately respond to a message. Sugarland singers Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush have testified previously that they left decisions about whether concerts should proceed to their tour manager.

Allen said the settlement was significant because it provides compensation to a woman whose lesbian partner, Christina Santiago, was killed in the stage collapse.

Alisha Brennon and Santiago were one of the first same-sex couples to enter into a civil union in Illinois, before gay marriage was legalized this year. Indiana banned gay marriage until it was ruled unconstitutional this year. Santiago was a well-known activist in Chicago's LGBT community.

Brennon, the executor of Santiago's wrongful death estate, will be compensated as the surviving spouse and for her own injuries from the stage collapse, Allen said.

A tearful Brennon, who appeared at a news conference announcing the settlement, said she suffered a traumatic brain injury in the collapse and has struggled to find work. She said the money will ensure she can continue to receive the medical care she needs.

"It's a relief for everything to be over, but at the same time it's still a long road," she said.

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