Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sugarland Lawyers: You Fans Assumed The Risk Of Injury So It's Your Fault

Nice to know that if you go to a concert and the stage collapses it's your fault as a fan, eh? This, according to lawyers for the band Sugarland, is one of their defenses in an official answer to numerous lawsuits filed against the band and other companies arising out of the August 13, 2011 tragedy that killed seven and injured fifty eight:

Calling the powerful winds that toppled the stage on Aug. 13 an "act of God," Sugarland's attorneys said fair officials and Mid-America Sound Corp. were responsible for the stage setup, and that the fans voluntarily assumed risk by attending the show.

Some or all of the plaintiffs' claimed injuries resulted from their own fault," according to the response. Sugarland attorney James H. Milstone would not elaborate Tuesday on whether that statement included those killed as well as the injured

This "defense" is known as "assumption of the risk." It is usually reserved for activities that are by nature dangerous or hazardous, like skydiving, ziplining, parasailing--you get the picture. And even then, sometimes the waiver you sign informing you that you are assuming the risk of injury does not necessarily excuse the host from liability if negligent in some manner.

That aside, I am reasonably sure that watching a concert in a pavillion at a state fair (with the possible exception of the mosh pit) is not by nature a hazardous activity where you "assume the risk" of a tragedy like this.

That is, unless, you're an insurance company lawyer, where every "kitchen sink" legal defense is thrown into the mix, no matter how stupid or inane. And this defense is inane. It will go nowhere and every lawyer involved in this ligigation knows it.

Ohio personal injury attorneys like me see this defense raised every day in run of the mill cases, even in clear liability situations, like when our client is rear ended ("the plaintiff assumed the risk of all injuries in the collision"). They allege it, and it dies on the vine without so much as a whimper. No big deal.

But I've never understood why insurance companies make allegations like this in high publicity lawsuits like these ones. All it does is make a bad PR situation worse. Now the band Sugarland has to respond to this issue when my guess is that they probably knew nothing of what the official lawsuit "defenses" would be. It's like asking for more egg on your face, and I can also guess it's not helping innocent victims of this tragedy heal.

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