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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Who is to Blame for the Devastating Accident at Indiana State Fair?

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Headlines in the last twenty-four hours have focused on the devastating accident at the Indiana State Fair when a stage collapsed during a powerful storm on Saturday, sending steel scaffolding into the crowd and killing at least five people, and injuring at least 45 as they waited for the start of a performance by the country band, Sugarland. The injuries run the gamut from broken bones to head injuries and severe bruises; some injuries are so severe that the death toll could rise.

This morning, I was reading a CNN’s report of the incident when I came across this comment:

"Wrongful death suits will be filed by lawyers who need little airplanes and extra homes to live. Oh, and let’s not forget those fancy cars and boats they need to look good. All will be forgotten about the faces and names because of silly little lawyers and their needs to use the law as a sword. People take risks when they walk into places. The fair will be sued and their insurance premiums will go up. Lawsuits make everything more and more expensive and the prices skyrocket. No one will be coming home. In this case the fair loses, no one can be brought back to life and all this kind of thing does is make lawyers drive the cost of everything up. Be careful out there! Don’t trust anyone especially fairgrounds. And when the lawyers show up waving dollar signs, guess who takes most of it home? Not you and your family member is never going to come home."

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area prior to the collapse. Fair officials said they had been monitoring the weather and preparing for an evacuation because the storm was expected in the area around 9:15 p.m. An announcement to fairgoers about evacuation procedures was not made until shortly before 9 p.m. The same announcer said concert organizers hoped the show would go on. According to concert goers and some workers, this last minute announcement was all the warning they received; emergency sirens never sounded.

The questions are:

  • If severe weather was predicted, why was the fair allowed to continue?
  • Why didn’t fair officials shut down the fair, if only as a precautionary measure for so many patrons?
  • Why wait to make an announcement only 15 minutes before the storm is predicted to strike the area?

The Indiana State Fair is an annual event attracting thousands of people. The Midwest is known for severe storms and tornados, and fair officials should know that Indiana is volatile to quick changes in weather. Wouldn’t that alone be reason to ensure that an outdoor stage was properly secured to withstand common weather patterns known to occur?

Yes, I am sure lawsuits will be filed by families of the deceased and those injured. Lawyers will be there to help these innocent victims just like the doctors who are treating the injured. The fair industry, on corporate America in general, cannot make the case, suggested by the comment, that an isolated claim, even a large one, will cause “insurance premiums to go up” or that any resulting lawsuit will “make everything more and more expensive.” Where does this thinking come from? Where are the statistics to back up this nonsense? The link, if any, is miniscule. Study after study shows no such link! Yet, corporate America has brainwashed some citizens into blaming the lawyers rather than the safety violators. I just don’t get it!

The purpose of a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit is to provide compensation to innocent victims; it is a means to hold negligent corporations accountable to repay the injured party for their injuries or their loved ones for their loss. This commenter is correct in saying that some loved ones will never be coming home, but does that mean the fair should not be held accountable? What if it was your loved one under the scaffolding?

A conscious decision was made, in this case, to put fair industry profits ahead of the safety of customers. A conscious decision was made that the storm risk did not pose enough potential danger to shut down the fair. Not only were fair officials wrong, they were “dead wrong” and several people paid the ultimate price. Society has a chance to compensate the victims’ families; punish those responsible. But, instead, a segment of our citizens is upset because the handling attorney will get paid for his/her work? I don’t get it!

Isn’t corporate greed how the cycle begins, anyway? Money is the only effective way to make big businesses remember that public safety is, and should always be, the number one priority. Maybe if profit-driven, greedy corporate executives cared more about the general public than paying for extravagant vacations on company yachts, there would be no need for lawyers.

To the poster of this comment: Do you care that the injured and the families of the deceased will most likely suffer physically, emotionally, and financially? When the breadwinner is permanently disable or died, who pays the bills? Like any profession, a lawyer expects to be paid for his/her services and expertise. Fair officials were providing a service – entertainment – to the public. They expected to profit from that service; I am certain they did despite this tragedy. Whatever your vocation, do you expect to be paid for your? Where is the “injustice” in a lawyer getting paid for his/her service? Lawyers are paid for not only helping innocent victims, but also for protecting citizens from future harm.

Be careful where you throw the blame; you or a loved one could be the next innocent victim. Yes, lawsuits cost money, but lawsuits are caused by the safety violators. If violating safety costs substantially more than considering safety in the first place, only then will corporate America do the right thing and all of us have lawyers to thank.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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    the sad fact is that if anyone puts profits over people as a priority, someone is going to get hurt. Good article. Hopefully a civil lawsuit will get to the responsible parties.