Indiana stage collapse survivor files lawsuit

September 26, 2011 8:27:07 PM PDT
Alisha Brennon is talking publicly for the first time about the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. She was severely injured in the incident, but her same-sex partner, Christina Santiago, of Chicago, was killed.

Brennon spoke at a news conference arranged by her attorney who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Brennon and other victims of the stage collapse.

"The security guard that was also killed was right next to us. Selena and Jennifer were standing right next to us and all of them got killed and I'm still here. It doesn't make any sense to me," she said.

It was supposed to be a special night. Brennon and Santiago were at the Indiana State Fair to hear one of their favorite bands when the skies quickly turned dark and dangerous.

"We saw clouds coming. A man came out on the stage and told us that the storm would move around us. It wasn't going to hit us. And if they heard further word, we would all be evacuated and not five minutes later, I was knocked unconscious with her right in front of me on the ground," said Brennon.

Now Brennon and others are suing the concert promoter Live Nation, other show organizers and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. The reason? They contend Indiana's cap on lawsuit payouts encourages recklessness.

"When those who are reckless and careless are held to account for all the harms they cause, guess what? They take preventative measures. When they're not held to account, guess what? They're reckless," said Kenneth Allen, Brennon's attorney.

Allen says Indiana law currently caps liability at $5 million per incident. The tort reform law was meant to cut down on frivolous lawsuits. Instead, Allen says it hurts victims and their families.

"If all of the people whose lives were lost, their families are compensated under the cap, then there will be about $100,000 left over to compensate the more than 60 people, some catastrophically," said Allen.

Brennon's name is on a second suit that seeks to have the state of Indiana do something it hasn't done before: recognize a same sex civil union. That would enable Brennon to receive the same benefits as others widowed by the stage collapse.

"What she stood for is not something you can put a number on but I want to see come out of this is people who love each other regardless of who they are have that right."

A spokesperson for Indiana's governor declined to comment on the lawsuits. The Indiana attorney general says he will defend the cap vigorously and has brought in an outside expert to help.

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