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Surviving spouse files wrongful death suit in Indiana State Fair stage collapse

Surviving spouse files wrongful death suit in Indiana State Fair stage collapse

INDIANAPOLIS — In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Monday in Marion County, Indiana Superior Court, the surviving spouse of a Chicago-area lesbian couple is seeking to have the state of Indiana recognize her as legally entitled to damages.

The Valparaiso, Ind.-based Kenneth J. Allen & Associates — a law firm devoted exclusively to the practice of accident and injury law — filed suit on behalf of Alisha Brennon, whose spouse, Chicago LGBT activist, Christina Santiago, died when a sudden fluke windstorm on August 13 collapsed the stage at the Indiana State Fair, causing the structure to crash down on spectators gathered for a concert.

Christina Santiago (left) and Alisha Brennon
Photo via: The L Stop.

Brennon and Santiago were newlyweds, having entered into a civil union in Illinois two months prior to the accident, but Indiana does not recognize the civil unions or marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

“This will be a first step toward equal rights for same-sex couples in Indiana and another milestone in the fight for equality in America,” said attorney Kenneth Allen.

Gay Chicago reports that Allen has also filed suit on behalf of another lesbian couple impacted by the Indiana stage collapse, and is seeking to lift the state’s cap on damage suits:

Allen also represents Beth Urschel, whose partner, Tammy VanDam, was also killed in the stage collapse. Urschel and VanDam had been married in Hawaii more than 10 years ago, a union that, again, was not recognized in Indiana.

On Aug. 19 Allen filed suit on behalf of Urschel in LaPorte County, Ind. Circuit Court, seeking $60 million in damages based on claims that the stage was improperly constructed and that fair officials and promoters were negligent by failing to heed warnings of the impending storm and high winds. In that suit, Allen also seeks to overturn Indiana’s ban on recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages and civil unions.


Allen also filed suit Sept. 26 in federal court seeking to overturn Indiana’s 40-year-old $5-million cap on damages in cases such as the stage collapse.

“The cap on damages is arbitrary and capricious,” said Allen. “It is not indexed for inflation nor does it take into account the shear number or extent of the injuries. It represents the worst kind of government interference. Justice requires that the cap be overturned in this case.”

Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in statement that his office would defend the state’s laws on damage caps and recognition of same-sex couples.

Santiago was the programming manager for the Lesbian Community Care Project (LCCP) at Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center. Brennon was also seriously injured in the accident.

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