Sugarland Stage Collapse Lawsuit to Test Civil Union Laws

Sep 28, 2011 - LegalZoom News Sources
A lawsuit related to the Sugarland stage collapse in August will test civil union laws.

Alisha Brennon, whose civil union partner Christina Santiago was killed in a stage collapse at a Sugarland concert in August, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Marion County, Indiana, where the incident occurred. Because Indiana does not recognize domestic partnerships, it is uncertain whether a court will allow Brennon to pursue compensation for her spouse's death.

Brennon's attorney, Kenneth Allen, told the Chicago Tribune she and Santiago were among the first in line after Illinois legalized civil unions in June.

Andrew M. Koppelman, a professor at Northwestern University Law School, told the Tribune that Brennon faces an uphill legal battle because Indiana does not recognize same-sex relationships and only allows surviving spouses or other family members of victims to file wrongful death lawsuits.

Don Sherfick, vice president of Indiana Equity Action, told the newspaper that same-sex couples should consider drawing up documents such as a last will and testament to protect themselves from legal complications following unforeseen events.

The Sugarland stage collapse killed seven people and injured more than 40, and the state of Indiana has already received multiple tort claims, some of which name Sugarland band members Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush as potential defendants. The state's tort fund of $5 million will be difficult to distribute fairly among all the affected parties, an Indiana official told The Associated Press.