Indiana offers $300,000 to families of stage collapse dead

INDIANAPOLIS Tue Dec 6, 2011 7:17pm EST

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INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - The state of Indiana said on Tuesday it was prepared to pay at least $300,000 to the families of each of the seven people killed this summer when a stage collapsed at the State Fair in high winds.

The proposed settlement, unveiled by Attorney General Greg Zoeller, is part of a comprehensive $5 million settlement the state is hoping to reach with victims of the August incident.

Indiana law caps the state's liability at $5 million and officials have said the remainder of the money available under that ceiling would go to the dozens of people injured in the stage collapse, including an Indianapolis teenager who was paralyzed in the accident and has been offered $500,000.

Most of the other injured are being offered settlements that amount to approximately 65 percent of their documented medical bills.

The offers have to be accepted or rejected by next Monday, and acceptance would prevent the families or victims from subsequently suing the state.

The settlement terms were reached after conversations with victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg, who helped design compensation plans after the September 11 attacks and the Virginia Tech shootings.

Talks with attorneys representing the dead and injured were continuing, Zoeller said, leaving state officials hopeful the settlements will be accepted.

"Nearly all the claimants indicated they want expedited early settlement with the certainty of payment now to assist with their immediate medical bills and lost incomes, rather than the uncertainty of lawsuits that could take years to litigate with no guarantee if the funds are exhausted," Zoeller said.

(Editing by James B. Kelleher and Cynthia Johnston)

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