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Girl challenges damages cap for 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse

Posted at 12:15 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 12:15:44-04

Editors Note: This story was originally published on Dec. 14, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - A 13-year-old Cincinnati girl injured in the Indiana State Fair stage collapse three years ago is asking an appeals court to throw out the legal cap on what the state can be sued for, WIBC reports.

Jordyn Polet was 10 when high winds blew down the rigging at Sugarland's scheduled concert at the fair. Seven people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

Indiana law limits what a person can collect in damages from the state to $700,000. Attorney Robert Peck isn't challenging that cap. But Peck argues a $5 million cap on the total the state can pay out in a single incident means people are unconstitutionally denied equal treatment. He notes if Jordyn had suffered the same injury but had been the only casualty, she could have sought up to the $700,000 maximum. Instead, the state offered $1,700 as her share of the $5 million pool.

Solicitor General Tom Fisher argues Jordyn's offer was equal to everyone else who didn't suffer serious permanent injuries: 65 percent of her medical bills, with no compensation for emotional distress. He argues the Indiana Supreme Court has explicitly given legislators the power to limit the state's liability, to ensure a catastrophic incident doesn't bankrupt the treasury.

Judges questioned whether the cap instead runs afoul of the law requiring open access to courts. Once Jordyn turned down the settlement, there wasn't any money left to sue for.

Jordyn was the only one of 65 victims eligible for the settlement to turn it down. Her mother and sister were seriously injured and accepted a $400,000 settlement. Legislators later approved a one-time increase in the money pool to $11 million to cover medical bills in full but didn't allow any new recipients or claims.

Marion Superior Judge Theodore Sosin rejected the Polet family's argument earlier this year. There's no indication when the Indiana Court of Appeals will rule.