What Would The State Of Tennessee’s Liability Be If The Indiana State Fair Tragedy Happened in Nashville?

There has been lots of discussion about those responsible for the tragedy that occurred on August 13, 2011 at the Indiana State Fair, where multiple people died and many others were injured after a stage collapsed at a concert.  At last count, seven people died and another 40 people were injured in the collapse.

The Governor  and the Attorney General of the State of Indiana stepped up and said that even though the horrific tragedy was a "fluke event" the State would pay $5,000,000 to the victims.  Why $5,000,000?  That is the cap on damages for claims against the State of Indiana provided by statute.  The damages cap put in place by the Indiana Legislature has not been updated since 2003.  No single victim can receive more than $700,000 under the law.

To be sure, the Indianapolis Star reports efforts are going to be made to increase the cap.  And perhaps that will be done – it happened in Minnesota several years ago when the I-35W bridge collapsed, killing 13 and injuring another 100 people.

But the fundamental problem is the fact that a cap on damages exists.  Why should the government – why should anyone – have limited responsibility for the harm they cause?  Why should those who preach "personal responsibility" be the first in line to limit the responsibility of those who kill and main others? 

What would happen if the stage had collapsed at the Tennessee State Fair rather than the Indiana State Fair?  Would there be a cap of the State of Tennessee’s responsibility?

Yes.  $1,000,000, with no one person receiving no more than $300,000.  Tennessee law has had the same caps in place for over three decades.

So, would our Legislature and Governor try to enact a special law to permit the victims of such a tragedy collect more money from the State of Tennessee if it was demonstrated to have negligently contributed to the deaths and injuries?  Don’t count on it – the Legislature just passed damages caps in virtually all personal injury and wrongful death cases that benefit private companies.  Indeed, the new damage caps protect rapists, murderers and pedophiles.





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