The Herald Bulletin

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May 31, 2012

Indiana fair lawsuits won't go to trial until 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — A group of lawsuits related to last summer's deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse likely won't go to trial for nearly two years, according to a judge's ruling that also warned attorneys not to release any evidence in the high-profile case.

Marion Superior Court Judge Theodore Sosin released an order acknowledging that most attorneys in the case want a trial no earlier than April 1, 2014. The judge didn't set a trial date but ordered both sides into mediation to try to work out a settlement.

The order also warns lawyers that they could face sanctions if they say anything or disclose evidence that might prejudice court proceedings, noting such a move would violate a protective order and legal codes of conduct.

"The court acknowledges that this case has and will continue to generate significant pretrial publicity," Sosin wrote.

The judge didn't rule out sanctions for past transgressions.

At a May 9 hearing, Sosin criticized attorney Kenneth J. Allen, who is representing several victims and their families, for releasing portions of a videotaped deposition by Sugarland lead singer Jennifer Nettles. Stage rigging fell onto a crowd of people waiting for the country music duo to take the stage as stormy weather moved in on Aug. 13. Seven people were killed and dozens were injured.

Andrea Vellinga of Pendleton was one of the seriously injured concertgoers.

Allen said Wednesday that he released the Nettles video April 16 in response to misleading statements by Sugarland's publicists.

"All we've tried to do is to ... control what we believe to be the false assertions made by the other side. And I think that's what the rule contemplates," Allen said. "We have the right and duty to rebut it and that's what we've done."

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